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Sim racing games in VR (Virtual Reality)?

Sim racing games in VR (Virtual Reality)?

Virtual Reality or VR has been around for a while now. But, although surely entertaining, it hasn’t truly broken the gaming standards (yet?). I remember most articles back in 2018 saying that VR would revolutionise how we play games. And that in the future, it would surely be the standard.

Fast forward to 2023 and finally big gaming titles like F1 start rolling out their very first VR gameplay. But even then a lot of other games still don’t support VR. Luckily though F1 and Assetta Corsa Competizione do. The latter has done for quite some time now.

So, is it worth it? sim racing in VR? 


VR in Assetto Corsa Competizione

A good question that plenty have asked before is: “does VR make you faster?”. The short answer is ‘no’. The long answer would depend mainly on your level and skill set. ACC is definitely a game where you can benefit from playing in VR. Wearing such a headset gives you a fantastically immersive experience. And that’s where we can find the best difference to a monitor setup.


Above all, racing in VR has a very different and more engaging experience than the old school monitors can offer. Surely, a three monitor setup can immerse you quite a lot too, but not as much as a VR headset would. In ACC you can literally take your time to check out the incredible level of detail inside (and outside) the cars and read labels, buttons and switches you never even paid attention to. But apart from the immersion, it feels (up to a certain level), like you’re in the car. Whether you’re just casually gaming, or taking sim racing seriously, the VR experience is unique and nothing short of fantastic.

ACC has a wide range of tracks and cars, and racing in VR is great because you get a sense of the differences in cars. In older titles, VR could feel very static like they just switched the label of the car. But in ACC, the entire cockpit looks and feels different. From the driving position to the view out the front window. And that makes it great to test out different vehicles and experience what they feel like.

And, since the GT4 and GT3 classes are nicely paced, you can benefit from looking into a corner more than you would in 2D. Just like it does in real life, looking ahead further will make you smoother, more consistent and will improve your lines as you can prepare for entry, apex and exit better than before. And not only that, but you pick up on other small movements in your car. Things you would hardly notice in 2D. That extra sense can help you tweak the setup ever so slightly.


On to the big one then. Does VR make you faster in ACC? Just like I said before, the short answer is ‘no’. Not because it doesn’t have any benefits, but mainly because it depends on how you drive.

Racing in VR feels like it does in real life. The sense of speed you feel is similar to what you experience in an actual car. And that’s great, it is. But that also means your brain starts to take over in certain areas. "What...?. Well, Jeremy Clarkson put it perfectly on a Top Gear episode when he drove a Lotus F1 car; your brain knows for certain it can take a corner at, lets say, 60 mph. But the car needs you to do 90 just to keep the tyres warm.

And so, racing in VR can give you a similar wall. You start to experience a sense of preservation, because your brain isn’t sure about the risks you're taking. Crashing in VR luckily doesn’t have the same consequences as it does when you crash in real life. But admittedly it’s still not fun spinning into a barrier with a headset on when you least expect it. Up to a certain level, you’ll have to reprogram your brain to let go of what it thinks it knows and push it further.

So, making the step to VR won’t make you a second faster from the get go, but once you overcome that sense of fear, you’ll start to improve. And that is because racing in VR has the potential of making you slightly more consistent. Because you see more depth than you would in 2D, you have the chance to create better braking markers and instinctive steering points. Things like these can help you find a level of consistency. And from there on you can start to get faster and improve on smaller areas.

However … yes, there is a big "however" … Depending on the headset you wear, the image quality in ACC isn’t always that great. I’ve had quite some hours with an Oculus Rift and sadly, the quality is rather poor. Braking markers themselves can be difficult to spot in the grainy nature of the glasses. Upgrade and you’ll get a better picture, but even then it’s still not as clear as it would be on a 4k monitor. And that means you have quite a disadvantage in some areas. It might even make you more inconsistent as you might find yourself staring down the braking markers to see the ‘100’ board pop up at the very last minute. These issues mainly occur in shadow covered areas like sector 2 at Monza or under rainy track conditions.

VR in F1 2023

What about F1 then? Well, luckily the image quality of the game is better than that of ACC. When you consider the immersive nature of VR to be important, then please give F1 a go with your headset on. Get some miles under your belt and take whatever car you’re driving to Jeddah. The fast swooping, rail friendly track is an absolute stunner in VR as you can feel the incredible sense of speed an F1 driver experiences when lapping the Saudi track.


When it comes to experience, F1 trumps ACC in my book. It’s faster, more engaging and prettier to look at. It feels a bit like ACC on steroids and will make you respect F1 drivers just that little bit more. Obviously most tracks are different since the game follows the official calendar with far more street circuits than you’ll find in ACC. That makes the VR effect greater as you’ll be brushing your head against walls or seeing that wall of champions close in on you faster than expected. There’s a lot less to think about in F1 too, since the game tries to appeal to a larger audience. That means you can focus more on the driving itself than on looking after your tires and racing lines.


If anything, I think racing in VR on F1 will make you slower. The sense of speed is something you really have to get over and it will limit you in pushing beyond your own safety boundaries. Again, with some miles under your belt and some experimental crashes, just to learn the limit you can benefit from VR just as you would in ACC. F1 is much faster than ACC (duh), so being able to look further and faster ahead of corners will certainly help handle the car better. It also makes actual wheel-to-wheel racing far more easy as you can literally just turn your head and see what the other car is doing around you.

All in all, I think you’ll be better off playing 2D in F1. Plenty of sim racers prefer the above-cockpit view anyway, just to get that better view from the car. In VR you sit as low as the drivers do and that limits visibility. Yes, you can look further ahead than you would in 2D, but it’s still limited. That, and the sometimes nauseating speeds at which the walls come zapping past, makes this a difficult choice. But please don’t expect me not to race in VR on this fantastic title. I absolutely love the experience!

My recommended VR headset

HP Reverb G2:

Tried and tested, the HP Reverb G2 is a great heaset for any VR game. The graphics are far better than the first generation headsets. The image is sharp, well balanced and overall great quality. The built quality if fine too, making it feel robus and comfortable.

  • 2160x2160 resolution with complete RGB colors
  • High quality audio
  • Plenty of adjustment for comfort
  • Built in cameras for tracking

But the high spec sadly comes at a cost. Literally in fact ... It means your PC will have match the requirements. In order to fully benefit from HP's flagship, you will need to invest in a capable high-end PC which, in addition to the $700 for the headset, could easily push you back several thousands. 

One small annoyance I found with the Reverb G2 was it's tracking. It seems to underperform in dimly lit spaces. As a result the headset awkwardly recenters at the worst possible time. The picture is also quite shaky when you move your head around a lot. Playing around with the grahpic settings did help slightly, but it's a bit of a hassle. 


The verdict? Racing in VR is something you really have to try if you love sim racing. It’s an incredibly engaging experience and will really make sim racing more fun on a regular basis. If you have the PC to run it, buying a decent VR headset could save you some money on a multi-monitor setup, if you tire of playing on a single screen.

But sadly, although VR headsets are becoming more and more affordable over time, it’s still a demanding task for a PC. You’ll need to beef up the good old CPU and GPU just to run it smoothly on a medium setting. And, as you want a crystal clear picture and depth of view, you really want to run it on a high- to ultra setting. Sadly, that means investing in a high-end graphics card and a speedy CPU. All in all, a proper VR setup will set you back for several thousands. A more conventional 3 monitor setup isn’t cheap either and requires capable gear too, but it will probably end up saving you money all the same.

Look, if you don’t mind having a slightly blurry picture, awkward recenters and if image quality isn’t everything to you. You should definitely consider it. A multi-monitor setup might save you a few dollars, but it will take up more space on the downside of it. And most of all, it simply won’t feel as cool, enticing and simply awesome as racing in VR does.

Image credit goes to: Kunos Simulazioni

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