F1 2021 doesn't have native Virtual Reality support, but you can actually get a pretty good VR experience with it using VorpX. It's not perfect by any means. The 3D effect is limited and there are some world scale issues. While the track looks fine, the cockpit is too large and it can be hard to judge distances to other cars around you. There are also some bad rendering artifacts in certain views that can be distracting.
Depending on your expectations and on how you play the game, these issues may be big enough to ruin the entire experience. Playing from the cockpit view has the most issues, but playing from a third person view has far fewer and is a great experience.
In this guide, I will show how to get F1 2021 running in VR and talk about what the experience is actually like for both the cockpit and third person views.
What You Will Need
VorpX - $40
VorpX is a program that can make a traditional 2D game render in stereoscopic 3D in a VR headset. F1 2021 is fully supported by VorpX, so you don't need to do anything special 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 2021 in VR, all you have to do is start VorpX and then launch the game normally.
F1 2021 runs exclusively in DirectX 12, which limits VorpX to its Z-Normal rendering mode. This isn't a true stereoscopic mode, so it has to fake the 3D effect a bit. As a result, there are noticeable visual distortions around certain objects. The worst, by far, is around the halo column or antennas at the front of the car in cockpit view. You will also notice that menus and HUD elements will have some depth problems. Those really aren't an issue.
On the plus side, Z-Normal mode requires much less processing power, so it's easy to keep the graphics fairly high and get a solid 90fps.
Cockpit View in Full VR
My favorite way to play racing games is from the cockpit view, letting me feel like I am actually in the car. When playing with a wheel and pedal setup, this has created some of the most immersive experiences I have ever had in VR.
Unfortunately for F1 2021, the graphical issues forced by the Z-Normal rendering mode create a number of issues for the cockpit view. The cockpit is much larger than it ought to be and it doesn't really feel like you are sitting in it but more like it is floating in front of you.
The visual distortion around the antenna or halo is very distracting. It creates a large area in the center of your vision that doubles what is seen further off to the sides. It's mostly an issue when you are looking far down the track on long straights. While it's distracting and annoying, it's not going to hamper your driving performance.
It's not all bad news, though. The ability to turn your head and look into the apex of a corner is a great advantage. Even this is not without its problems. The head turning isn't completely accurate. It actually shifts the camera while it turns. I didn't find it to cause motion sickness, but it's not ideal.
The menus aren't usable in Full VR as they take up your entire vision. You will need to switch to EdgePeek mode whenever you are not in a race. This is common in a lot of VorpX games and I don't find this to be a problem at all.
Third Person View in Cinema Mode
The experience is much better if you prefer to play in the third person chase camera. Many of the graphical issues are far less apparent in this view compared to the cockpit view. There will be some Z-Normal artifacts in the menus and HUD elements, but it's not an issue at all during the races.
I recommend playing in the Cinema Mode for this view. This basically creates a giant 3D TV in front of you. The third person view looks fantastic like this. You could easily make an argument that this is the best way to play the game, feeling like you are flying above the cars on the track.
In the chase view, Full VR doesn't work well at all and even Immersive Screen Mode is too close and uncomfortable. You could play with the settings of Immersive Screen Mode to make it work, but make sure to turn off the "Head Tracking as Gamepad" feature in the VorpX Input Settings to prevent the camera from swinging around the car every time you move your head. Cinema Mode doesn't have this problem.
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 Customisation:
For the Cockpit View, you need to adjust the camera settings to make it look correct in VR. The chase camera doesn't need any adjustments.
|Field of View
|Near Clip Plane
|Look to Apex Limit
|Off (personal preference)
Most importantly, you need to set the cockpit camera to the widest FOV. I turn off any camera movement effects as that is just to going to add motion sickness in VR. I turn off the Halo Column, but that is personal preference.
In Settings > On-Screen Display > OSD Customization:
If you are playing in the Full VR Mode, you will need to move any HUD elements you like close to the center of the screen for them to be readable in your headset. The default setting places the HUD elements off in the corners of your vision, making it nearly impossible to view some of them.
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 of any use at all.
If you are playing in Cinema Mode, you don't have to adjust this at all.
In Settings > On-Screen Display:
Track Map works fine, but is quite large and distracting so I turn it off.
Driver Tags work as well, but they are also large and distracting.
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 Options > Tobii Eye Tracking:
|Head Tracking with TrackIr
Head Tracking with TrackIr needs to be On in order to be able to look around the cockpit in Full VR Mode.
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.
Running in Z-Normal mode limits some of the advantages of VR. The depth perception is certainly better than on a monitor, but it's not completely accurate, especially when close to other cars. The cockpit view is quite distracting, though I didn't find this to ever hurt my performance in a race.
The ability to look around freely is very nice and something I sorely miss when playing games on a monitor. You get a much better sensation of speed, making it easier to get on the brakes at just the right time. Generally, it just seems easier to drive the cars when you have a better sense of speed and the ability to look around, even if it's not perfect.
The third person view doesn't provide any real advantages, but it makes the experience just a whole lot more immersive and exciting.
F1 2020 was a much better experience in VR, since it could run in DirectX 11. It supported true stereoscopic rendering in VorpX's Geometry 3D mode, which removed any of the visual distortions. As more games are running exclusively in DirectX 12, this is going to be a greater issue with VorpX. Hopefully it will be possible to figure out the issue and let all of these games run in Geometry 3D.
Let me know if you have any comments or questions.