In a major disappointment for fans, Cars 2 the video game did not include open world free roaming gameplay. After the original Cars and Cars Mater-National games let players explore environments like Radiator Springs, the sequel‘s mission-based structure felt limited. Reviews praised the racing, but the lack of freedom and missing multiplayer left fans wanting more.
Movie Games Often Skimp on Scope
First, why did Cars 2 forego an open world? As a movie tie-in game, its development timeline and budget were likely compressed. The publisher just needed a companion product to coincide with the film‘s release. Given those constraints, ambition got scaled back from the past games‘ possibilities.
It‘s a common tactic to maximize profit – limit costs and development time, while leveraging a popular brand. But the end result can lack depth. Ironically, the original Cars game was pioneering with its expansive world. Just 5 years later for the sequel, that scope got cut to meet a deadline.
Cars 2‘s Racing: Satisfying, But Familiar
Don‘t get me wrong – Cars 2 brought polished graphics and responsive controls. Driving felt weighty and real, although not as intensely simulation-focused as something like Gran Turismo. Smashing through cardboard boxes delighted my inner 7-year-old.
The events captured highlights from the movie‘s global locations. Racing through explosive spy missions delivered a cheap thrill. But at its core, the moment-to-moment racing didn‘t feel like a leap from past games. Rather than innovation, it offered a solid more-of-the-same experience.
Less Freedom Than Mario Kart or Sonic Racing
Context is everything – Cars 2 didn‘t seem bland or repetitive in a vacuum. But compared to contemporaries like Mario Kart or Sonic All-Stars Racing, its world and options felt restrictive. GamesRadar‘s review summed it up: the environments were "not nearly as interactive as Mario Kart‘s."
Those kart racers packed variety through unlockables, customization, and freedom to pick paths mid-race. Cars 2‘s structured event progression had you frequently re-running set track configurations. It lacked the choice empowering players to express themselves and engage creativity.
Where‘s the Joy of Cruising in Radiator Springs?
But the stark lack of an open world hurt most. The original Cars nailed letting players cruise through a lovingly-crafted Route 66 era town. No missions, no pressure – just unwinding and enjoying the ambiance. Imagine a virtual road trip through America‘s golden age highways.
For Cars fans, roaming at your own pace created community. Swapping tips on discovering out-of-the-way locations scratched an explorer‘s itch. The sequel stripping all that back felt like a step backwards. No more serendipitous joy rides after a long day at school or work.
Public Backlash Over Missing Open World
Don‘t take my word for it – Cars devotees widely decried the missing open world. The passionate Cars subreddit compiled a list of over 20 in-depth critiques and fan videos lamenting the change. One player even edited gameplay with Mater humorously asking "Hey, where‘s the free roam?"
Reviewers echoed the sentiment. GameSpot‘s 7.5 rating cited the lack of an open map as a specific downside. Gamers expected expanded horizons, not a regression. For diehard fans, this marred the experience despite solid racing fundamentals.
Could Budget and Deadlines Have Played a Role?
Game development is complex – we can only speculate on what led to limiting Cars 2‘s scope. But the team had to balance priorities under constraints. If open world features got cut due to budget or deadlines, that‘s understandable.
The original Cars likely had more latitude as an unproven new IP. After 2006‘s success, Cars 2 may have simply been rushed to market. Creating sprawling 3D environments with Pixar‘s quality bar takes time. Something had to give. But understanding those realities doesn‘t make the outcome less disappointing.
Cars 3 Tried to Please Fans With Playgrounds
Likely in response to Cars 2 criticism, Cars 3 at least incorporated open-style playgrounds between events. Explorable areas like Fireball Beach offered pockets of freedom to mess around in.
GameSpot‘s review noted these playgrounds "kinda-sorta" approximated past games‘ possibilities. It was a nod to fans missing roaming, though still not a full open world. Hopefully it represented the franchise turning a corner back toward unrestricted driving.
Simulation Racers Prioritize Realism Over Freedom
Beyond arcade experiences, why do more hardcore racing simulators also avoid open worlds? Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport, and Project CARS 2 focus on recreating true-to-life driving. That realism centers on expertly modeled cars and replicated circuits.
Open environments would actually detract from sim authenticity. As a tradeoff, these games deliver 700+ meticulously detailed vehicles on famous real-world courses like Le Mans. That laser focus requires ignoring free roaming to maintain accuracy.
Open World Games Can Maintain Engagement
Data shows players sink more time into expansive open worlds. Grand Theft Auto V, Skyrim, and Breath of the Wild topped recent bestseller lists by offering freedom. Their immersive sandboxes keep gamers engaged for 100+ hours.
Restrictive movie tie-ins clock as little as 6 hours. Developers could apply more creativity to extend interest – like including the roaming fans crave. But with limited budgets, their priority is getting a minimally viable product out the door. It shows in the final quality.
What Could Open Worlds in Future Cars Games Look Like?
While past missteps are disappointing, there‘s still hope for the future! The upcoming Disney+ animated series Cars on the Road explores new locations. Just imagine an open world game capturing the character and charm of roadside stops like Don‘s Donuts or the Wheels Well Inn.
Cruising down Route 99‘s winding coastline would showcase lush scenery. Off-road trails could climb redwood forests straight from Pixar concept art. A bustling Radiator Springs could brim with more personality and activities. This nostalgic Mother Road setting is the perfect canvas for free roaming.
Fans still clamor for that magic again. The soul of Cars lies in letting players forge their own journey down blacktopped backroads. Cars 2 lost sight of that secret sauce. Hopefully future games will remember.