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     " I fought with it all night long and it whupped my ass! "

   Title: Force RS (Racing System) Wheel and Pedals

   Format: Win 95/98 PC (w/expansion to include console systems)

   Reviewing Monkey: The Goodyear Chimp

   The Hype: On their well-designed website, ACT says, "Grip the beefy leather-like wheel, stomp on the sturdy no-slip pedals, and feel the ACT LABS difference. The Force RS ships with the most powerful motor on the market. This power allows the Force RS to deliver stronger forces and multiple effects at the same time." They're not kidding.

      What This Monkey Thought...

   Ergonomics: Faux-leather grip. Keep that phrase in mind. The wheel is maybe two-thirds the diameter of a real steering wheel but that's the most minor of complaints. Racing shifters imbedded in the steering column are positioned for even the pickiest players. Six of the seven buttons on the wheel itself are easy to reach at ten and two (if you don't know what I'm talking about, you didn't take driver's ed in high school). You can even download new drivers that make the dashboard buttons usable and that's not as odd as it sounds; punching them mid-race is far easier than fumbling for the useless button at six o'clock on the wheel. All this convenience placed expertly around a wheel with faux-leather grip makes for a good racing experience. The pedals, though requiring vertical depression, are smooth and springy. 4 of 5

   Performance: I fought with it all night long and it whupped my ass! When Act says they've put the most powerful force feedback system in a steering controller, I'm inclined to believe. Everything that's analogue is properly analoguish and all the buttons click happily when pressed. You can tell that someone fine-tuned the preset steering sensitivity and deadzone. This is just a tight little package that performs better than you would think a game controller could. Now, my performance went all to hell when I strapped the thing on. It was not the magic equalizer that I expected and did not improve my racing ability. Instead of turning me into Al Unser Jr., the Force RS enhanced my enjoyment of the games I played ten fold. The "real feel" that having a wheel like this gives you is worth the adjustment period required to tweak the settings and just plain get used to it. 5 of 5

   Features: Their idea of "future-proofing" also makes me happy as a grandma in a yarn store. By purchasing expansion modules that replace the PC plug-in pack in the rear of the wheel, you can hook this mother up to a PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, or another system. I haven't seen a GameBoy module but I'm sure that fans of F-1 Race can do without. There's this little matter of faux-leather grip that I'm pleased with too. There's also a shifter addition (it makes more sense to purchase them simultaneously), which could bring you even closer to making a simulated car cockpit in your den. To cap it off, it comes with Need For Speed III (at least, mine did). Who could ask for anything more? 5 of 5

   Installation: Force RS installation is a snap...providing you can find the right instructions. Inside my box were three different booklets that contained the setup ritual in at least eight different languages. Once you locate the proper set (in the proper tongue), the computer portion takes a minute and a half. Finding a place on your desk will be another story. This is a sizable piece of controller here! Still, the part of the installation that had me tied up for half an hour was testing the I-Forces (force feedback demos). Having the wheel simulate driving over a wooden bridge never gets old. So, once you've cleared off a hunk of land, and set aside two seconds to load some drivers, installation is a breeze. After that, "Ora far partire il gioco da corsa favorito e tenersi pronti a correre!" Yeah, what he said. 4 of 5

   System Compatibility: USB or gameport, Win 95 and 98, with most racing games supporting it; that's pretty decent. What keeps coming back to impress me is the future-proofing. The idea of a multi-platform toy makes the price seem so much more reasonable. 5 of 5

   How it Compares: Kicks the shit out of using a gamepad! Okay, most of the time it kicks the shit out of using a gamepad. I just don't know if this was meant for Re-Volt. The Force RS pulls away from other wheels (literally) by having such mighty force feedback motors. That, and it has a faux-leather grip. 5 of 5

   The Verdict:

       Dear Santa-- Thank you for bringing me the Force RS for Christmas. If you were thinking ahead to what you'll bring me this year, I have some suggestions. I would like the Act Labs shifter that goes with this wheel, the PlayStation expansion module, a case of Visine, and a nursemaid who's good at giving sponge baths--I haven't showered recently and I'm not likely to move from this chair as long as the Force RS is locked to my desk.

   The Good: Solid mounting, future-proofing, and, all together now, faux-leather grip.

   The Bad: It's a healthy chunk of change.

   The Overall Ugly: You'll spend your upcoming paychecks on more racing games just to get more use from this.

   What it's Worth: Don't die when I tell you they want $140 for this toy. The shifter will cost you an extra $60. Expansion cartridges are $20 a pop. You might find a sale but don’t bank on it. Still, once they’ve saved up from their paper routes, this won't be a bad investment for the guys who love the open road. Casual racers and weekend players can opt out but this is a must-have for we speed-addicted game dorks.

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