Thrustmaster ESWAP XR Pro Controller Forza Horizon 5 edition review - A novel new racing peripheral

The Thrustmaster ESWAP XR Pro Controller Forza Horizon 5 edition against a guitar and sombrero.

The Thrustmaster ESWAP XR Pro Controller Forza Horizon 5 edition against a guitar and sombrero.

Finding a good entry-level racing peripheral, especially if you're a fairly casual player, can be a tall task. Many don't have the space or disposable income to fork out on a rig with a steering wheel and pedals, and it's tough to mimic the precision of a racing wheel using a regular controller.

Fortunately, the new Thrustmaster ESWAP XR controller is here as something of a go-between. It has an innovative magnetic modular design that lets you swap different control functions in and out, focused on its racing wheel module. This apes the role of a traditional racing wheel, using just one thumb instead of both hands.

It's a very original way of making racing wheels more accessible to those without space or funds, and could well change how people approach racing games using a controller. The Thrustmaster ESWAP XR Forza Horizon 5 edition is certainly a creative stride in racing game hardware.

The Thrustmaster ESWAP XR Pro Controller Forza Horizon 5 edition against a sandy background.
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Build and feel

Straight off the bat, the Thrustmaster ESWAP XR feels a lot sturdier and more substantial than your average Xbox controller, which is the only console it works with. It's roughly the same weight as the controller that comes with the Xbox Series S, which I tested the ESWAP XR on. However, the build quality is on a different level, feeling more premium thanks to its heftier triggers, more precise thumbsticks, and more solid body. While the Xbox wireless controller has the propensity to creak if twisted firmly, this controller feels impenetrable.

The buttons also feel far more efficient, baked more tightly into the controller with a more definitive mechanical clicking motion than the somewhat lumbering face buttons on Microsoft's controllers. The ESWAP XR also brings back a traditional D-pad, which will please those less accustomed to the circular D-pad on Xbox. It's built impressively enough, and feels more of a luxury product, that I'll be using this as my de facto Xbox Series S controller from now on, over the console's baked-in one.

But the unique aspect of this controller is the magnetic modules, which come out nice and easily to swap across the three slots on the pad. This does mean you'll always have one left spare, but the packaging comes with a felt slot where you can store the module not currently in use. Popping them in and out feels easy, and they click back in with magnets to ensure the connection to the core of the controller is never compromised. It allows you to adjust brilliantly to whatever you're playing: sometimes I'd take out the D-pad to slot in the racing wheel module, whereas other times I may remove one of the thumbsticks. This level of customisation is rarely seen in console hardware, but it's very innovative.

The only downside I had was the need for the controller to always be plugged into the Xbox console, but given the controller boasts a 64% faster button response time to average buttons, it makes sense. Fortunately, the USB cable it uses is very long, but it's a shame you can't harness these features on a wireless gamepad.

The Thrustmaster ESWAP XR Pro Controller Forza Horizon 5 edition hidden within some bushes.
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In use

But of course, none of that would mean much if it didn't actually serve its purpose as a thumb-controlled racing wheel. The Thrustmaster ESWAP XR does accomplish that, but there's certainly a learning curve you'll need to get over before things feel second-nature. The module has a 95-degree rotation angle that allows for so much more precision than average thumbsticks, but you'll need to dedicate some time to getting a feel for it first. I spent a good while in Forza Horizon 5, tinkering around with a slower car with more forgiving handling, just to get a feel for turning corners and combining the new control scheme with regular trigger acceleration and braking.

It's fitting that this controller is designed in conjunction with Forza Horizon 5, because it works better for that game than other racing titles on the market. I also gave EA's F1 games a quick blast on this controller, and naturally, it's harder to adjust to given the increased pace of that game. As with other racing peripherals, the more time you put into practising and learning how it works best for you, the more you'll get out of it.

The Thrustmaster ESWAP XR Forza Horizon 5 edition is a fiercely creative step towards the future of racing game hardware. Being able to harness the precision of a racing wheel using just one thumb is something that makes high-level hardware much more accessible, and it affords for more precision than your average controller. As long as you're willing to put some time into getting used to the change and making your corners, you'll never want to revert back to a regular controller after this.

Thrustmaster ESWAP XR Pro Controller Forza Horizon 5 edition
The Thrustmaster ESWAP XR is a game-changer for racing controllers, giving you more precision and skill-based driving in your hands. Its premium build may even make it your new go-to controller!
Xbox Series S
8 out of 10

A review unit was provided by Thrustmaster.

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