Third-party accessory maker Thrustmaster is known for its plentiful racing wheel options, from budget picks to full-on racing rigs that'll fill out your gaming room like an F1 cockpit. While we've always been enamoured by the idea of a proper wheel setup, it's just not always practical for lots of players, as it requires plenty of time, space and money to make it work.
So, when we spotted the Thrustmaster Forza Horizon 5 ESWAP XR PRO Controller, you could say we were very, very interested in the company's direction with this. Essentially, it's another gamepad to rival other 'pro' pads out there — like the official Xbox Elite controller — but it contains a rather unique feature: a 'racing wheel module'.
This module, essentially, swaps out either the d-pad or an analog stick for a tiny spinning wheel - a directional input method that closer resembles a steering wheel than a typical gamepad stick. But, does it work? And where does it sit in comparison to a normal controller or a wheel? Let's discuss.
Once More, With Feeling
First off, we want to talk about the pad generally and its 'feel' in the hands. Straight away you can tell this is a premium affair, with its magnetic side panels, array of back buttons and sturdy, metal body. Yes, it's wired (sorry folks), but it feels really nice to hold and we could absolutely see ourselves using this as a normal Xbox controller as far as quality is concerned, even without the racing wheel module.
However, out of the box there is an issue relating to the XR PRO being wired. Basically, the supplied cable is simply too short if you're playing more than a couple of feet away from your TV (say, from a living room sofa), so that's something worth noting. The controller does just use a standard micro USB cable so it's easy enough to swap out, but the supplied cable features a connection-end casing that kind of locks it into the pad, so we'd have much preferred if the one that was provided was a bit longer. Not a biggie, but when your controller costs around $200 you don't really want to be adding in extras.
Is It A Stick? Is It A Wheel?
Now, let's move onto this pad's party piece: the racing wheel module. As we mentioned, this thing can easily replace a stick or the d-pad (the whole controller is modular aside from the face buttons), and we opted to place it where the left stick would normally sit - it felt natural to plonk it there and replace either a stick or the d-pad.
Despite its weird initial appearance, the module actually feels pretty natural to use. It doesn't spin the whole way around (it matches the wheel rotation angles of the Forza games), but it really does just move like a small wheel and it feels totally usable with just your left thumb akin to a normal analog stick. So far, so good.
The Games, It's All About The Games
After we got the controller set up for racing, we headed into a few different types of games to see how this thing performs out on the track. For the purposes of this review we tested out Forza Horizon 5, Forza Motorsport 7, Project CARS 3 and WRC 10.
Starting off with Horizon 5, the controller and its wheel module feel nicely tuned for this title, which makes sense given the pad is FH5-themed. We stuck with largely default settings for the game and the pad itself, and you could definitely feel an extra layer of precision when out on the open road using the racing module. Nothing major, but a nice alternative option that feels a little more immersive too.
Having said that, this accessory feels like it's better suited to more sim-ish track racers, so we moved over to WRC 10 and Project CARS 3 next.
This is where the controller felt most at home. Both of these racers have 'twitchier' handling and the more precise wheel module actually felt like it genuinely helped - especially in WRC which is notoriously tricky on a standard gamepad. The module allows you to make smaller, more precise steering adjustments than a normal analog stick and we definitely felt it in WRC 10. It doesn't replace the feel of a wheel - more, it sits right in the middle of what a normal stick delivers vs. a full racing wheel setup. The experience was largely similar in Project CARS 3 which we felt also benefited from the additional steering precision that the XR PRO module offers.
Unfortunately, the module didn't feel right out of the box in Forza Motorsport 7. Something about Turn 10's heavier handling characteristics just didn't jive with the module at its default setting, and we much preferred how this one felt on a normal analog stick.
Something to keep in mind, however, is that certain controller settings can be altered via the team's 'ThrustmapperX' software, which means you can tweak things to try and get the right feel for each specific racing game.
Is It Worth A Purchase?
Honestly, this is a tough question to answer after our time testing the controller so far. If you're after a more precise racing option and don't mind the pad's wired nature then it certainly seems to work well in most racers - especially when you consider the fact that it's incredibly easy to magnetically swap out to a normal stick anyway if things aren't working 100% with the wheel module.
However, it's perhaps best to look at the Thrustmaster Forza Horizon 5 ESWAP XR PRO as a wired pro controller with the option to use a novel racing-focused steering stick. It's a competent controller in its own right (lack of wireless support aside), and that'd certainly help us justify its $200 price point. As a pure racing alternative to a normal wireless Xbox pad though? We just can't see ourselves using it on a regular basis, even if the wheel module is a nice middle ground between a stick and a wheel.
The Thrustmaster Forza Horizon 5 ESWAP XR PRO is a solid pro controller option that feels great in the hands, regardless of the type of game you're using it with. The pad's racing wheel module doesn't quite replicate the feel of a proper wheel, but it does provide some extra precision over a using typical analog stick. If you're into the idea of a new racing game controller without the need for a full steering wheel rig then this is well worth a shot if you play lots of racers, but otherwise we'd probably stick to an alternative wireless pro pad like the Xbox Elite Controller.
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Are you tempted to pick up one of these Thrustmaster Xbox controllers? Let us know your thoughts down below!
At the price point this is set to no thanks.
If it was wireless that might add some value but as it is I just see this as being too expensive for it's gimmick.
More Expensive than the Wireless 'Elite' controller and more expensive than some 'complete' Wheel controllers too.
If I wanted a more 'lifelike' control scheme for Racing games, I'd buy a Wheel - for EVERYTHING else, my Elite is more than adequate...
Nice comprehensive review here @Kezelpaso! Sounds like an interesting option if you're big into racing games.
At that price, and being wired, you'd honestly just be better off getting a steering wheel so you can still have a wireless controller for everything else.
This sounds very intriguing to me as a big fan of racing games, I guess my only question is how well it works as a controller outside of the wheel module, like how the vibration, buttons, d-pad, and standard analog stick compare.
The fact that you're stuck with it being wired is probably it's biggest drawback along with the price, but if it's an improvement all-around I could see it being worthwhile.
No the cost is to high for this yes it has a wheel and?
@JayJ My overall impression of the controller was good to be honest. The face buttons/dpad are those like super clicky ones similar to a Switch joycon (I think for low latency purposes here), and the sticks and vibration were as standard really - just as good as a normal Xbox pad (it does contain rumble triggers too).
The big downside is the wired aspect yeah. If you'd make use of the wheel module, or maybe you prefer a PlayStation button layout (you can just swap the modules around), I'd recommend it. Otherwise, an Xbox Elite or something like the SCUF Impact would be my choice (I use the impact and it's amazing, but expensive as well).
@Kezelpaso Thank you for the added info! Sounds like I might strongly consider buying one of these then. I already got an old Elite V1, and this sounds like the ultimate racing controller I have been looking for, and I wanted something with buttons a bit more responsive and clicky/mechanical feeling for fighting games. I've been looking into controllers from companies like SCUF and Aim for Xbox, in fact I recently got an Aim controller for my PS5, but there is nothing else quite like this, and those are easily as expensive (if not more expensive).
Reminds me of Namco’s JogCon
I wonder if this allows you to swap the D-Pad and Left Stick’s placements for a PlayStation placement much more suited for 2D games.
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