I wasn't surprised that F1 2019 didn't have native VR support, since F1 2018 didn't either, but I was disappointed nonetheless. Also not surprising, though, is that it works very well in VR using VorpX. In fact, it works even better than F1 2018 did. Especially if you have a wheel and pedal set, there is nothing quite as immersive as playing a racing game in VR.
The main caveat, like F1 2018 and DiRT 4 before it, is that you do need a very powerful computer to run it at high graphical settings with a good frame rate. If you have the hardware, or can handle the graphical downgrade, the actual gameplay can be very smooth.
In this guide, I will show how to get F1 2019 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 2019 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 2019 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.
My ideal for playing a racing game in VR is to be immersed in the cockpit of the car. For many games that aren't designed to run in VR, the cockpit often doesn't render correctly and it ruins the experience. I'm happy to say that this is not a problem and works remarkably well in F1 2019.
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.
The game is able to run in the Full VR mode, but it can't fill your entire vision, so you see black bars around the edges of your vision at all times. It's not terribly distracting, it is just like having a headset with a noticeably narrower field of view. When you enable TrackIR in game and in VorpX, you can actually freely look around quite a bit in this mode. Unlike earlier titles in the series where there was a lot of problems with TrackIR, this mode somehow works around them to provide a very nice experience. Just don't push your luck with it. Looking too far up and down still doesn't work real well.
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.
As said above, 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||On|
|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.
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.
In order to make use of the TrackIR integration, once in-game, open the VorpX menu > Head Tracking Settings and set:
|TrackIR Supports Head Roll||Yes|
|TrackIR Supports Pos Tracking||Yes|
Better than non-VR?
Using VorpX to play a game in VR can be 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 2019, and like most other racing games, the depth perception that VR provides is a huge benefit. You get a much better 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. It can be hard to go back to playing any racing game on a flat screen after having played it in VR. A large part of the driving experience becomes almost instinctive when you are actually in the car. When playing on a flat screen, I find that I have to concentrate harder instead of just being able to drive naturally.
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.
If you have the machine to run it, 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. Using VorpX gets pretty close to having the best of both worlds.
Let me know if you have any comments or questions.