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The original Real Racing was a very playable yet basic racing game that got the fundamentals right and earned itself a following among mobile gamers for being the Gran Turismo or Forza of the platform. Real Racing 2 improved on the graphics, gameplay and included content in every way but stuck with the same standalone price point, also earning well-deserved praise.
After Apple used Real Racing 3 to show off the iPhone 5’s capabilities at their press event, it took a little long than expected to release the brand new Real Racing 3. In addition to brand new multiplayer options and the best graphics yet in a mobile racing game the game makes another change – the “freemium” free-to-play model.
So, does the new model work? And is the final game as good as can be expected from this triple-A franchise?
Free to Race
Just to be clear Real Racing 3 has been released on iOS and Android, and the version we’ll be looking at in this review is the iOS version on an iPhone 5. The franchise has gone from strength to strength with each new release, prompting EA to buy-out the developers – indicating there’s still more to come from this top handheld racing series.
For the first time ever Real Racing is a free-to-play title. This model works for a large number of mobile racing games – we’ve recently reviewed two good examples, time-based management games Pixel People and Pocket Planes. The question many will be asking is does it work for a racing game such as this? From what I’ve seen, yes it does.
Like most free-to-play games there are two currencies, one that can be earned easily in-game and another more sparse premium currency known as gold. The game awards you gold each time you level-up, and each race you take part in earns standard currency. There is time-based management involved as well, albeit less than similar free-to-play titles. Every six or seven races or so you will need to service one of your car’s components, and this involves waiting or spending some premium currency to skip.
After playing the game for a good few days, buying a new car and performing upgrades I’ve yet to experience a “paywall” which is often the case with the “freemium” model. The game keeps you topped up with gold and other currency is easy to earn, though if you want to race ahead then the option is there with in-app purchases that deliver cars, cash and gold.
Racing Got Real
Of course, the racing itself is a lot of fun and that’s where the game’s real appeal lies. If you’ve played and enjoyed any of the recent Forza or Gran Turismo games then you will instantly gel with Real Racing. The game goes out of its way to make the experience enjoyable, almost to a point where it’s too easy to begin with.
The mobile racing games uses racing aids to help with steering, braking and traction control. With all of these turned on all you really need to do is occasionally break and steer a bit. If you’re up for more of a challenge I’d definitely recommend turning down the braking assist which also helps with overtakes. There are plenty of options for controlling the cars too, with a choice of tilt-based steering, auto-acceleration as well as left-hand friendly modes.
The graphics are as good as screenshots suggest, with no slowdown whatsoever on an iPhone 5. In addition to the surprisingly immersive in-car view there is a bumper cam, bonnet cam and a chase view. The result is a game that feels like a full-priced console racer for free, on your phone or tablet. It’s odd, but I’m not complaining.
In addition to officially licensed cars from the likes of Ford, Nissan, BMW and more exotic manufacturers like Koenigsegg there are also real-world locations including Laguna Seca, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and even city-based circuits in the developer’s home city of Melbourne, Australia. These tracks mix it up with multiple configurations, and offer a 22-car grid for the first time in the series.
Thrills, Spills And Offline Multiplayer
There are a multitude of modes in Real Racing 3 to keep driving enthusiasts happy and to avoid every race being the same. These game modes vary from Speed Snap which requires you reach a certain speed in a set time to frantic elimination races in which the driver in last place gets eliminated until the race is over. These modes inject a bit of variety into an otherwise very solid racing game and all can be played using the game’s Time Shift Multiplayer mode.
This mode is unlocked once you’ve bought your first car and completed a few races and allows you to take on AI-controlled friends from Game Centre and Facebook. The technology takes their performance on a given track, hands over to an AI and allows you to race despite the other person being offline.
In fact, standard AI in games are taken from the global pool of players as well as connected services, so don’t be surprised to see your friends racing alongside you. The Time Shift Multiplayer feature has been shouted from the rooftops by the likes of EA, and while it’s pretty cool and nice to have there, it wasn’t the be-all and end-all of the game for me. Call me old-fashioned but I’d have liked some head-to-head multiplayer over local connection (or even the Internet) and I’d even pay for an in-app purchase to unlock it.
That’s probably a big ask for a mobile racing game that’s already clearly been in development for some time, but I have to find something to complain about. That is of course a big compliment, to be expected from a game as polished as this.
Real Racing 3 is the best EA game I’ve played in a while, and this latest outing is easily the king of iOS racing games (and possibly the same for Android too). The free-to-play model is a clever way of getting potential players thoroughly addicted without being too limiting. Many of you will prefer the outright purchase model, but similarly won’t find the “freemium” option too limiting. Get it, you won’t regret it!