As one of the first game genres to embrace VR, sim racing has been successfully transitioning from the ‘very early adopter’ stage (using Oculus development kits) to the ‘early adopter’ stage (the first-generation consumer headsets). Now that the majority of PC racing sims support VR, there are several compelling options to try.

Update (5/3/17): Complete overhaul to listing now that consumer versions of the Rift and Vive have launched and most major sims have added VR support.

From mid-2014 until early 2016, when the Rift DK2 development was essentially the only hardware option, software support in racing simulators was frankly a bit of a nightmare. Since then, the situation has improved, but each software solution featured here is still considered a work-in-progress.

The HTC Vive launched on April 5th 2016, a week after the consumer Oculus Rift. The headsets shared similar specifications and, for seated games like racing sims, should have delivered a very similar experience. However, that was definitely not the case. In terms of getting development kits into the wild, Oculus had more than a two-year head start, the effects of which are still apparent today; at launch, the Vive was poorly supported by racing sims, and in some cases remained totally unsupported for months. Assetto Corsa, for example, was functional on the Rift DK1 in 2013 and had solid consumer Rift support in May 2016, but only received Vive support in March 2017.

The situation continues to improve; with the exception of Automobilista, every PC racing sim (in active development) now has some form of VR support for the Vive and Rift. Below are our top five recommendations for racing simulators with an excellent VR mode. Please note, the list is weighted towards the VR implementation, not the ‘simulation value’.

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5. RaceRoom Racing Experience

Photo courtesy Sector3 Studios

This ‘free-to-play’ sim (most content requires purchasing) once featured an experimental DK2 mode, but it soon disappeared along with any sign of VR support for months. During this period, the studio endured a major transition, changing from SimBin to Sector3, and RaceRoom itself evolved into a rather different product, leaning much more towards realism.

VR support in RaceRoom landed for Rift and Vive in January, and Sector3 pretty much nailed it immediately. Performance is strong on both headsets, the menus and HUD work well, and a world scale adjustment is a welcome feature. The biggest downside to RaceRoom’s VR implementation is the steering animation being limited to 180 degrees. iRacing suffered from this problem too, and has since reworked the rotation animations across its range of cars, so hopefully Sector3 can do the same.

Photo courtesy Sector3 Studios

With its incredible audio combined with some excellent AI, RaceRoom is already a very compelling option for VR racing. Hopefully the VR mode will eventually be made available within the game’s menu, rather than having to set a Steam launch option.

RaceRoom

4. Project CARS

Photo courtesy Slightly Mad Studios

Slightly Mad Studios’ experimentation with VR during Project CARS’ lengthy development was problematic to say the least. However, the finished product is stunning, with native support for Rift and Vive. Make no mistake, this is an extremely demanding graphics engine, and arguably too much for the minimum spec VR PC. To get the most from Project CARS in VR, you’ll want at least the performance of a GTX 1070 GPU, particularly with a Vive (which doesn’t have the benefit of asynchronous space warp to deal with frame drops).

Photo courtesy Slightly Mad Studios

Let’s be honest, a significant chunk of the simulation crowd doesn’t have many positive things to say about Project CARS’ physics, but it’s certainly competent and entertaining. And with a seamless VR implementation, quick-access seat position and world scale adjustments and some of the most detailed interior views of any racing game, this is a great pick-up-and-play VR showcase if you have the appropriate hardware. The ‘wow factor’ is strong with this one.

Project CARS

3. Assetto Corsa

Photo courtesy Kunos Simulazioni

Assetto Corsa’s combination of slick visuals and sublime handling meant that even in the DK2 era—where no in-game menu system meant a limiting and painful setup process—it was still worth trying. Since May 2016 however, the Rift has enjoyed much-improved support, and now Vive owners don’t have to mess with unofficial hacks for support as the game now natively supports OpenVR. Initially, the output on Vive appeared to have world scale problems, but developer Kunos Simulazioni have since added an IPD slider in the OpenVR ‘app’, which resolved the issue. However, the rotational audio found on the Rift is not functional on OpenVR.

Today’s VR experience on Assetto Corsa is fairly painless. Unfortunately Kunos aren’t planning to implement a proper VR menu system, so you still need to launch the sim from a desktop view (although it is possible to operate this from a virtual desktop app). Once you’ve loaded a track, Assetto Corsa delivers a stunning VR experience, with smooth performance even on large grids, and excellent steering animations across all cars. The game’s public lobbies are very popular, making this the obvious choice for those looking for a quick race against human opponents.

Assetto Corsa

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51 COMMENTS

  1. How about a similar article about Racing Sims for the Vive (if any?) … Driving games is my favorite genre and I was looking into buying a rift for my cockpit setup, but the Vive is too enticing… there’s not much info about racing sims for the vive though…

    • The Vive is like the Annie Oakley of HMD headsets – Anything the Oculus can do, the Vive can do better. The Vive has a sitting mode and calibration in the newest beta. With it, it’s possible for developers to treat the Vive very similarly to the Oculus. Expect to see more and more developers officially support the Vive for sitting experiences, especially after its release in April.

      • Actually there are advantages and disadvantages to both the Vive and the Oculus. Personally, I’m going for the Rift because it’s more comfortable on the face, has less screen door effect, and will have better motion control (when it’s actually released).

        • Sorry, I meant from a developer perspective. Hardware wise, both headsets have their strong suits. I much prefer the tracking tech in the Vive but Oculu certainly has much better optics and comfort.

          Oculus’ touch controls are also leaps and bounds over the Vive’s controllers. Ergonomically and functionality speaking. Vive will always be king in tracking, but they could learn a thing or two in design, from Oculus.

          Either way, both headsets will work great for racing sims. All you need next is one of these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQLF06rwzVE

          • I’ve tried both and confirm the screen door effect is worse on the Vive than CV1, and that small text on HUDs and gauges are easier to read on the CV1. That being said, I enjoy the overall experience of the Vive better and ended up going with that.

    • So far I haven’t seen *any* racing sims list support for the Vive, which I am concerned about — I had both headsets preordered before I finally decided that room scale was more important to me than the design of the Rift and cancelled my preordrr with Oculus.

      The lack of driving sims is disappointing, although I really do expect them to add Vive support to most if not all of them. The only driving sims I know of with Vive support are Euto Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator, and neither of those are racing — and they’re not even listed as having Vive support on Steam.

      • I think this is mainly because Oculus Rift developer kits have been in the wild for 3 years and HTC Vive Dev kits have only been available to developers for less than 1 year. so it might take some time for them to catch up.

  2. Nice read. Almost the entire reason I ordered a RIft was for Sims. Hope all the games I play will implement VR well.

    Somewhat off topic recently Microsoft announced that a Forza was coming to PC. I wonder if they will give it VR support. With Gran Turismo getting VR on the PS4, I’m hopeful.

      • Well the one I have is a Fanatec with Forza branded on it, and an xbox button would that help :P

        Why bring Forza to PC if it’s not going to utilize anything it it offers? Trying to be a demo for the Xbox One?

        • You’re in luck as that specific wheel has Xbox support, but besides that and the Logitech G920 – no PC wheel has Xbox support and therefore Forza most likely won’t be made to work with any of them.

          As for the second part of the question, the answer is probably console parity (which is the worst possible thing for a PC gamer). Same thing happened with Rise of the Tomb Raider on the Windows Store (which had no support for SLI, borderless window only operation and doesn’t support modding).

          • Ah, well that’s awful. I hope Microsoft with their talk of console upgrades will just kill the current xbox, in favor of a Steam Machine like box, so console parity won’t be as terrible a thing, since it would pretty much be a PC.

          • Three wheels have PC/Xbox support. Thrustmaster TX, Logitech G920, and Fanatec Clubsport V2 with appropriate rims.

  3. A better name for this piece would have been “The Five Racing Titles that Currently Support VR.” Also, your order of quality is a joke. Dicking around with trying to coax Assetto Corso to work, having it lock your computer, not displaying any HUD info, vs Project CARS, which just works when the headset is turned on? Calling Assetto Corsa the better experience is retarded. I tried it ONCE and it was way too much trouble to be worth it. I’ve run Project CARS with it many times, in comparison. The shadows are a problem, but whatever else it is you’re blathering about isn’t a problem at all.

    And rating Dirt Rally at 4? Now I know you’re clueless! Dirt Rally is the single best experience I’ve ever had in VR! The visuals are flawless and the quality is amazing! Here’s the order any SANE VR sim racer would put the titles in, when taking into account all angles, from graphics quality, VR support in menus, and ease of use:

    5. Assetto Corsa
    4. Iracing
    3. Project CARS
    2. Live for Speed
    1. Dirt Rally

    • AC is an abomination of a sim. Im tempted to do a live video special, to demonstrate all the bullshit that goes on whenever I try to boot it up. every time there’s new bullshit. plus It’s a collection of the worste menu design philosophies. who’s bright idea was it to set the osd up the way they did? Who the f*** wants to reach for a mouse when they’re driving?!!!! How hard would it have been to just make the various functions scrollable like iracing’s black box? AC: unstable, unreliable, And most times completely disfunctional. I am constantly astonished at how many sim racers out there believe this game is worth their time. Though I suspect they’re the ones that feel iRacing wasn’t for them, or just aren’t keen on real competition.

    • I just tried them both side to side, and Assetto Corsa game me a better experience than Project Cars (via ReVive) overall. I was able to access the menus in the headset on both games though.

    • Your anecdotal experience doesn’t seem to be reflected in my own. Asseto Corsa always worked perfectly (and I play often) and seemed to work much better in terms of how it felt in VR compared to Project CARs, which I even helped crowdsource.

      • I wrote this comment a YEAR ago, dude. Way to dredge up a totally irrelevant comment on a topic that has changed drastically since it was written. With your own anecdotal experience, no less.

        • It worked perfectly a year ago as well. Not my fault this news article was on the front page yesterday.

          By the way, I agree with your top 2 choices with LFS and Dirt, you’re just wrong about AC :)

          • From your post below: “Full in game menu support isn’t really there as long as you need a mouse to use it. It’s definitely not practical.” So by your own words it is far from “perfect” even today. And those main menus…

            I love AC, it’s my favorite simracer by a country mile. I bought a DK1 just to play AC in VR. I upgraded to a Clubsport V2 to improve the experience. But I’m not such a stupid, blind fanboy I’m going to call it “perfect” or even close to it, because that’s just plain retarded.

          • I said it works perfect, not that it is perfect. I think it’s both “stupid” and “blind” for you to have missed that. The only thing “retarded” here is my decision to care enough to point out your mistake.

    • Seriously, AC’s implementation is very half-baked and shouldn’t have been released without proper usage. Project Cars should be the gold standard of VR racing game implementation with gaze selection and ease of use.

  4. Its funny how people always complain about the menu and interface of AC when I actually could not care less about this. What counts for me is the driving experience which is like 10x better in AC as in Project Cars or any other current VR ready racing game. I am on board from day one of Project Cars and AC and since day one AC is more stable and better as Project Cars under any condition. Project Cars is a ridiculous resource eater, needs like the double pc power to accomplish the half. Yes, I can control the menu without a mouse (wow!) but it is at least equal annoying in the current version. The fact is that graphics and specially head tracking is much smoother in AC and when we start talking about realism its complete over. Give me a break with Project Cars which handles like a Arcade Racer anyway. Specially in combination with a Full Motion cockpit Project cars is the worse choice in my eyes…. but hey, I guess everybody has his own opinion in the end. :) I just wish some of the commenting people here would know how to configure their PCs the right way. When I read comments like “it was way too much trouble to be worth it” or “all the bullshit that goes on whenever I try to boot it up” than I have to smile since my 13 year old son gets this down without a hassle!

    • Any racer that affords a 15 year old the opportunity to master high speed racing skills will definitely make it much easier to handle normal driving speeds. If you can drive s lap of Nurburgring Nordschleife at race speeds without losing it, you are on the way to being a much better real life driver. imo

  5. Project Cars looks and runs amazing on an ultrawide monitor, but in VR it’s a stuttery disappointment. Do any of these run smoothly with the Vive on a GTX1080 without the detail turned all the way down to crap?

    • I’ve had a lot of luck running PCars at pretty high settings using a Vive and an OC’d 1080. Asseto Corsa was a nightmare, both in setup and getting it to run smoothly. Dirt Rally runs smoothly on high settings after a lot of fidgeting around, and is my favorite singular racing experience in VR.

      • This article renewed my interest in VR racing again, gave PCars another gp. It’s actually quite playable (maybe they’ve improved things since I first tried it?), but there are still random points on some circuits where the framerate takes a dive. Will give Dirt Rally a try since I think I have that in my collection!

  6. Regarding DR and its wheel rotation. I spent hundreds of hours with this title in VR, and really cannot say the rotation is not as accurate as expected. Maybe it depends on proper rotation setting and calibration. I’m using G25, with full rotation allowed in drivers and calibrated in DR.