Almost every review, regardless of what’s being discussed, contains both positive and negative points. But very few will contain such polar opposites as this review of Real Racing 3 for the iPhone and iPad. Real Racing 3 is the latest console-quality racing title to hit Apple’s handheld devices, and at first glance it’s the bargain of the century, as it costs absolutely nothing to download and looks absolutely gorgeous. But Real Racing 3 has a flip side and it’s ready to bite you where it really hurts – in the wallet.
Let’s start with the good stuff. Real Racing 3 looks amazing. If you’ve played Gran Turismo on the PlayStation, then you’ll know what a great quality racing game is supposed to look like, and while it’s not quite up to that standard, it’s incredibly close. The initial cut scene is stunning, filled with reflections, lens flare and at times, almost photo-realistic shots of the cars. Once playing, the feeling of speed is well-handled and as you’re given a relatively slow car to start with, it’s easy to get to grips with the way the game plays.
As standard, your car has auto-acceleration and a variety of driving aids switched on, leaving you to press the screen for the brake and tilt the device for steering. Tilt controls can go either way, but they’re very effective here, primarily because excessive movement is unnecessary, so you’re never in danger of flinging whatever device you’re using across the room by accident. Auto-acceleration is also good, but the brake feel is a little deceptive, as there’s no viewpoint dip when you press the screen, something many keen racers will expect.
On the subject of viewpoints, Real Racing 3 can be played looking from behind the car, inside or over the top of the bonnet, but it’s much easier to take the fourth option and use the front bumper camera. As for driving aids, there’s traction control, steering assist and brake assist. Turn them all off and you’ll win the respect of your peers, but you’ll also crash more, and we’ll come to why that’s a bad thing very soon. In out play testing, leaving only traction control on was the best option.
Real Racing 3 plays brilliantly too, with exciting races based on real-life tracks – including the wonderful Spa and Bathurst – and smaller, quick-to-play challenges, which are something like the driving tests in Gran Turismo. It’s addictive enough so you’ll keep retrying the races where you don’t finish on top of the podium, and while this would normally be a good thing, it’s the start of Real Racing 3’s problems.
This is a Freemium game, meaning there are elements for which you must pay, depending on the situation. Handled sensitively, this can be acceptable, but in Real Racing 3 it’s as sensitive as Cherry Bombs fitted to a 440ci V8 in a Dodge Challenger. There are two forms of currency, Real Racing dollars and gold points, each of which can be slowly collected by winning races and making progress through the game, or bought using in-app purchases.
Your dollars and gold then go towards buying new vehicles, performance upgrades and repairs, and while you’re given a little cash to start out with, it’s only enough to buy one car. Everything you do outside of racing costs money in Real Racing 3. Because your car can sustain damage and has a list of consumable parts which need replacing on a regular basis, you’re always spending to keep your vehicle in top condition; if you don’t you lose performance and can’t win races.
It’s in your best interest not to crash and bash your way round the tracks, hence the recommendation of leaving the driving aids on, but the other cars have no problem turning into you during an overtake, or rigidly sticking to the apex of a corner, regardless if you’re already on it. Controlling your car on the limit is almost impossible, as oversteer isn’t handled very well, and usually results in you sliding off the track and into a sand trap or worse, a barrier.
If you want to give your car a little power boost and have the cash to do so, then you’re presented with a timer while the “work” is completed. Yep, it’s so real that an oil change puts your car out of action for a few minutes. Go to town on the upgrades and you’ll be waiting 15 to 20 minutes before you can play again. Except you can spend gold points to get rid of the timer. This is all very well when you’ve got a little stash of money and gold, but once it’s gone, you’ll need to pay up if you want to continue. A pack containing a car, five gold pieces and three new races is £1.49, while you can spend around £7 on a three-car pack with six races, plus another £7 on 300,000 in-game dollars. That should be enough to get you a good supercar, right? Sure, but for a really flash car you’ll need a lot more, as a Pagani Zonda R is 1.2 million and a Koenigsegg CCXR is 2 million!
Yes, you can play Real Racing 3 without spending anything, but only for a certain amount of time, and in all honesty it soon gets boring with one car. Real Racing 3 is one of the best racing games available for iOS, but it’s utterly ruined by shamelessly gouging its players with in-app purchases. You wouldn’t baulk at paying £5 for this game, perhaps even more, but the prospect of potentially spending hundreds just to make progress is not an attractive one. Like owning a sports car in reality, to enjoy Real Racing 3 to its fullest you need to be carefree with your cash.