It is a shame that NASCAR Heat 4 does not have native VR support, because racing games benefit so much from being played in 3D. Thankfully, it actually works fairly well in VR using VorpX, though you do need a very powerful computer to run it at a high frame rate.
I typically play any racing game using a wheel and pedal set in the cockpit view. Usually games have enough customization options to make this work very well in VR, making the experience incredibly immersive. This game does not have those options and might actually play better from the third person chase view. I will talk about both options below.
The game renders in true, full 3D, and it looks great. In this guide, I will show you how to get everything set up, including overcoming some issues I experienced when trying this out.
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. I know VorpX has a mixed reputation, but if you are interested at all in playing older games in VR, especially racing games, it's an incredible tool. You can read my overall thoughts on the program here.
You will have to download the "NASCAR Heat 4 [bkoponen]" cloud profile in the VorpX Control Panel for this to work. To play in VR, all you have to do is start VorpX and launch the game.
NASCAR Heat 4 has a distinct lack of configuration options for anything in the game, which greatly limits our ability to tweak things for VR. There are no detailed graphics options, no ability to adjust the FOV and no ability to look around the cockpit, all of which could make the VR experience much better.
Because of these limitations, the game does not work in Full VR Mode, meaning that you can't turn your head and look around the car the way you can in a native VR game. Instead, you play in Immersive Screen Mode, looking at a large virtual screen. Thankfully, once you are actually playing the game, you hardly even notice this.
When playing from the cockpit view, as is most common in VR racing games, the most notable problem is the lack of FOV adjustment. The FOV is too small, making the scale of the world too large, which is particularly noticeable in the cockpit. Besides looking a little silly, it doesn't have much impact on the actual driving, since your focus is on the track ahead of you, which looks pretty good.
There is an option in VorpX to force a wider FOV (called 3D FOV Enhancement). While this actually works to correct the scale issue, it introduces glitches with the shadows. They drift away from the objects casting them, which means you end up seeing shadows cross the track from no discernable source. It's weird, but it certainly doesn't break the game. You have to make a choice between having a proper FOV or proper shadows, which is unfortunate.
Since there are no detailed graphics settings, you are likely going to use the Low graphics preset to keep your frame rate reasonable. Unfortunately, there is no way to turn off Motion Blur, which really doesn't look good in VR. Running in Geometry 3D is very taxing for this game and, depending on your computer, you may not even get a playable frame rate in this mode.
The good news is that you can use Z-Normal and get very good results with no frame rate issues. You will notice some artifacts, especially around parts of your cockpit and some parts of the car in front of you. It's not ideal, but they aren't very distracting. You also lose the ability to use FOV Enhancement in Z-Normal mode.
Chase Camera View
Interestingly, playing from the third person chase view fixes negates some of the issues above. The FOV is not an issue in this view. It's naturally a very wide FOV and so everything looks fine.
Perhaps even more importantly, you can play in Z-Normal mode with even fewer artifacts. The track looks great, but the depth of your car is a little off. While actually playing, I didn't find this to be a problem. In truth, this is probably the best way to play the game for most people. There is no performance penalty with only minor visual artifacts.
For the best experience, you will want to use these settings.
|Play Style||Immersive Screen Mode|
|3D Reconstruction||Geometry 3D / Z-Normal|
|3D FOV Enhancement||0 - 1.00|
These are already set in the "NASCAR Heat 4 [bkoponen]" cloud profile.
The 3D FOV Enhancement is 0 by default. By raising it to about 1.00, you will widen the FOV to about the correct level for most headsets.
In NASCAR Heat 4:
In Options > Gameplay:
The Car Identifiers don't look right in 3D and are quite distracting. The other HUD elements actually work just fine.
In Options > Display:
|Quality||Low (Geometry 3D) / High (Z-Normal)|
The graphics options are very limited, so there really isn't much we can do to improve the frame rate issues. If you are playing in Z-Normal mode, you can easily set the Quality to the highest setting.
Better than non-VR?
Whenever I play a game in VR using VorpX, I like to ask if the gameplay is actually improved in any way by doing so, or is it more of an interesting experiment without any real benefits. VorpX isn't cheap and it would be easy to try to rationalize the purchase, even if the experience isn't that good.
For NASCAR Heat 4 (and most other racing games for that matter), having the depth perception provided by VR is undeniably better than playing on a flat screen. However, this game is so limited in its options (forced FOV and motion blur, in particular) that the VR experience isn't nearly as compelling as many other titles I have tried, at least when played in the cockpit view.
If you prefer to play in the Chase camera view, you will have a great experience playing this in VR. It is all the more engaging to see the whole world in 3D as you are flying down track.
Overall, this game is a mixed bag in VR, depending heavily on how you like to play the game. If you want to feel like you are in the cockpit of the car, you will probably be disappointed by the limitations. On the other hand, if you prefer a more arcade-style third person view, you will have a great experience.
Let me know if you have any comments or questions.