If you’re a fan of F1 and gaming then Thrustmaster may have you covered. This pad is a continuation from their series of Ferrari Licensed products, ranging from controllers to realistic wheels all designed to aid your gaming experience. Visually, it looks impressive and promises much to enhance our virtual driving experience but does it?
The pad has a traditional Xbox look to it with a slightly re-shaped chassis. It is less curved at the bottom and allows longer hand grips but apart from that it is visually very similar and you should be able to distinguish this as an Xbox pad. It looks like an F1 wheel and a control pad made a beautiful baby.The other difference is the triggers, they are long and curved and have a more solid feel than the Xbox pad. The pad looks extremely stylish, the Ferrari design really makes the pad look and feel glamorous, and this contributes visually to make it probably the best looking pad I’ve come across.
The lack of a battery pack is a blessing, no more loss of power through batteries and it makes the controller lighter and allows for more grip. The back has a rubber coating which prevents slip and the analog sticks are covered in a similar rubber which is textured to provide further stability in your hand. The whole pad just feels quality, it fits nicely in your hands and you feel like you have a quality in your palms. The wire is long and not intrusive, it feels like it is made to last and has a handy breakaway point near the USB connector to save the console going flying from unexpected pulls. The pad itself is also compatible with headsets, with a jack located in the standard position at the bottom of the pad.
Obviously one of the biggest draws is the LEDs, both in the top of the pad and underneath the analog sticks. The top ones come in the form of 4 small circles, with one set either side at the top of the pad. These lights will light up dependent on how much pressure is applied to the triggers. So press lightly to brake and you will see one green led lit up, the progression continues with more lights lighting up with more forceful trigger squeeze. The same for the other side, press to accelerate and you will see one green LED light up and put your foot(trigger) down and you will see 3 green lights and a red one to let you know you are at the maximum speed. The other LEDs are located below the Analog sticks and are responsive to your in game movements. They are red in color and work in conjunction with the vibration feature. It is really an experience in itself to watch the lights alone, so what about performance?
In game use
I tried the pad on a number of racing games, including F1 2011 on the 360 , F1 2013 on PC and Forza Horizon on the 360. It is not limited to the racing game genre though, I also tried it out on a few FPS games and results were similar. So I plugged the controller in and was all revved up to go, first game in was F1 2011. The first thing I noticed as I prepared for a race was how suited to F1 was the pad was. The lights reminded me of the infamous starting lights on the grid and was almost as if it had been somewhat styled on an actual Ferrari wheel. Excited I pulled off the line and felt the rumble kick in, it was subtle but almost as if it was in tune with the contours of the road. Every bump and locking of the brakes was translated through the vibration with ease and realism.
The sticks themselves offer a lot more precision than the standard Xbox 360 pad and many other PC pads I have tried. This is particularly handy when it comes to Apex turns and weaving in and out of the opposition. The same praise can be added to the triggers, they have been designed with care and attention to offer precision unrivaled in other pads. They are curved in a way that allows a more natural feel and the LED lights really correlate to the speed and braking in game. It’s particularly handy when cornering in tricky situations, instead of memorizing a certain motion for a corner I can look down when I’ve done it perfectly and remember how much pressure I applied via the lights.
Here is a video of the pad in action in the dark, to show off its LED spectacle
I tried F1 2013 on the PC and it had a very similar performance, so no need for a full in-depth explanation. I can say the control pad was extremely easy to map out and was fully compatible and was equal in performance to its Xbox brother. I then went on to Forza Horizon to see how it would perform on a racing game that wasn’t anything to do with F1. The results were very similar, in that they were similarly as impressive. It doesn’t quite give you the same thrill but the performance translates very well. Cornering becomes a lot easier and the functions remain the same.
The grip on the pad must be commended also. It won’t stick to your hands but it does as good as. The thumbsticks although slightly smaller than what we’re used to enhance accuracy by their grip and sensitivity and I really do feel they are the perfect size for the job. The pad just felt very natural and I wonder whether Thrustmaster will keep the design because it should be the template of racing pads for years to come.
Flawless wired controller for F1 enthusiasts and Racing enthusiasts alike. I actually can’t fault it in anyway, which is unusual as most of the things I review have flaws. If you’ve got an Xbox 360 or a PC and you’re looking for something to enhance your racing experience but can’t stomach the steep learning curve of a wheel, then this is an obvious and quite brilliant choice.
This Thrustmaster GPX Lightback Ferrari Edition is currently available at Amazon for £39.34 and is the best purchase you may ever make.
You can view the rest of the Thrustmaster range here