Real Racing 3 Review

Real Racing 3 Review

The debate on freemium gaming just got even more fast and furious

The debate on freemium gaming just got even more fast and furious.

The third instalment of the Real Racing series was something that every iOS gaming fan was looking forward to; the new partnership with EA meaning new muscle when it came to landing official licenses for cars and tracks. While players got their wish and the likes of Audi and Bugatti are now on offer within the game, and iconic circuits like Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps can be taken on, it has come at a price – literally.

Real Racing 3 is the latest to embrace the idea of freemium gaming, with in-app purchases in place that offer upgrades and cars in exchange for the cash you earn from good performances, using real money should you wish to speed things up. There are plenty of titles out there that have managed to strike a balance in introducing such a system, EA, though, appears to have got this balance completely wrong – with the purchasing system embedded deep into the game’s programming so it is utterly unavoidable. Every so often your car requires a service, and this happens in real time, with five minutes needed for certain changes to be carried out. You can skip these times by paying, but the cheek of it means you’ll probably stay stubborn and wait it out. These services also cost in-game dollars, and if you don’t have enough to pay, car performance will suffer and you won’t earn the cash to pay for it. Thus a vicious cycle is born.

There is a similar setup in place when it comes to damage to your car and repairs that may need to be made. Okay, so if you drive more carefully you’ll reap the reward by not constantly paying out to replace bumpers and headlights? Wrong, because the new Time-Shift Multiplayer feature, which effectively takes the idea of ghost laps and multiplayer racing and combines the two, may be a cool idea but has led to some truly horrendous AI. Other drivers will cut across your line at inexplicable points, crawl over apexes and simply refuse to acknowledge your presence at all on the track as they smash into the side of you. This of course means repairs, which in turn means spending. This entire aspect of the game feels at best hugely annoying and at worst downright cynical, forcing upgrades upon you and restricting progress. All this is such a shame because the game does look fantastic. Real Racing 2 set a benchmark on mobile and it’s fair to say that the latest instalment has done the same. Compare it to the competition and it becomes an unfair fight in places, especially now this title can call upon big name manufacturers and real tracks to entice any motorsport fan.

The game has also had a facelift in terms of its structure: gone is the jump in and out quick racing mode of the earlier titles. This is a campaign game, and with more than 900 events it’s a pretty big one so boredom will never become a problem. Winning races is the way forward in this game, with each trophy earned unlocking more events, as well as cars. Having the likes of Lamborghini and Porsche onboard is also a huge plus for Real Racing, and a great incentive to keep playing so you can work your way up to owning one of these supercars.
It’s also worth noting that the number of cars per race has been upped from 16 to 22, which is very exciting, but the harrowing AI touched upon earlier will leave you counting the cost post-race. This brings us back to the Time-Shift Multiplayer that EA has introduced as a way of making every event feel like a multiplayer showdown. The idea is that the game monitors your racing performance and ‘personality’, creating an AI profile of each Real Racing 3 user, and then placing these into events as opponents who mimic their profile owner’s style. Its like ghost racing meets social networking, and in theory it’s a brilliant idea, but it still needs some work to really shine.

Maybe the reason the freemium setup is frustrating here is because Real Racing 3 is so good in so many ways that this system feels like an unnecessary noose that it has voluntarily placed around its own neck. There is nothing we would like more than to sit back and race non-stop for hours. But hang on, we need an oil change first, and to wait 10 minutes for new tyres to be delivered.

Rated 3 out of 5

We want to love it so much, but the sheer nature of the in-app purchasing system stops us in our tracks.