How much will you enjoy Real Racing 3? Depends how much you're willing to invest in the game. Genuine progress requires money, despite any insistences to the contrary, but is that necessarily a bad thing? After all, developer Firemonkeys has clearly invested a lot of time and effort into making the game as beautiful and deep as it is. It's a tough call.
Initially free to download, Real Racing 3 is undoubtedly the new benchmark for tablet-based racers - maybe even tablet games as a whole. It looks fantastic, providing visuals on a par with the earlier driving games of the Xbox 360 / PS3 console generation. It's deep too. There are 46 top-end sports cars to unlock, and hundreds of events to take part in - with only the scarcity of tracks (there are nine) detracting from an otherwise hearty bounty of content.
The racing itself is incredibly accomplished. There's a great sense of speed, while handling is surprisingly precise (given that you're using tilt functions to steer), and the ability to tweak assists means that you'll be able to find the level of difficulty you're most comfortable with. Even with all assists on, you don't feel like you're missing out, and you'll manage to bag your fair share of wins.
The Timed Multiplayer Shift function, which pulls in driving behaviour from real players to inform the AI drivers, works well, lending unpredictability to all races. Occasionally, you'll feel aggrieved because it feels like you simply can't win, but retrying the event will often make it more winnable. There's a decent variety of events, so you're not just taking part in pure races all the time either.
All the ingredients are here for a great racing game. That's why EA / Firemonkeys think you should pay for it. There are two currency systems in Real Racing 3 - cash and gold. Cash is used to buy cars and upgrades, while gold is used to speed up processes. If you want to make any kind of serious progression in this game you'll need to buy both using actual money.
Using the entry-level vehicle the game awards you at the start, it took us roughly four hours to grind out enough cash to buy a new car. Winning events doesn't pay much cash, so you'll need to repeat most events several times before you can afford upgrades or fresh vehicles. After 12 hours we had three cars in our garage - but we could have paid about £8-10 and cut out all the grind. If you want to enjoy Real Racing 3, we suggest you pay the money to get yourself started.
Sadly, the game seems intent on asking for cash after every race, which takes the sheen off your moment of triumph. "The new BMW is on sale, would you like to buy it?', 'You'd do better with upgrades, buy now?" etc etc.
Annoyingly, the parts on your car wear down alarmingly quickly, and maintaining it is costly and time consuming. A simple oil and tyre change - which you need to do every three-to-four races takes about 20 minutes... unless you pay some gold to instantly fix the problem.
Hurray - you've bought a new car, but it won't be delivered for another two hours... unless you pay. Again, we don't begrudge Firemonkeys / EA asking for cash - this is a wonderful game - but we do object to having our experience interrupted every couple of minutes as they cough and hold out their hand.
When interrupted for the nth time and asked to pay for yet another minor thing, even the most patient players will be tested. Yes, Real Racing 3 is a great game, and yes, the cost of in-App Purchases are pretty reasonable, but the constant demand to open your wallet spoils an otherwise incredible mobile experience. You'll love Real Racing 3, but you'll pay for the privilege.
A benchmark-setting mobile racer with grand designs on your bank account. (If you don't mind spending money, add 20% to the score. If you dislike paying out subtract 20%.
- Looks incredible
- Wealth of content and racing options
- Smart opponent AI system
- Needs a few more tracks
- Constantly badgers you for cash