I was disappointed that F1 2018 didn't have native VR support, especially considering how well it worked in Dirt Rally. Given how well VorpX works for some other Codemasters titles, I was not surprised that F1 2018 worked much the same. Especially if you have a wheel and pedal set, there is nothing as immersive as playing a racing game in VR.
If you have tried DiRT 4 in VR using VorpX, you have a pretty good idea of how VR works for F1 2018. To run it at a high frame rate, you will need a very powerful machine, but if you don't mind turning the graphics way down, you can have a very smooth experience.
In this guide, I will show how to get F1 2018 running in VR and talk about what the experience is actually like.
What You Will Need
VorpX - $40
VorpX is the program that can make a traditional 2D game render in stereoscopic 3D in a VR headset. F1 2018 is fully supported by VorpX, so you don't need to do anything to make it work. I know VorpX has a mixed reputation, but if you are interested at all in playing older games in VR, it's an incredible tool. You can read my overall thoughts on the program here.
To play F1 2018 in VR, all you have to do is start VorpX and then launch the game. The built-in profile works perfectly, so you don't need to make any VorpX adjustments.
When I think of playing a racing game in VR, I want to be immersed in the cockpit of the car. This can be a breaking point for many games that aren't designed to run in VR, the cockpit often doesn't look right and it ruins the experience. I'm happy to say that this works remarkably well in F1 2018.
The game runs in VorpX's Geometry 3D mode, so everything is rendered in true, stereoscopic 3D. The scale of the car looks correct and feels very natural to drive in. Similarly, the scale of the track, when the camera is at the widest FOV, looks correct as well.
While you can run F1 2018 in Full VR mode, I don't recommend it. There is a distortion effect that happens when you turn your head that will cause motion sickness. Instead, use Immersive Screen Mode, which actually works surprisingly well, but does have its limits. You can only look left and right enough to see your mirrors, but that is all you actually need when you are racing, so it's not that big of a deal.
The menus work just fine. VorpX is able to display them properly at a natural distance, so it feels very much like a native VR game. The only time you might want to use EdgePeek is during the cinematic sections and in a few telemetry data sections which sometimes don't display correctly in 3D.
The main problem is performance. You need a very powerful computer to run this at high frame rates. On an i7 8700 and GTX 1070, I can only get 45fps even on Ultra Low settings. The game is still playable, but it doesn't look real good and it can still have frame drops in busy sections of the track. Of course, with a more powerful machine, this will be less of an issue.
You can easily see that the game isn't optimized at all for VR and it would be a major undertaking to do so. Even though the Dirt Rally games have been made for VR, those optimizations must have never made it into the F1 games. It's a shame, because you can see the potential this game could have if it had native VR support.
There are some in-game settings that you need to modify to make the VR experience as good as it can be.
In Settings > Camera Options:
|Field of View||1.00|
|Offset: Vertical||1.00 (personal preference)|
|Look to Apex Limit||0.0|
|Head Tracking with TrackIr||Off|
|Halo Column||Off (personal preference)|
Most importantly, you need to set the cockpit camera to the widest FOV. I raise the Vertical Offset to closer match the real world location of my wheel, but that is up to personal preference. Similarly, I turn off the halo column as I find it just a bit too much, but, again, this is personal preference.
I turn off any camera movement effects as that is just to going to add motion sickness in VR.
This game does support TrackIR, so we could use the integrated VorpX TrackIR Head Tracking, but I don't recommend it. The default VorpX head tracking solution works perfectly. I found using TrackIR leads to highly exaggerated camera movements that quickly lead to motion sickness.
In Settings > Graphics Options:
HUD Area Adjustment
It is very important to shrink the HUD Area to a much smaller area of the screen. The default setting places the HUD elements off in the corners of your vision, making it very hard to read any of them without moving your head.
Perhaps the most important one is the car setting adjustments. You really want these to appear much closer to the center of your vision for them to be any use at all.
In Settings > On-Screen Display:
The Driver Tags need to be turned off in VR. They don't line up correctly and are very distracting.
The Track Map works fine, but it's quite large and distracting so I turn it off.
The rest of the OSD elements are up to personal preference. Overall, I recommend turning as much off as you can for a more immersive experience.
Better than non-VR?
Using VorpX to play a game in VR is always a bit of a mixed bag, so I always like to ask if the game is actually improved by the VR experience, or if it is more of a curiosity that doesn't add anything to the game experience.
In the case of F1 2018, having the depth perception that VR provides is a huge benefit. You get a much greater sensation of speed, making it easier to get on the brakes at just the right time. Being able to look into the corner just by turning your head is so natural that you forget you are even doing it. I always find it hard to go back to playing any racing game on a flat screen after having played it in VR.
The only problem, and it may be prohibitive for some machines, is the performance. If you can't keep a stable frame rate, the game will be unplayable. Even at a stable 45fps, I really wish it could be higher. Not to mention that the graphics look really quite bad at this level.
Even with all those faults, I still prefer playing in VR than playing on a flat screen with all the graphics maxed out. There is just nothing quite like the feeling you get when you are playing in VR that, I find, makes the sacrifices worth it. Whenever it comes time to upgrade to a new computer, then it won't even be a question, VR wins outright.
If you have a powerful enough machine, I highly recommend trying this out in VR. It's so much more immersive, especially if you are playing with a wheel and pedals. While the VR experience of a native title like Assetto Corsa or Project CARS 2 is undeniably better, the F1 game experience is unmatched. Being able to have close to the best of both worlds makes this an experience worth having.
Let me know if you have any comments or questions.