Sim Racing, But Chill: Why You Should Try Free Roaming

Free Roaming in Sim Racing Here is Why You Should Try.jpg
Sim racing is extremely versatile. There is barely any era that it is impossible to find cars or tracks of, be it modern or vintage. Different disciplines are no problem, either. If the actual racing gets too intense at some point, it is possible to make use of a relaxing alternative: Free roam tracks are perfect to just switch off and drive.

I have to admit that I did not understand the draw of these free roam maps for a long time. Driving around aimlessly while being far from the limit in a non-racing car did seem rather boring to me. The moment of realization came at RETRO CLASSICS BAVARIA, where one of the simulators of the Virtual Racing Lounge was running “LA Canyons” in Assetto Corsa for a while. I had heard of it before as it is one of the most popular tracks in RaceDepartment’s download section, but up until then, I had never tried it.

After repeated recommendations, this changed at Nuremberg. And suddenly, I got why this kind of sim racing, or rather sim driving, is popular with a lot of people: You can choose your own tempo to enjoy the driving itself, search for the limit if you want to, or just cruise around the streets in a relaxed manner.

I gave “LA Canyons” another try on my rig at home afterwards. At dusk, the track by modder Phoenix77 that uses real-life roads north of Los Angeles, looks absolutely spectacular. My car of choice was a Ferrari F40, and to get some more 80s flair, I put on a Synthwave playlist on YouTube in the background. Manual transmission, an exciting location, darkness creeping in – this scenario was tough to beat in the atmosphere department.

Time flew by, and the session did not get boring at any point despite there not being any other traffic on the road – the free base version can be upgraded to a paid VIP version to add this feature and more road sections as well to make the canyons come alive a little more. Another free roam map by Phoenix77 called “Pacific Coast” does the same using a voluntary donation system, so it can be done for free as well. Numerous YouTube videos of both maps show that it would be absolutely worth it.

Another alternative to enjoy free roam scenarios is BeamNG.Drive: As a racing sim, the game is not up to the standards yet, but as a vehicle physics simulator, it is far above anything else, especially when it comes to crash physics. The sim is extremely detailed when it comes to driving physics and the effects of different components on the driving feel – and it is being improved steadily. Even rally scenarios are very well done now, so there is a ton of potential in BeamNG – not just for racing, but also to kick back and enjoy driving cars.

Should you have never tried a free roam map, maybe for the reasons mentioned above, I can only recommend to change this and jump into it. You might miss out on a really cool feature sim racing has on offer otherwise.

What are your favorite free roam scenarios? What is you favorite sim to do them in? Let us know in the comments below and feel free to leave some recommendations, too!

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About author
Yannik Haustein
Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia.

Sim racing editor, streamer and one half of the SimRacing Buddies podcast (warning, German!).

Heel & Toe Gang 4 life :D


There's something therapeutic about driving at your own pace in free roam maps. I don't know, I guess the fact that I don't have to focus too hard on nailing apexes and braking points puts me in a less stressful mood :roflmao:

Speaking of maps there's this map named Kanazawa Iwozen that I recommend everyone to check out if you're not into super big maps like LA canyons or the Pacific Coast.
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I just can't get into freeroam huge maps in AC. Being huge they never look even closely as detailed and polished as the best race track mods, without CSP the physics engine of AC cannot even deal with such huge tracks (vibrating car), and they feel lifeless without proper traffic AI.

I think it's a shame that so many (even tiny) race tracks still haven't been created in a high quality version, yet we are getting so many of these tens of kilometers of roads, while 95% of these huge freeroam projects... stay only projects with visuals and features far from even average for all the content AC offers.

I wish all that work went into creating smaller race tracks, however the world doesn't revolve around my wishes, so... here I am sharing my opinion.

Of course, modders should make whatever the hell THEY want, it's their time and passion invested into creating content for the community. And not everyone is as grumpy and picky as I am, thankfully.

So to those who enjoy it, have fun.
Doing freeroam online is totally different thing to driving in "ghost town mode" in single player. Random encounters, random challenges, even just the feeling of other being "out there" in the vast streets these maps offer is something very different then just being completely alone (I'm not naming it due to it's clustered origins, but it should be clear which track I mean)

Brings me back to old gems like NFS Underground 2 with it's full city layout, or the Test Drive games.
Gotta say I fall on the side of what's the point although once we all get RTX9090ti's and Super FOV VR I'll give it a go.

For the people who enjoy I'm glad that you've got people creating the content for you, I always appreciate the effort that goes into this stuff even if its not for me.
A lot of most of the freeroam AC tracks have traffic. Single player certainly isn't a 'ghost town'. It's bloody hilarious if want it to be and have everyone tearing about like madmen.

I've got era presets on mine like '80s hothatch' with the traffic half performance cars and half vans and slow cars. Some of the cars of dubious origin I've downloaded are just used as traffic. I don't care if the physics are crap as don't drive them.
This is EXACTLY how I feel when I strap in for a flight on Microsoft Flight Simulator. You can set a plan to go anywhere. You can join online groups and fly together. Whatever you want. Fly from London to Tokyo in a 747? Go for it! Skim the Catalina Islands in a Cessna. Absolutely!! I think it's about time driving had the same approach, rather than everything be just racing everywhere.
I use "free roam" as a way to introduce friends to the sim life. My friend's wife loves to ridicule me about "never growing up" with regards to sim racing. I put her in my cockpit with LA Canyons and walked out of the room. An hour and a half later, we had to pry her out of the rig. She now wants to see what it's like to race a car in the sim.

I win. ;);)
Thank you for writing on this aspect of driving simulation. Not all driving is racing, why should simulator be different?
Racing a "road" car on a track can be a lot of fun, but driving a road car, as we would IRL, on a very well reproduced existing road, in VR, but not only, can also be very entertaining.
Having the ability to choose, with or without traffic, is very good.
Taking a car, any car, to a familiar road, push it, but not too hard, as happens, hopefully, to all of us IRL, in VR, in my favorite simulator, is something I indulge in regularly and as much as racing my favorite tracks with racing cars.

I, of course, enjoy the usual great road by Phoenix and other genius modder, but I have to mention as to me in VR it is particularly immersive. Any road car will do.
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Although not a SIM Forza Horizon 5 is a blast in offline mode. The cars feel 'individually' different and the FFB is good enough to feel what the car is doing.

(I'm not into all of the events and such within the game, I did "just enough" to unlock things and now I can drive around 'offline' and enjoy the many cars and scenery)
Although not a SIM Forza Horizon 5 is a blast in offline mode. The cars feel 'individually' different and the FFB is good enough to feel what the car is doing.
Yes, it's amazing! Unlike FH4 I get much more useful information on the steering wheel, it looks like FM8 will be a good game in terms of driving.
Also, the Steam version of FH5 has access to the control and feedback settings files, I reduced and smoothed the vibration on the G27 by editing the corresponding file.
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I'd love more free roam, while the AC tracks mentioned are great I would love maps with more junctions that you can actually explore rather than just drive around what is essentially a very long track.
Although not a SIM Forza Horizon 5 is a blast in offline mode. The cars feel 'individually' different and the FFB is good enough to feel what the car is doing.

(I'm not into all of the events and such within the game, I did "just enough" to unlock things and now I can drive around 'offline' and enjoy the many cars and scenery)
really? FH4 was fun in a lot of ways, but the FFB and basic physics kept me from playing it too much.

I got FH5 for my kid and still haven't had time to give it a proper go. I might break out the wheel and check it out. Of course if I like it, I'll have to get my own copy.
I think it's very simple: AC has tons of great, iconic road cars. Road cars, they need good roads. AC does not have good realistic roads to drive on. This is why LA Canyons should be made into AC official content. It fills a gap, where you have all those road cars but nowhere to drive them on (and no, Black Cat County and Highlands are not realistic roads and Trento-Bondone is just a hillclimb).
Yes, you can do track days and in that case there's the Nordschleife and nothing else is needed. But on a track you just want to do the perfect lap, it's not about the pleasure of driving.
The pleasure of driving, you have it when you can unleash the 458 Italia, the Porsche 911 R, the Huracan on a winding road and enjoy them.
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Kevin Troschinski
I appreciate the massive work and passion behind those freeroams. I tried some and i see the goal behind. Some of them are real masterpieces.

But it´s nothing for me in long terms . I need the racing behind it, otherwise it feels fast pointless.
If i want chill, i do not simrace, i lean back and play something else or a gamepad racer like forza fe.
I never really got Into AC or it's mods...Still tainted from the hrs wasted testing bad mods and fixing crashes, ctd and issues from Race07 and rFactor.

However I do see the appeal for free roam as I find myself just cruzing the highways and back roads of FH4 & FH5 for hrs enjoying the scenery and flying by AI.

Come to think about would be a nice feature to have the ability of increasing the amount of traffic in the game

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Yannik Haustein
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