[This is a guest post]
Virtual reality has taken the gaming world by storm. And when it comes to immersion and realism, this tech makes the biggest impact on racing simulators. But what are the ways that VR augments driving games and how are new products helping to push the envelope even further?
The Virtues Of VR
Even with the latest in photorealistic graphics on display, a modern racer can still leave players feeling detached from the driving experience. And adding a steering wheel controller to the mix isn’t always enough to escape the uncanny valley when playing on a TV or monitor.
VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive break down the boundaries between the player and the game completely. As well as filling your view with the pixel-perfect visuals, these wearable devices give you true stereoscopic 3D gaming, adding a sense of depth that is impossible to recreate in any other medium.
In terms of enhancing racing sims, the benefits are obvious. Scenery whizzes past at breathtaking speed, other cars feel close enough to reach out and touch, the interior of your vehicle will be rendered immaculately.
The quantum leap in quality offered by VR is all about making car driving games more visceral and believable, breaking the fourth wall and reaching through to drag players into digital worlds. And there are a number of ways to bring this to life in your own home.
Getting Set Up
The quickest and most affordable route to virtual reality racing bliss is afforded by Sony’s PSVR headset. Unfortunately it does depend on you already owning a PlayStation 4 console, and the selection of games on offer is relatively limited.
Enthusiasts are better off taking advantage of PC-based VR experiences, using the aforementioned headsets from Oculus and HTC. There are lots of different hardware requirements that need to be met before you can dive in, so it’s a good idea to check the manufacturer’s details in full to make sure you don’t miss out anything vital.
With the right processing power and graphical grunt at your disposal, along with the VR headset of your choice, you are good to go. You can even take things a step further with products that make the experience even more realistic, such as the HelmetVR headset which is designed to help professional drivers train in virtual environments.
The real challenge will come when you need to set up the headset software and configure individual games to work with the hardware. Compatibility issues can sometimes arise and there are tons of tweaks and adjustments you will need to make to balance performance with visual fidelity.
For true control over how your VR racing plays out, be prepared to dive into .ini configuration files and read guides online to make the most of your investment. If you are not afraid to tinker, your efforts will be rewarded.
You might even go so far as to create a rig that lets you sit in front of a steering wheel, pedal and shifter setup, putting you in the driving seat and making gameplay even more convincing. There are some ready-made full motion rigs, like the 3XS RAID, but they cost a pretty penny, as you might expect.
Games To Try
If you have been converted to VR and decided to invest in the right kit to get into the immersive racing game scene, you’ll also want to know which titles work best with this tech.
RaceRoom is perhaps the ideal starting point, as this 2013 game has been updated to allow for VR integration and is based on the free to play model, which means it doesn’t cost anything upfront. You will need to pay if you want to enjoy all that it has to offer, but as an in depth simulator it is good for newcomers and seasoned players alike.
No rundown of VR driving games would be complete without a mention of Assetto Corsa. This genre-defining racer sets its sights on bringing supercars to life for people who could never afford them in the real world. A community of modders help to keep it relevant and its physics engine is truly impressive, as are its crisp graphics.
Project CARS 2 is one of the most recent additions to the VR racing scene and is blessed with a huge roster of vehicles, all of which can be driven with virtual reality enabled. One particular perk of this game is the way that the driver’s arms and hands are modelled in the cockpit; they behave very convincingly and will really put you into the action in a way that not all other titles can match.
Dirt Rally should be on your list of VR games to play, especially since it is supported on the PlayStation 4 via PSVR. What really gives it the edge is its ear-blasting audio effects, which are almost as important as the visuals when it comes to making you feel part of the car in VR.
Virtual reality has given racing simulators a new lease of life and this genre will continue to expand as more players catch the driving bug.