Force Dynamics 401cr test drive (video)

If you're old enough to have spent any time in an arcade, surely at some point you splurged an extra couple of quarters to play a game in a seat that moved a bit, shook a bit, made some feeble attempt at making you feel like you're really in the game. Kid's play, that stuff (quite literally), but just like people don't stop gaming as they get older so too such motion simulation tech doesn't have to stay for kiddies. Enter Force Dynamics and enter the 401cr: a full-bore motion simulator that can not only generate over a G of acceleration but can spin you right 'round as many times as you like. We took it for a quite a few spins indeed, plus more than one crash, and we think you'll want to check them out the video below.

The new 401cr is designed primarily for use with a number of high-end racing simulators, the kind that only come on the PC and that make Gran Turismo look like Rad Racer. We hit the track in iRacing and Live For Speed, though the team at Force Dynamics have cooked up some custom simulators for companies like Ford, even enabling integration with Forza Motorsport for a Microsoft demo.

Indeed corporate buyers are the primary target here, and with a price tag measured in many tens of thousands of it's easy to see why. Inside the moving frame is a high-end gaming rig running an Intel Core i7 processor and AMD Eyefinity graphics pumping out to three Dell IPS monitors. That provides the look while the feel comes from a custom wheel and pedal setup that's largely built in-house.

In fact much of the device is fabricated in a warehouse outside of Ithaca, New York, some components produced elsewhere and assembled there. This 401cr is the latest model, bettering its predecessors by being able to rotate freely as many times as you like. Power is sent up through a brush connector while networking and everything else is all wireless.

The result? One hell of a ride. I'm an okay racer, not the quickest but able to run consistent lap times in iRacing and fight for an upper mid-pack finish. Strap into the 401cr, however, and things get very, very different. The G-force is brutal and, with the integrated Logitech soundsystem dialed up to 11, the effect is hugely immersive. There's plenty enough shaking to be disorienting and indeed I had a hard time making it more than a few laps without finding some wall or another -- despite driving in cars and tracks I knew well.

It didn't help that the unit we were testing with was being a bit fussy , the second computer system built inside that handled the motion actuators freaking out whenever a big bump was sent through the chassis -- likely a loose connector or dying power supply, the result of thousands of miles of testing in this the company's mule. After any big shunt the system would just start spinning, having to be reset and recalibrated, a process that definitely slowed things down.

So, I never really got comfortable in the thing, never really got up to speed, but damn if I didn't have a lot of fun trying. Sadly this will live well outside the means of even the most comfortably funded sim racers, but if you were pondering dropping $100,000 or so on a real race car but are having second thoughts about dealing with the constant repairs, time, and headaches required to keep it on the track, this might just be a compelling alternative. After all, it's a lot easier to lace up your racing booties and walk to the basement than it is to load up your car on the trailer and schlep it down to the track.