2. iRacing

Laser-scanned cars and tracks was once a major selling point, but most other sims use similar data-acquisition techniques today. The quality of track and car creation is still arguably the best in the business, but iRacing comfortably retains its place as the premier PC racing simulation due to its multiplayer-only approach. The subscription service and content purchases make it by far the most expensive way to go sim racing (although it is cheap – and often free – to try), but the quality of racing it delivers as a result of its driver rating systems and server infrastructure make it the most reliable. If you can dedicate the time and money, iRacing will likely reward you with the most consistent, competitive racing available.

Even ignoring its inherent advantage in delivering realistic track action due to its online-only service, iRacing’s VR implementation is capable of delivering a remarkably immersive sense of real racing. Its visuals can’t match Project CARS 2 (despite being similarly demanding on hardware), but it does maintain a very crisp image quality that lends itself well to serious racing over extended sessions. While supporting supersampling and MSAA, it also features a well-judged, post-process sharpening effect that overcomes some of the resolution limitations of the first generation of VR headsets.

Photo courtesy iRacing

Dirt oval racing was recently introduced to the subscription service, to wide acclaim. As much of dirt oval driving involves an oversteer slide, you end up looking sideways as much as you look forward, so VR is ideal. Plus, mud starts to build up on your visor, which can be cleared with a ‘tear-off’ button, a convincing effect in VR.

The ease of use doesn’t match Project CARS 2, as the new UI is still a work in progress and the in-engine menu system isn’t newcomer-friendly, but it is fully-featured. The in-depth camera controls combined with the best-in-class replay system mean that iRacing is a joy to use in VR even when you’re not driving. In the car, the cockpits (at least the more recent cars) are incredibly detailed, the driver model is convincing, with some of the most natural steering animation available. The mirrors render correct 3D views (including the reflection of your body and car) and react to positional tracking, but sadly aren’t stereoscopic.

iRacing’s surround audio system is functional in VR, but it is a basic implementation at this point, beaten by the more advanced spatial audio in Project CARS 2. However, iRacing has more accurate audio samples overall, and more convincing audio responses to drivetrain simulation.

iRacing

1. Project CARS 2

Image courtesy Slightly Mad Studios

Project CARS 2 is an ambitious racing sim, attempting to represent 29 motorsport series across 9 racing disciplines. Renowned for its stunning graphics, Project CARS 2 is capable of delivering some of the most realistic visuals in sim racing, with dramatic changes in atmosphere through its dynamic weather and 24-hour lighting cycle. With huge improvements to the physics, Project CARS 2 has firmly established its place in the list of realistic simulations, but it remains one of the more accessible titles, with forgiving handling characteristics at the limit. Unfortunately, Slightly Mad Studios’ second attempt at a cutting-edge racing sim is far from perfect, with plenty of bugs and some frustrating AI.

As a VR showcase, it’s almost entirely good news. Image quality problems of Project CARS (2015) have been addressed, with a more effective approach to supersampling and anti-aliasing, and overall performance is more consistent. Most significantly, the game no longer struggles to hold frame rate during wet conditions, and the low resolution alpha effects of water spray have been resolved.

Project CARS 2 received several other notable VR improvements over the original – the driver model is more realistic – probably the most photorealistic model on the list – and the excessively elaborate over-arm steering animation has been fixed. Now the driver maintains grip on the wheel at ‘9 and 3’ beyond 90 degrees each way, making it consistent with the animations in iRacing, Assetto Corsa and Live For Speed.

Mirrors have been greatly improved, being adjustable and connected to head tracking – but they are not stereoscopic. Essentially, they function like higher quality versions of iRacing’s mirrors, although they don’t show the reflection of your own car.

While the audio quality doesn’t match iRacing’s samples, the spatial audio system is commendable – it’s the only sim on the list where you can hear your engine sound coming from the correct point in virtual space.

With the ability to operate the entire game in VR, including all the menus, its numerous considerations to accommodate the VR user (e.g. quick access VR-specific menu options), along with an overall stunning presentation, it is arguably the most ‘complete’ VR experience on this list, and certainly the slickest. Issues with HUD customisation and HUD depth ‘clipping’ and the limited options for replay/broadcast camera angles are really the only significant oversights. It obviously can’t compete with iRacing‘s multiplayer experience, but it could still improve in this area with further optimisation – the framerate hitches when users enter or leave a session needs to be resolved.

The demanding renderer means that motion-to-photon latency (when holding 90fps) is likely to be the highest on this list, so depending on your sensitivity to such things, this may reduce immersion. However, the spectacular visuals tend to overcome the issue to some degree. You need a very powerful machine to enjoy this sim at its best, but it scales very well, retaining impressive visuals at low settings.

Project CARS 2


Honorable Mentions

Dirt Rally

DiRT Rally (2015) was Codemasters’ first attempt at creating a realistic rally simulation. While being somewhat less-accessible than the earlier DiRT titles, having more in common with the renowned rally sim Richard Burns Rally (2004), it is still forgiving at the limit, making it fun rather than frustrating to play.

On the Rift, Codemasters delivered a spectacular experience, and one that translated well over to PSVR, yet it still lacks official support for the Vive. The Revive injector offers an unofficial solution, but it highlights the game’s performance issues. In addition, the steering animation problems were sadly never fully addressed, which is an immersion-breaker for some.

DiRT Rally is tough to compare against these track-based racers, and it ultimately depends on what aspect of the experience you value the most. Its sensation of speed and large world movement (due to the closeness of obstacles and undulating terrain) make for a thrilling roller coaster ride that can’t be achieved with smooth circuit racing. But if you value the sense of ‘body presence’ and visual steering feedback, then their animation system totally spoils the party. Not only does the steering animation only go to 180 degrees, but it also fails to represent the actual position of your steering wheel, both in terms of rotation angle and direct response, unlike every other sim here. Even if you disable the arms (which removes the virtual body entirely) to allow the wheel rotation to move beyond 180 degrees, the rotation is still inaccurate, animating at a lower framerate than the rest of the scene and using some unnecessary elasticity, vibrating and bouncing all over the place, rather than being a direct representation of the wheel you’re holding.

Much like RaceRoom, DiRT Rally’s audio is often cited as its best feature. It is certainly impressive, but it hasn’t been optimised for VR, with no surround or spatial simulation (relative to head position).

The rendering performance of DiRT Rally is also disappointing when compared to the likes of Assetto Corsa or Project CARS 2 – it is an unusually demanding game, considering its dated visuals.

With DiRT 4 (2017) sadly not receiving any VR support, it seems unlikely that DiRT Rally will ever see any future improvements to its VR implementation.

 

rFactor 2

rFactor 2 (2013) is highly regarded by enthusiasts, using a physics engine that evolved over a period of almost two decades. Its advanced tyre model, high-speed multibody chassis system, dynamic weather, dynamic track surface, full 24-hour lighting, and probably the most human-like racing AI in existence, combine to make rFactor 2 one of the most detailed, enjoyable racing experiences available. But its visual presentation and pace of development compared unfavourably to Assetto Corsa, another mod-friendly title, and over the past few years rFactor 2 struggled to generate enthusiasm from the wider sim racing community. But since developer Image Space Incorporated handed the reigns to Studio 397 in September 2016, things have begun to look up.

In May, DX11 arrived in an open beta, aiming to improve general performance, enable more advanced visual effects and introduce VR support. It is getting the basics of VR right, supporting OpenVR, meaning that Vive, Rift and any other OpenVR headset will work, and the existing steering animations, cockpit layouts and mirrors are already effective. Unfortunately, the sim continues to suffer from performance problems. The situation is slowly improving (I can now drive with many other cars on track instead of just one or two), but it is still far from an acceptable VR experience at this point, struggling to hold 90Hz even on lowest settings.

Currently, it feels like the most unfinished VR racing sim, but if you are lucky enough to get it running smoothly, the core simulation’s many positives should immediately elevate the experience to a very high level. With a confusing range of optimised and unoptimised content, and further DX11 improvements and a new UI around the corner, rFactor 2 is still difficult to recommend for VR right now, but the future is bright.

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  • Albert.CR

    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…

    • Vince Stimpson

      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.

      • zzkkttrr

        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).

        • Vince Stimpson

          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

        • realtrisk

          Who says it has less screen door effect? Have you tried both of the consumer release hardware?

          • Joe Holliday

            I’ve tried both and confirm the screen door effect is worse (or at least more noticeable) 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.

    • Tommy Cheatham

      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.

      • realtrisk

        I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Any game that supports VR is going to want to support the two premier headsets. Give it a few months and I’ll bet they all will.

      • Jib

        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.

  • George Vieira IV

    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.

    • Kalabalik

      Forza on PC won’t even come with wheel support so hoping for VR isn’t something I’d hold my breath for sadly.

      • George Vieira IV

        I hadn’t heard it wasn’t coming with wheel support. Seems odd since the console version supported them.

        • realtrisk

          It’s pathetic, really. I want to support the game to support them bringing the titles over… but with that kind of half-baked realization, I hate to support a shoddy port… What do you do?

        • Kalabalik

          It’s a super slimmed down “demo” version to be released on the windows app store.

    • Pre Seznik

      Forza will be a straight up port which means no added features and probably xinput wheel support (as in, not the one you currently have hooked up to your PC).

      • George Vieira IV

        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?

        • Pre Seznik

          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).

          • George Vieira IV

            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.

          • realtrisk

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

    • nebošlo

      Don’t expect VR in Microsoft games until and if Project Scorpio supports it. And even then only for newly released games.

    • GunnyNinja

      I’m from the future. No it won’t.

  • BigTake0ver

    Great piece! I look forward to the day where they all just work, but in the meantime it’s great to get coverage of the state of VR sim racing. Keep the articles coming.

  • realtrisk

    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 (I can’t even understand your complaint) 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, to ease of use:

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

    • AC works great now on the Rift and Vive (with the Revive patch). Full in-game menu support, supersampling options (via .txt config editing).

      AC also has arguably the best force feedback support out of all of these games.

      • Ddrivrlife

        Your opinion of course, but I doubt you’ve been exposed to good force feedback . Try a direct drive wheel. iRacing is pretty much above all in that department. AC does ffb well for the belt driven wheels I’ll give you that. But best ffb overall? I don’t think u would agree after trying out a bodnar or Osw and comparing both

      • nebošlo

        Full in game menu support isn’t really there as long as you need a mouse to use it. It’s definitely not practical.

        • Matt

          Agreed. It’s junk – I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

    • Ddrivrlife

      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.

    • Joe Holliday

      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.

    • nebošlo

      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.

      • realtrisk

        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.

        • nebošlo

          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 :)

          • realtrisk

            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.

          • nebošlo

            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.

    • Matt

      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.

    • Jean-Sebastien Perron

      AC was my favorite for years on PS4 (non-vr), when I got the Oculus I bought it again to play in VR, after 5 minutes I asked for a refund. There is nothing in VR, you have to be in front of your pc screen to make it work. AC should not even be considered VR. RaceroomVR and Project Cars 2 are the best after iRacing.

      • realtrisk

        I agree. It’s frustrating. When it works, it is absolutely wonderful in VR, but getting it working is a nightmare, and it has a tendency to suddenly stop working after having worked for a while. Kunos is falling behind other devs in the VR department, and they don’t seem to care. I keep holding out hope that they’ll fix it, because AC is still my favorite sim…

      • Nick Kiewik

        Don’t agree. AC is my go-to race game for VR. So your main gripe is the menu not being in VR? The actual driving in VR is very good. Had no troubles getting it to work with revive nor my Rift later on. I do agree iRacing is better overall.
        PC I didnt like in VR, not sure i will give PC2 a try. PC2 allegedly has still similar problems to PC1 regarding driving physics.

  • You can try it live in Dublin, see http://www.simotion.ie/event-hire/real-car-simulator/

  • Irgendwo

    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!

    • nebošlo

      Of course. Obviously. But tribalism demands that you pick the worst part of what you don’t like and harp on that as if it’s the most important thing, ever.

  • George Vieira IV

    I agree about the mirror support, it’s more important than you’d think.

  • NooYawker

    I’ve only played project cars and it’s obvious these games aren’t much fun unless you have a steering wheel setup. For me anyway.

  • Louis Alpoim

    c’est faut iracing et pcars 2 gere aussi les miroir stereoscopique ,je sais je les ai tous les 2

  • Carey Tordsen

    If you were going to teach a 15 year old some basic driving skills, would any of these titles be appropriate?

  • MosBen

    Any recommendations for non-sims? I like Burnout, Carmageddon, and cart style racing games, but never cared for things that required tons of precision.

  • MaXyM

    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.

  • yag

    Not a racing sim but indeed the good old Richard Burns Rally is very playable in VR with a mod : http://www.kegetys.fi/rbrvr-v1-5-fix-for-latency-camera-options/#comment-2869 (playable on Rift and Vive via OpenVR)
    For most rally-simmers, RBR is still the best and even have been enhanced thanks to the mod community (updated cars, better graphics, better physics…)

  • Ragbone

    I hope some new VR driving games come out soon, even some that allow you to just have a nice drive without racing. It would also be good to have a driving learning game (I’m surprised there isn’t) and also a VR Carmageddon mod :D.

    I’m using the Logitech G29steering wheel with peddles and gearstick and am playing Euro truck 2, Dirt rally, Project cars (buggy with clutch) and Assetto corsa (Buggy with clutch).

  • Jean-Sebastien Perron

    You forgot GPBikesVR (there is a free demo) you inferior pussy cage racers.

  • Erik Smit

    AC Is perfect for me.what a sim.i buy n AC tshirt also.

  • Hivemind9000

    Please create a new article when you update this list, so we can discuss the pros and cons of latest games rather than wade through out-of-date comments that are 2 years old.

    • Nathan Maxtro

      Sort by newest.

  • El_MUERkO

    I haven’t bought DIRT 4. Nor will I buy any further DIRT games until VR Support is implemented. It’s a great pity because I loved VR DIRT.

  • MosBen

    I appreciate that this list is specifically for sims, and thus not really the place for this, but I as someone that doesn’t really care about super accuracy in my driving games I would LOVE some kind of VR arcade racer for the Rift.

    • Nathan Maxtro

      With Microsoft launching its VR platform, its odd that Forza 7 doesn’t have VR.

      That’s a missed opportunity.

  • ummm…

    project cars 2 with vive is amazing. i was a heavy user of assetto and rfactor2 and rr3 until pc2. now i really dont find a reason to go back to any of the others except for rfactor2 for their realism and tire model. assetto was really great, but no weather hurts my desire to turn it on.

    the bottom line is I HAVE TOO MANY SIMULATIONS and can’t divide my time between them.

  • Chispi

    Special mention should be made of one of the simulators that the best experience I have had with the Oculus, is a motorcycle simulator called GP Bikes and is simply spectacular.
    Since the beta 12b the game creates a separate shortcut for the VR and works very well.
    http://www.gp-bikes.com/

  • 9397 Racing

    “RaceRoom Racing Experience (2013) is the only ‘free-to-play’ sim on the list (most content requires purchasing)”

    -> You can say the same for LFS

  • Evan D

    At some point, Dirt 4 devs slipped TrackIR support in a patch without mention. The only reason I can think that they would add a feature like that and not tell anyone is that they are laying the groundwork for a VR re-launch.

  • rist

    Critical Gravity on Steam <3

  • Looking very nice :)

  • Lyle Wileytwo

    WTF? Assetto Corsa is an awesome VR experience. You need PC horsepower and know how to set up your wheel and cars. Anyone who says AC is not good with VR obviously cannot meet these minimal requirements. Every VR racer has their good and bad points you need to know what you are doing and have a little patience.

  • Owatch John Zhang

    Add some motion will greatly enhance the virtual reality and much fun! Check this vr simulator support Project Cars: https://www.stekiamusement.com/vr-racing-virtual-reality-car-driving-simulator/