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Review: Real Racing 3 (iOS)

Thursday, February 28th, 2013 by

RR3_title

A lot of people are going to be comparing Real Racing 3 to its predecessor, Real Racing 2. Not having played any racing simulation seriously since Forza Motorsport 2, I can assure you that I am not that guy.

What I do know, however, is that Real Racing 2 was a paid app. Real Racing 3 is a free-to-play game, and that comes with the free-to-play annoyances. There are a lot of questions lingering around this transition.

Is Real Racing 3 the real deal, or is it a raw deal?

Real Racing 3, by Firemonkeys and Electronic Arts, is one of the most beautiful games you’re going to find on a mobile device. If you were one of the people who took the news of Infinity Blade: Dungeons being shelved badly, turn that frown upside-down, stop reading, and download Real Racing 3 this instant.

There just is not getting around how absolutely gorgeous Real Racing 3 is. The car models look amazing, with smooth anti-aliasing and outstanding reflection effects in free-camera mode, and look every bit as terrific in motion. The tracks are well-detailed, perhaps more than necessary considering how quickly they speed past, and are likely as good as you’ll see on most console racers. There are a few graphical oddities, such as the sparsely-populated grandstands, but I’m willing to bet most people will never notice.

Does anyone else see an idiotic green monster face here, or is it just me?

Does anyone else see a simpleminded monster face here, or is it just me?

Little details, however, do stick out for those who are paying attention. For instance, tire marks were left in the dirt where I had went off track from a previous lap. Then there’s the driver inside the car that moves, regardless of which camera angle you are using. These are the little touches that stand out for me, where the developer is going for total immersion.

The accelerometer-based controls are tight and responsive, a must in a game like this, and make things go smoothly. Braking is as simple as touching the screen, and the game has assistance options in place to make this as casual as racing simulations can be. Players looking for a little more control can choose to turn off the braking assistance, and there are many different control options to satisfy all manner of player. It’s simple and makes the game as inviting as possible.

The racing itself is excellent and there are over 900 events in all. These events are restricted t0 cars of similar racing builds, meaning you’ll never see a Automobili Lamborghini up against a Ford Focus. This, in turn, bloats that “over 900 events” number. There’s certainly a lot of variety in these races, but it really adds up to getting 40 different fruit baskets. They’re all pretty much the same, they’re just packaged differently.

Though they're mostly repeated, there's no denying these models look terrific.

Though they’re mostly repeated, there’s no denying these models look terrific.

There are, of course, free-to-play annoyances. Four out of the forty-six cars in Real Racing 3 require the secondary Gold currency, which will lead some down the path of pay-to-win gaming. The McLaren MP4-12C, one of the four aforementioned “Gold” cars can be purchased if you’re willing to scrimp and save. The other three, however, will be a constant thorn in the side of casual fans everywhere.

This then leads to one divisive issue. Your opponents in the game are all based upon actual player data, referred to as Time Shifted Multiplayer (TSM). While TSM is a great idea, and the game claims to select data for a challenge, it also means that these players will continue to have a distinct advantage. The quick fix, in theory at least, is to then take the game offline to play against AI opponents. Due to the balance in most of the car classes, there shouldn’t be too many events that are affected by this. In other words, while annoying, it doesn’t undo all the good that the game does.

There is a good chance this car will make you want to rage quit... unless you own it.

There is a good chance this car will make you want to rage quit… unless you own it.

Then there are the upgrade and repair timers that make the game noticeably cumbersome in the early going. There is forced downtime anytime you need to perform upkeep, ranging from simple oil changes to more complicated engine maintenance. Ignoring the maintenance degrades your vehicle’s performance, in turn lessening your chance to win, and is not advised. You then need to decide between waiting or ponying up some Gold to speed the game along. The workaround is to buy another car and move to another event, but there’s a good chance you’re not going to have the cash to spare for the first few days. There are, of course, affordable in-app purchases that can soften that blow and make the game more enjoyable.

Gold comes into play in other areas, such as some top-tier car upgrades and car customization, but it’s not too much of a rarity. The game is fairly generous, doling out a few gold every time you level up and for event milestones such as 25% completion in a race class, and selective players shouldn’t have trouble staying ahead of the curve. There is, of course, the possibility that this levels off over time to create a long-term problem, but I have had nothing but smooth sailing in the short-term.

So, is Real Racing 3 the real deal? Undoubtedly, it is. It’s the first racing simulation to grab me in years, and I’m mad at myself for having to type this up when I know my repair timers have all expired and I could be earning cash right now.

Real Racing 3 is the best game I’ve played all year and likely an early contender for game of the year. With beautiful graphics, tight controls that welcome even novice racing fans, and the free price of admission, Real Racing 3 is sure to become a staple for mobile gamers everywhere and any racing fan worth their salt needs to have it on their mobile device.

5 star

(Real Racing 3 is available in both the App Store and on Google Play. The $1.99 “Starter Pack” was purchased for use in this review. Real Racing 3 features achievements and Game Center integration. This review is based upon Real Racing 3 version 1.0.2 and was tested on an iPhone 5. There were five second load times, on average, though results may vary from device-to-device.)

About the Author

Fade to Slack is a founding member of Delta Attack, an American expatriate in South Korea, and a true believer in the legitimacy of mobile gaming. Keep up with him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Fade2Slack so he can justify having a Twitter account.

Fade to Slack has written 339 posts on Delta Attack
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  • http://xca2.com/ Brian Kerr

    Correction: the developer is Firemint, not Firemonkeys.

    • http://www.deltaattack.com/ Fade to Slack

      Firemint merged with Iron Monkey Studios last year to create Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Real Racing 3.

      Firemint is no more, sir. Long live the awkwardly-named Firemonkeys.