The original Race Driver: GRID was released well before consumer virtual reality headsets existed. And yet, it is actually possible to play it in VR using VorpX, a program that can make traditional games display in stereoscopic 3D in a VR headset.
The experience isn't nearly as polished as a true VR title, but if you can overlook certain issues, it's quite impressive playing in VR. There are two main views when playing this game, either from the cockpit camera, or a third person camera. In VR, these become two entirely different experiences, much more pronounced than when playing normally on a monitor. I'm going to talk about them separately, as they each offer a very different experience.
In this guide, I will talk about how to set up both methods of play as well as how to overcome an annoying freezing-on-exit issue.
What You Will Need
VorpX - $40
The virtual reality portion is handled by VorpX, a program that can make a traditional 2D game render in stereoscopic 3D in a VR headset. VorpX works differently depending on how well it supports the game you are running. On many games, the best VorpX can do is display the game in 3D on a large virtual screen. This can work very well, but it's not quite as immersive as when you are actually "in the game" like a true VR title.
For GRID, it is best to use the Full VR mode if you are playing from the cockpit view, but use Cinema Mode, viewing the game on a large 3D screen, if you are playing from a third person camera.
OpenTrack - Free
If are playing from the cockpit view, you will want to be able to look freely around the car. For this, we need to use GRID's support for TrackIR. TrackIR is a device that you place on your head that translates your head movements into in-game camera movements.
This is designed for traditional gaming on a monitor, but we can hook into that system and translate the VR headset movements into the TrackIR data that GRID already understands using a program called OpenTrack.
The effect isn't quite as good as a native VR game. There is some lag between your movements and the action in game. Also, the camera doesn't pivot as it does in a true VR game, so there is a weird sensation that the world moves a little bit when you turn your head. It's hard to describe, but you will feel it immediately when you look around.
Thankfully, you don't notice these problems too much once you actually start driving. That said, don't be surprised if this pushes your motion sickness a little harder than usual. Furthermore, you may not want to play in cockpit view at all, as I will talk about shortly, in which case you can skip OpenTrack completely.
First Time Setup Instructions
GRID will freeze when you exit the game, making it impossible to do anything except sign out to close all the programs, unless you take some simple precautions.
The easiest way to mitigate this problem is to set Task Manager to be "Always On Top" from the Options Menu. With that enabled, you can Ctrl-Alt-Delete, open Task Manager and it will appear on screen, letting you select GRID and End Task. If you're not bothered by this, you can skip the next step.
Race Driver: GRID Windowed Mode
The other way to deal with this is to force the game to run in windowed mode. If the game freezes on exit, all you have to do is close the window. We need to edit a text file to do this, since there isn't an in-game setting for windowed mode. We can only do this after running GRID in VR for the first time.
Start VorpX and open GRID. A message will appear saying you may need to restart for the settings change to take effect. VorpX will now have created the file we need to edit.
Exit GRID, using Task Manager if necessary.
Open Documents\Codemasters\GRID\hardwaresettings\hardware_settings_config.xml. On the resolution line, change fullscreen="true" to fullscreen="false", as seen below. You will likely have different values for the width and height. That's fine, just leave them as they are.
<resolution width="1920" height="1200" aspect="16:10" fullscreen="false" vsync="0" oldWidth="1920" oldHeight="1200">
Now the game will run in a window on your monitor, making it easy to close, but appear totally normally in your VR headset.
Download, install and run OpenTrack. From the Input dropdown menu, choose "Oculus Rift Runtime" if you have an Oculus headset, or "Valve SteamVR" if you have anything else.
Click on the Options button. You will want to bind a button for the Center command. This will re-center your head tracking position in VR. The TrackIR system has a tendency to drift over time and needs to be reset fairly regularly.
Click the Start button to begin tracking. As you move your headset around, you should see the octopus picture move and turn based on the headset movements.
With OpenTrack running in the background, when you start driving in GRID's cockpit view, you will be able to look around freely. You will notice that the movement is not perfect, but when you are really playing the game, and not just looking around, you hardly notice the problems.
Launching the game is a little bit of a process. You have to start VorpX, start OpenTrack and then, finally, launch GRID. Though, as we will soon see, you may very well not want to play in cockpit view, letting you skip OpenTrack altogether.
You will immediately notice that you can read and navigate the menus just fine. There is some minor graphical artifacts, but it doesn't interfere with anything.
One of the best things about playing an older game in VR is that there is no performance penalty. Any computer than can run modern VR titles reasonably well can easily handle these older games. You can crank up all the graphics settings and make these older games look better than a more modern game if you have to turn down all the settings to get it to play smoothly.
There are a few general graphical artifacts that stand out. Smoke and dust can look a little strange since they aren't volumetric effects. But they certainly don't look bad and, importantly, they are properly placed in the 3D space, so they don't jump out of the scene.
One very big problem is playing races at night. Something very wrong happens with the lighting calculations and you get an x-ray effect where you can see spectators and trees through the road and terrain. This is extremely distracting and makes these races nearly unplayable. Normal daytime racing looks fantastic.
Now let's talk about the major differences between playing in the cockpit view and a third person view.
Cockpit View in Full VR
Playing from the driver's seat perspective is what most people would consider as "playing in VR." This really works best if you are playing with a wheel and pedal set for maximum immersion. It is best to turn off the HUD elements if you are going to play this way. They float kind of awkwardly in your view, which is especially distracting as you look around and they stay fixed to your head.
Unfortunately, there is one glaring issue playing this way. The scale of the cockpit is wrong, making it appear way too big. Beyond just looking silly, it only really affects the gameplay when it comes to judging how close you are to the walls and other cars. You can't rely on your normal sense of scale, so it becomes easier to bump into things until you get used to it.
But that's not the only issue. There is a small area of the hood that you can see in this view that is not in 3D, so it kind of floats in space and looks really out of place. I actually found this more annoying than the incorrect scale of the cockpit. It appears on the wrong focal plane, which makes you keep changing your focus if you look at it, leading to some eye strain over time.
These issues are a real shame, because the track looks great in perfect, true 3D. Being able to look around freely, even with the lag, works really well and is an active improvement to the gameplay. Overall, I found the issues were enough to make me not play too much in this view. There are simply better native VR racing games for this type of experience. However, playing in third person is a whole other matter.
Third Person View in Cinema Mode
Playing in Third Person view removes all of the problems of the cockpit view. There are no scale issues and you can leave all the HUD elements on without a problem. You don't want to play this in Full VR mode, it doesn't look right. Instead, switch to Cinema Mode where you are playing on a large screen. It feels very natural to play this way, especially if you are using a standard gamepad controller. I'm sure this is the way most people played this game anyway and it works great in 3D.
I would recommend going into the VorpX Input settings and set "Head Tracking as Gamepad" to Off. Otherwise, when you turn your head too far left or right, VorpX will mimic the right stick look functions, which I didn't like at all.
Except for the night race graphical issues, I think this is the definitive way to play the game. The arcade-style racing suits itself to playing in third person with a controller (though playing with a wheel and pedals is still perfectly viable even in third person), and being able to see all the action in 3D only adds to the experience.
It's amazing that a game this old can work in VR as well as it does. I highly recommend trying out both of the ways to play as I've tested and see which works best for you. I'm admittedly a VR enthusiast and am willing to put up with some issues, but even if you are not, I think you will be pleasantly surprised how well playing in third person mode works.
Let me know if you have any comments or questions.