Real Racing 3 review
We waited a long time for Real Racing 3, ever since that short game trailer that was leaked in August last year. Then, a month later, the game was “officially” previewed on a large screen during the iPhone 5 announcement with Tim Cook on stage. “Fitting”, we thought: one of the most anticipated mobile games of the year and one of the most anticipated smartphones of the year previewed together. We were certain that the king of mobile racing simulations will be back, better than ever. Even when the game was delayed last December, we were ecstatic that EA Mobile actually gave Firemonkeys more time to polish the game to perfection. Now, it’s finally here. Were our expectations too high?
Editor’s note: At the moment, Real Racing 3 is only available on the Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand App Store as a part of the “soft launch”, i.e. Firemonkeys are still in the process of testing and tweaking the game. The official, worldwide release on both the App Store and Google Play is scheduled for February 28. The version of the game we reviewed is 1.0.1.
At first glance, the answer would be no. Real Racing 3 started impressing us from the moment we saw its first loading screen and explored some of the game menus. The amount of options and content this title has to offer is simply incredible: players are given a lot of alternative choices regarding the game’s difficulty levels, control schemes, user interface layouts and indicators, not to mention the 47 available vehicles, numerous licensed and unlicensed racing tracks, incredibly in-depth system of car customizations, over 900 playable events of various types (single race, cup, elimination, endurance challenge, drag race, etc.) and dozens of achievements. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for 5 minutes of casual entertainment, an unforgiving racing simulation, or something in between – Real Racing 3 has it all. The fact that this title has a lot to offer to all three major types of gamers – casual, core, and hardcore, is impressive by itself, but Firemonkeys didn’t stop there.
No, they also managed to create one of the most beautiful mobile games on the market. They say a picture’s worth thousand words, and we included a lot of pictures in this review for you to look at, but we still have to mention the incredibly detailed vehicle models (especially the interiors), fantastic dynamic lighting, realistic reflections, car damage, particles, and huge draw distances, all running at a completely stable frame rate. The sound aspect of Real Racing 3 is equally impressive: lengthy licensed soundtrack will make you want to play this game with your headphones on, and every vehicle sounds a bit differently, which goes for everything: acceleration, an engine at full throttle, transmission shifting, and screeching of tires. Sounds good so far? Can’t think of anything that could possibly be wrong with this game? Think harder.
You see, the meaning of the fact that Firemonkeys created one the most impressive mobile games of all times is greatly diminished by its free-to-play business model. You may not be aware of this, but a few months ago, our editor-in-chief wrote an article titled “Are free-to-play games making morons out of us?”, in which he discussed the horrific implementation of the freemium business model in the mobile gaming industry and its consequences. Too bad Real Racing 3 wasn’t released back then, because it would make a perfect example to his point. You see, besides offering additional cars and in-game money for purchase, Real Racing 3’s premium currency (“gold”) is used for practically everything else, as well. Need to repair a car after a race because the damage it sustained significantly lowers its performance? You’ll either have to pay and wait for it to be repaired, or pay with the premium currency. Do note that every damaged piece, from headlights to the engine itself is repaired separately, so if you choose to wait, you’ll be waiting for quite a while. Moreover, even upgrading your vehicle requires paying and waiting, unless, of course, you want to pay with the premium currency. The same goes for purchasing vehicles and waiting for them to be “shipped”. Seriously, the cooldown counters feel like incredibly cheap tricks even in the management simulation genre that practically created them, but when you’re presented with a high-quality racing game that utilizes them, it’s hard to feel anything else but rage. The first game update (1.0.1.) shortened the waiting times a bit, but they’re still too long. If by any chance you want to play Real Racing 3 for 6 consecutive hours, you’ll probably have to buy around 20 dollars worth of gold, which is scandalous. As if that’s not enough, this freemium barrier prevents the game from having “real” PvP multiplayer. Sure, the “Time Shifted Multiplayer” that was first described two weeks ago is an interesting idea in theory, but truth be told, the AI’s ability to “behave and drive” like your friends do is not flawless, to say the least, not to mention the fact that the game does a poor job filtering through your potential opponents and just throws you in the race with whoever’s available, regardless of how much weaker or stronger their vehicles are in comparison to yours. Also, another thing we can “thank” the game’s freemium model for is the lack of a simple “restart race” button. Yup, you won’t be needing that silly thing when EA is determined to charge you for everything else but downloading the game itself.
If EA decided to slap a $30 price tag on Real Racing 3, we’d be the first to defend it, because at its core, this is a fantastic racing simulation worthy of any handheld gaming console and we have no problem with paying for console quality on any platform. However, when a game expects us to keep throwing money at it forever, that’s when we have a problem. EA may call this a sustainable business model, but we call it a scam. Don’t get us wrong, we believe Real Racing 3 is still worth downloading and fiddling with for about an hour, strictly for educational purposes; I.e. for seeing what has the abuse / poor implementation of the freemium business model done to the mobile gaming industry. Real Racing 3 is beautiful on the outside, complex, yet flexible on the inside, but unfortunately, all that hard work went to waste because of the greed that appeared somewhere in between. And that’s just a huge pity, because Firemonkeys’ games should be treated with much more respect.
Graphics: 10 - one of the most graphically impressive mobile games on the market
Sound: 9.2 - lengthy and quality soundtrack, realistic and varied sound effects
Gameplay: 7 - suitable for all skill levels, too bad the experience is so heavily fragmented
Duration: 10 - there’s enough content to keep you occupied for 2 months
Score: 6.7 - RR3 is technically the best mobile racing simulation that’s unfortunately ruined by the poor implementation of the “F2P” business model
Genre: Racing Simulation
Publisher: Electronic Arts Mobile
Platform: Android, iOS
Release date: February 13, 2013 (Australia, Canada, New Zealand), February 28, 2013 (worldwide)
The game score is not an average of other rated elements (since not all of them are equally important), just the reviewer’s overall opinion of the game.