UltraRacer PS1 Controller Reviewed… 24 Years Later

If you’re looking to play Crash Team Racing and Gran Turismo while making things a little more challenging for yourself, then check out the UltraRacer PS1 Controller and experience true mayhem!

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I love stupid, obscure and outright ridiculous video game peripherals.

I also love the PS1 and consider it my favourite console of all time, so when you combine these two things, you know my interest is going to be peaked.

Enter the PS1 UltraRacer controller. At first glance it sort of looks like a remote control for an R.C. Car, but nope, this is actually a fully functional PS1 controller designed to work primarily with the best PS1 racing games.

So let’s take a closer look at this thing and see if it might be worth investing in for your setup too!

Taking A Closer Look At The UltraRacer PS1 Controller

First of all, the packaging of the UltraRacer is very minimal. Inside the box is just some cardboard which holds the controller in place and a set of instructions congratulating us on our purchase.

And you know what, that’s a nice touch. More controllers should give us positive reinforcement after we buy them!

The controller itself matches the grey design of the PS1 console and the official PS1 controllers, which makes this look quite authentic despite the fact it quite clearly isn’t. The box itself even states that it’s not sponsored, endorsed or approved by Sony, which makes me worry a little bit about the quality here.

Interestingly there’s no date information on the box or the instructions, and there seems to be no record I can find online as to when this actually came out.

I suspect it was released fairly early into the PS1’s life though, considering that the instructions state that the way this works is by mimicking the twisting controls of Namco’s NeGcon controller.

But, instead of twisting the entire controller you instead just rotate a wheel.

The Namco NeGcon was one of the first third party controllers available on the PS1, and the fact that the UltraRacer was using that as the basis for it’s functionality makes me assume it may have been released a short while after to try and replicate it’s critical (but not so much commercial) success. 

Checking Out The UltraRacer Design

UltraRacer PS1 Controller - Design

Let’s be honest, the UltraRacer is a very, very strange design.

Something that’s probably worth pointing out is that there was an N64 variant of the UltraRacer, and I heavily suspect that the N64 version might have released first and then they re-used a lot of the design elements for the PS1 version.

The reason I say this is because… well… look at it! It’s basically the middle handle of an N64 controller but with all of the buttons from the normal controller squished onto it and a massive wheel in place of the analogue stick!

It even has the Rumble Pak port on the back which has been filled in for the PS1 version!

There isn’t even any of the regular PlayStation face buttons here, with X, square, circle and triangle being replaced with A, B, L and I/II.

Push The Button

The L and I/II buttons are actually analogue buttons which mean that they can detect the amount of pressure that you’re putting on them, similarly to how most modern controllers tend to have triggers that are pressure sensitive.

Essentially, they makie you go faster in driving games the more pressure you put onto it.

In theory these analogue buttons would give you a greater degree of control over your braking in racing games which is actually pretty awesome.

We have some tiny arrow buttons which replace the D-Pad inputs and then we have four buttons on the wheel itself which are assigned to L1, L2, R1 and R2 by default.

I’m not exactly sure why these are placed so prominently on the controller… I know some racing games use these buttons to activate the handbrake, but on the PS1 most games seem to assign this function to square or straight up not even have handbrake controls.

Maybe this is so you could easily shift gears up and down? But it’s still awkward placement nonetheless!

On Your Marks, Get Set

UltraRacer PS1 Controller - Set Button

Finally we have the Set button which is used in one of the most stand out features of the UltraRacer.

It’s actually possible to partially customise the function of each button on this controller, so if you find that R2 is the brake button, by pressing the Set button, you can change the R2 input to a different button on the controller to make it more comfortable.

Not every button’s function can be changed however, with the L, I/II, Start and Set button itself being locked into whatever input they are automatically assigned by each game.

But this is still a great feature that’s bound to come in useful in certain games.

How Does The UltraRacer PS1 Controller Handle?

But speaking of games, let’s plug this sucker in and slap some games on shall we?

I’ve looked at a list of games compatible with the NeGcon controller, which should mean that these all work with the UltraRacer too considering it’s imitating the functionality of the NeGcon, so let’s start with some V-Rally!

This was actually one of the very first video games I ever played. My first console was the PS1 and I got it bundled with Rayman and V-Rally.

If I’m being perfectly honest, I always preferred Rayman.But because I only had access to two games at the time and V-Rally was my only multiplayer game, I ended up playing this a fair bit too.

The biggest hurdle to overcome with the UltraRacer here was getting my head around the controls.

For some reason V-Rally was a bit awkward at first because you don’t simply pull the trigger to make the car move forward. You have to first knock the trigger up and then pull it down and I don’t know exactly why this is.

The menus are also quite difficult to navigate, again sometimes requiring you to pull the trigger in different directions to simply select an option. It’s a bit weird, but you know what… Once you get over this and wrap your head around the basic controls, this is actually quite good!

What Is The Steering Wheel Like?

UltraRacer PS1 Controller - Steering Wheel

Because the steering wheel on the controller is obviously analogue, this means you have far greater control over your turning than what you would have with a D-pad.

With a D-pad you’re either not turning at all, or you’re full turning with no in-between. With a wheel though, you can make slight adjustments to your turns which gives you far more accurate movement options.

The wheel itself actually feels really good. It’s got this sort of rubber grip on the outside to avoid your hand slipping off and the wheel mechanism is quite tightly fitted, which almost gives the game a bit of tactile feedback with the wheel snapping back to it’s neutral position when you let go.

It’s like the car is putting up a certain amount of resistance when you try to turn it, which feels surprisingly realistic. At the same time though it doesn’t feel stiff either, it’s just the right amount of resistance.

I’ve seen people online say that this isn’t a very good controller, so maybe I’m just a driving game novice or something, but I’m actually enjoying using this?

What Other Games Does The UltraRacer PS1 Controller Work With?

But okay, V-Rally works well with the UltraRacer, but what about the ultimate driving game on the PS1?

Gran Turismo 2 isn’t actually featured on this compatibility list I found on Wikipedia, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t work.

What do you know! It not only works, but I would say that the controller mapping here is even better than it was in V-Rally, with the menus being easy to navigate and the cars working exactly as you’d expect. This is pretty great!

At this point though, I need to test every single one of my driving games on the PS1. After all, Gran Turismo 2 wasn’t on the compatibility list, so there could be others that have secret UltraRacer functionality.

Despite Destruction Derby 1 and 2 supposedly being compatible, I can confirm that Destruction Derby Raw doesn’t work with the UltraRacer. You can get to the main menu but at that point no inputs do anything which locks you out of progressing.

Driver 1 and 2 are similar, not even allowing you to get past the title screen.

Even Micro Machines V3 which would have been absolutely perfect with the UltraRacer due to it’s R.C. Car remote control design doesn’t work either. I even tried a bit of an obscure PS1 racing game called London Racer but again, no dice.

And that’s all of the standard racing games I have. But wait… Considering it didn’t work with Micro Machines I doubt it would work with kart racers right

Does The UltraRacer PS1 Controller Work With Kart Racers?

Well to my utter disbelief, not only does the UltraRacer work with Crash Team Racing, it’s actually probably the game that supports it the best.

No other game has allowed me to navigate menus by twisting the wheel and yet here, you can twist the wheel to select your character. Talk about attention to detail!

Despite Crash Team Racing requiring you to press a greater combination of buttons than a normal racing game due to it’s drifting mechanic and the usage of items, this is actually completely playable with the UltraRacer.

I was managing to drift around corners, take short cuts and do everything I can do with a normal controller and the shocking thing is that it actually felt quite good.

But surely it can’t be that another kart racer would work right? LEGO Racers isn’t even on the compatibility list so it can’t be possible surely?

Yep. It works.

Full on UltraRacer compatibility which just like with Crash Team Racing actually feels quite good. Somebody with a bigger racing game collection than me needs to go ahead and test every single game with the UltraRacer because clearly it works with more games than it seems.

Our Official Verdict

UltraRacer PS1 Controller - Our official verdict

Now I do want to reiterate that I’m not normally a big racing game sort of guy. It could be that this is actually completely rubbish compared to something like an actual full size steering wheel controller.

But even so, as a casual racing game player I’m actually impressed. I honestly thought that this was going to be utter rubbish and a bit of a joke, but I would seriously consider using this instead of a standard controller with certain games.

Ok, probably not the kart racer ones due to needing to press so many buttons which can be a bit awkward with the UltraRacer. But stuff like Gran Turismo and V-Rally, yeah I can see myself using this.

Something interesting though that I unfortunately can’t test out for myself due to not having the games, is that the NeGcon and by extension the UltraRacer, is compatible with a selection of Namco arcade compilations on the PS1.

I’m assuming that turning the wheel would move your ship in Galaga which actually sounds like it would be pretty good, but as to what it would do in Pac-Man, I have no idea.

It even has compatibility with a couple of PS2 games, with Wipeout Fusion and the Japanese exclusive NamCollection being two of them.

The Main Downsides

My biggest complaint isn’t even really it’s own fault. Not every game was created to be compatible with the NeGcon controller, and because of that even games that would theoretically be possible to play just straight up don’t detect your inputs.

So, it does have very limited utility outside of driving games.

It’s a shame that there wasn’t some sort of workaround for this where the UltraRacer PS1 Controller could replicate a DualShock controllers analogue stick, because I would love to play something like Croc with this thing.

Imagine playing through Final Fantasy VII with a steering wheel; that’s the sort of stuff I love.

Out of interest, I did connect the UltraRacer PS1 Controller to my PC with a PS2 controller adapter and it was recognised by Retro Ark which allowed me to fully customise it’s inputs which effectively makes any game functional.

I tried out Croc and it was playable, but for some reason I would always rotate whenever I jumped. Maybe with enough tinkering in the settings I could stop this, but just know it is theoretically possible to play anything with this if you can plug it into a PC.

I even tried Driver but again; the controls were pretty dodgy and I couldn’t reverse so that didn’t end well.

But what I want to see is someone take this and complete Dark Souls with it. It’s been done with Donkey Konga Bongos, but now I think it’s time for the reign of the Ultra Driver!

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