Last week we reviewed the Thrustmaster TX Racing Wheel, the best steering wheel available for Xbox One at present. Racing wheel controllers are not meant to be used on the lap – just imagine if your car's steering wheel shifted about every time you turned or moved your legs. The TX Racing Wheel includes a clamp for attachment to a table or desk, but that's not especially sexy and might be tough for living rooms.
Thus your best wheel mounting options are a racing wheel stand or seat. Netherlands-based company Playseat has the gaming chair market cornered, offering more than 10 different gaming chairs for racing and flight games. Given that Forza Horizon 2 is one of my top Xbox One games of 2014, I jumped at the chance to try out the Playseat Evolution Forza Motorsport Edition. Read on for my full impressions, complete with exclusive video review and unboxing and assembly videos!
Assembling the Playseat Forza
As you would imagine, the Playseat comes packed in a large and hefty (53 pounds/24 kilograms) box. Inside are the seat itself, a cushion, and several metal framework pieces. The assembly only requires a few tools for assembly, including two hex wrenches and a regular wrench – all included in the box.
It should take about 30 minutes to put the Playseat together. The large, high quality instruction manual doesn't have actual text in its directions, but the pictures do a great job of showing you how everything goes together…
Except for page 11, the final step in the assembly process. This step involves installing a couple of parts referenced as M8 x20. They look like bolts with large rubber circles at the end. As described in our assembly video, I think the two M8s are meant to reach down to the floor and help stabilize the base of the "pedal holder."
However, the bolt/screw portion of the M8 is too short for that purpose. I got it to go through and fastened nuts on the end, but just barely. I could be misunderstanding the part's function, which would be the fault of the instructions. The diagram simply makes little sense and fails to provide proper guidance.
Mounting the racing wheel
Once you truck through that final step in the assembly process, you're ready to mount the steering wheel and pedals to the Playseat.
All four Xbox One wheels on the market include pedals, so nobody has to go without proper acceleration and brake controls on Microsoft's latest gaming system. Both Thrustmaster wheels have mounting holes in the base of the wheel and pedals; we can safely assume the Mad Catz and Hori wheels do as well.
To mount the wheel and pedals, just line up the part with the metal stand and insert the included mounting bolts. You'll want to keep your wheel and pedals attached pretty much all the time, since screwing and unscrewing bolts requires a tool and effort. Alternately, wheel and pedals can be mounted with the packed-in Velcro pads.
Adjusting for comfort
We all come in different sizes. The Playseat Forza is recommended for players up to 7.25 feet tall (in other words, most humans) and up to 270 pounds in weight, a requirement that excludes most Texans like me. I kid!
The seat offers several adjustments to accommodate different user sizes and preferences. The wheel stand itself can be raised or lowered by adjusting a knob. Twist the knob hard enough and the stand will stay firmly in place.
Further down, both the wheel and pedal stand attach to the framework of the seat by a long metal rail. The distance of both of those parts from the seat can be adjusted with two more knobs along the rail. In our video and photographs I had the wheel stand a little too close to the seat. Later I realized it feels better with a bit more distance.
Finally, the angle of the pedals can also be adjusted – just not as easily as the other components. The pedal stand attaches to its base with a couple of hex bolts. The stand part has a long, arced slot in which these bolts are placed. Simply choose an angle, insert the bolts, and the stand will keep the chosen angle.
Knowing which angle to pick before use is tricky. I picked the mid-way point along the slot and it feels fine so far. I wish we could adjust the angle with knobs as with the other adjustable components, but the bolt solution works fine.
Storing the Playseat
The Playseat Forza has a fair but not unreasonable footprint during use. You are essentially creating a car's cockpit at home, after all. Most living rooms should be able to accommodate it, perhaps after moving a coffee table out of the way. Anyone who plays Kinect games knows the drill.
You probably don't want the Playseat occupying the middle of your room when you're done playing with it. Luckily, the seat folds up and compacts (to an extent) for storage.
The back of the seat itself has a large flap held in place by Velcro. Open it up and loosen to smaller flaps to reveal two metal rods that keep the seat in an upright position. Lift the rods and put them in an unlocked position. Now the seat will fold securely down.
You can also loosen the rods on the bottom rail I mentioned earlier to pull the wheel and pedal stands close to the seat, shrinking its footprint for storage. Then just tuck it away in a corner or large closet until such time as you feel the need for speed once more.
My one big criticism with the seat itself is that those rods that hold the seat in place can be very difficult to unlock. Mine just fit in too tightly and don't want to lift up to unlock. I've taken to using a hammer or other metal object to knock them into the unlocked position, but a spray of lubricant might be the best solution.
Racing with the Playseat and choosing the Playseat that's right for you
The Playseat Forza is a special Forza-branded version of the Playseat Evolution. Both seats are covered in leather-look black vinyl that feels smooth and comfortable to sit on. It's quality office chair material and should prove resistant to spills and stains.
The Forza branding brings white Forza Motorsport logos on the front, back, and sides of the seat. As a longtime Forza fan, I love the logos. But the Forza version of the seat adds about $30 to the price, so you could save a bit by going with a regular Playseat Evolution instead.
Whether we call it Forza or Evolution, this seat is the perfect companion to a quality racing wheel. Attach your wheel and pedals to it, boot up your favorite racing game, and you essentially have the arcade racing experience at home. A nearly-full sized driver's seat, right there in your living room.
Depending on your room setup, screen location might possibly be an issue – but that has not been my experience. My primary 52-inch TV is wall-mounted (and slightly too high for a wall mount at that), but I still find it easy to see while using the Playseat. Alternately, playing with a smaller monitor on a table (as shown in the video review) works just as well. Playseat also sells an LCD screen stand, but it costs about half as much as the seat itself (ouch).
The Playseat Forza is a dream accessory for racing game enthusiasts, but it doesn't come cheap. The Forza version clocks in at $430 on Amazon (plus $38 shipping), or £349 from Amazon UK. The price makes sense for a lot of reasons. Racing wheels are a (wonderful) niche accessory, and not everyone who buys a wheel will get a gaming chair for it. Playseat can't make these in huge numbers that would drive down costs, nor does the company want to cut corners in production. Thus Playseats are a niche, luxury product.
The experience of using the Playseat is just so special though, I really must recommend it to true racing enthusiasts. If you love your driving games and racing wheels but can't justify spending $400 or so on a gaming chair, the Playseat Challenge might better fit your budget. The Challenge clocks in at $250. It doesn't look nearly as nice, but it still provides a great racing experience and actually compacts even better than the Forza/Evolution.
For more Playseat products and accessories, check out the Playseat Store, which lists prices in Euros.