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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

I can’t wait to relive F1’s chaotic driver helmet cam in F1 22 VR

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One of the best additions to recent seasons of Formula One and the global coverage of the sporting event has been the new helmet cam. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend checking out Fernando Alonso’s lap around Spa from last season, or Charles Leclerc’s onboard from his Bahrain Gran Prix tussle with Max Verstappen. There’s no greater example I’ve seen of what an F1 driver is capable of doing than watching the chaotic high-speed onboard ripped right from a camera on the driver’s helmet.

The constant wing mirror checks, the glair from the sun on your visor, and the wheel interface shining in your face—that’s the F1 driver experience, and so far I’ve actually never experienced it despite spending a lot of time hitting lap times in-game. I’ve tended to focus on which racing wheel is best for immersion and feedback, and I’ve been missing so much of what it actually feels like to throw a car around a track at hundreds of kilometres per hour, come rain or shine.

No better timing then for Codemasters, now under EA, to announce the new F1 22 game with a brand new VR mode. Finally, a chance to drive like the pros, trusting your memory and instincts as you go careening around a corner you can just about see from between the car’s halo.

I want to be able to repeatedly glance to the sliver of wing mirror to my side and see an incoming car about to force its front wing into the corner ahead of me. That’s surprisingly high up on my list of wants in an F1 game, actually, and something an FOV slider or digital rear-view mirror has never quite managed to deliver yet.

Ultimately we don’t really know exactly what the F1 22 VR mode will look like, and whether it will be quite a match for the real deal. However, I’ve tried Assetto Corsa in VR and loved every second that I could stomach, and if it’s at least a match for that experience, and smooth enough to keep my lunch down, I’ll be happy.

Though I am hoping Codemasters omits one unfortunate side effect of the new car regulations in F1 22: porpoising. Porpoising is essentially a quick up-and-down jerking of an F1 car as it rapidly gains and loses downforce, and is generated by the new regulation’s aero design that runs beneath the car. Porpoising is probably as much fun in real life as it is in VR, and it’s reportedly not much fun in real life for the Mercedes drivers that appear to be struggling with it the most.

I’m not sure that phenomena of the 2022 regulations will make it into the F1 22 game, but if it does, I’ll be sure to avoid either Mercedes for my own personal well-being.

Virtual reality

Best VR headset: which kit should you choose?
Best graphics card: you need serious GPU power for VR
Best gaming laptop: don’t get tied to your desktop in VR

It’s also likely that you’ll need a little more PC power than F1 22’s minimum recommended spec for VR mode. At least with ray-tracing enabled as well. Codemasters recently released the recommended PC requirements for F1 22, and while there’s no word of specific VR requirements beyond the Quest 2 or HTC Vive headset, the standard game demands either an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 or AMD Radeon RX 6800 for ray tracing goodness. Without realistic lighting you’ll need a more modest GTX 1660 Ti or RX 590—a much tamer ask—but I’d suspect VR may ask more of your gaming PC than that for a smooth experience.

But it’ll all be worth it if I can take to my favourite tracks in VR and relive that driver dashcam experience.

And there’s something fresh and exciting about this new instalment in the F1 franchise even beyond VR. The star of the real-world season so far (Charles Leclerc notwithstanding) is just how close the racing is between these newly-designed cars. Multiple drivers have likened the new regulation cars to go-karts, and I cannot wait to get into the drivers seat myself in the new F1 22 game to see if that fresh new car feel has made it into the game, too.

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