F1 2020 may not have native virtual reality support, but much like earlier entries in the series, it runs very well in VR using VorpX. The 3D effect is true stereoscopic rendering, so the sense of speed and depth perception is completely accurate, though you will need a very powerful computer to run at high graphical settings with a good frame rate.
I typically like to play these simulator-style racing games from the cockpit view, using a wheel and pedal set to create the most immersive experience as possible. There really is nothing quite like playing a racing game in VR. Time and time again I come back to these games and am blown away by the experience, even with the often dramatic downgrade in visuals compared to playing on a monitor.
If you prefer to play in the third person chase camera, however, the experience is just as compelling an upgrade over a monitor. In the case of F1 2020, you will also have the benefit of being able to play with a much better frame rate, due to being able to change the rendering mode in VorpX.
In this guide, I will show how to get F1 2020 running in VR and talk about what the experience is actually like for both the cockpit and third person views. Unlike earlier entries in the series, there are some bugs unique to this version. I will share the workarounds I have found for these as well.
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 2020 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 non-native games in VR, it's an incredible tool. You can read my overall thoughts on the program here.
To play F1 2020 in VR, all you have to do is start VorpX and then launch the game using the DirectX 11 mode.
If you have already played F1 2019 using VorpX, then you know almost exactly how F1 2020 works. They run on the same engine and work nearly exactly the same in VR. For those that haven't, I'll go over it again here.
As I said above, 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 2020 when using VorpX's Geometry 3D rendering mode.
Using this mode, 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 only downside is that Geometry 3D is very taxing on your computer as it literally doubles the amount of work required to render each frame.
The shame is that Z-Normal mode, which requires much less processing power, renders everything perfectly in 3D except for the cockpit. The cockpit gets much bigger and there is an annoying graphical artifact around the antenna and halo column at the front of the car. I find these issues detract very much from the experience of the cockpit view and can't recommend it unless you have no option.
However, in the third person chase camera views, these issues don't exist. The Z-Normal 3D rendering is nearly indistinguishable from Geometry 3D. There will be some Z-Normal artifacts in the menus, but it's not an issue at all during the races. On an i7 8700 and GTX 1070, with Z-Normal mode, I can run a solid 90fps at low to medium settings, whereas Geometry 3D can struggle to hit 45 fps even on Ultra Low settings.
If you are using the chase camera views, I highly recommend turning off the "Head Tracking as Gamepad" feature in the VorpX Input Settings. If you leave this on, the camera will swing around to show the sides of the car if you move your head even a little bit, which is very uncomfortable. This happens because your head movements are being converted into the right analog stick input of a gamepad as long as the "Head Tracking as Gamepad" feature is enabled.
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.
There are some bugs that weren't a problem with F1 2018 and F1 2019. Very oddly, the game frequently crashes immediately on startup. I have not been able to figure out why this happens; it seems to be random. Sometimes it will crash three times in a row, then on the fourth attempt it suddenly works. Thankfully, once the game is running, I've never had it crash. To save yourself some hassle, I would make sure the game loads into the menus before putting on your headset.
The second bug might be specific to certain wheel users. In my case, using a Thrustmaster TMX, sometimes the game would stop recognizing the right paddle shifter. This was particularly odd because it still worked in the menus, just not during a race. All other inputs continued to work normally.
It seems to be an issue when having both a wheel and Xbox controller connected at the same time. VorpX emulates an Xbox controller to move the camera around as you move your head. The solution is to either bind your wheel inputs to the emulated Xbox controller input settings or to disable the VorpX gamepad emulation altogether. If you disable the gamepad emulation, the game won't pan the camera as you look left and right. I didn't find this to be an issue, since you can already see your mirrors when the FOV is at its widest.
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 (personal preference)
|Look to Apex Limit
|Head Tracking with TrackIr
|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
|TrackIR Supports Pos Tracking
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 2020, 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. Feeling like you are actually in the car makes it much more natural to drive properly.
I find it difficult 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. I must say I'm amazed at how good the game feels even at 45fps. It's obviously smoother at 90, but it doesn't negatively impact the gameplay nearly as much as I thought it would. Similarly, the graphics look remarkable good even at Ultra Low settings.
In the end, I much 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. Of course, anyone running a newer computer probably won't have these performance problems at all.
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.