Real Racing 3 (Worldwide Release) Review

By , on February 28, 2013
Last modified 9 years, 4 months ago


Real Racing 3
Download on the AppStore
3 out of 5

PROS

  • Control options in all the flavors you could ever need; from Arcade-like simplicity, to Sim-like complexity and a good range in-between.
  • Smooth, detailed graphics makes immersion easy.
  • 46 cars and 961 events to compete in; you'll be busy for days, weeks, months.

CONS

  • IAP model drives a wedge between the player and the content; designed to cut the player off no matter what they do - even if they are a paying customer.
  • 'Time Shifted Multiplayer' opponents not normalized enough to ensure smooth progression; players can be robbed of podium spots (or of a satisfying victory) due to over or under geared opponents.

VERDICT

Real Racing 3 is a true 'Jekyll and Hyde' - one moment you're lost in the majesty of throbbing engines, squealing tyres and exhaust fumes as you tear your way around a track... and the next you're staring at a ticking timer, waiting for a chance to get back in to that dream-like head-space and delay the inevitable wait for a moment longer.


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Editor's Note: As of the 28th of February the game is live across the world. Updates to the game have resolved minor bugs, however most importantly at the time of this writing 'repairs' no longer take time to complete. You'll still be considerably out of pocket, but it will put you back on the road sooner after taking unavoidable damage (such as from a TSM-controlled AI driver). Despite this the core problem afflicting RR3's playability remains in-tact; the game is devoid of meaningful progression. Not once is the player treated as though they're on a journey wherein their skills are tested and must improve to move on. Instead you either win, or you lose and even when you lose you're still afforded the chance to move on - it's a hollow victory no matter how you look at it. If all you want from a racer is a series of beautiful real-life track replicas and vehicles to race in, then you can't beat RR3's free pricetag, but ultimately it's as fulfilling as pushing matchbox cars around a felt floor-mat.

With the rise of - and burgeoning prevalence of - newer, more insidious IAP payment models, I feel this review should come with a strong disclaimer.

If you love racing for the sake of racing; if fine tuning lap times in gorgeously crafted replicas of famous tracks, in gorgeously crafted replicas of famous vehicles is your 'thing', then Real Racing 3 is the bargain of a lifetime. For absolutely no entry fee you can enjoy everything the game has to offer as long as you're willing to suffer the 'cost' of waiting for the game to once again give you control.

Beating at the heart of Real Racing 3 is the fire-baptized, fuel-powered, engine-throbbing heart of a magnificently presented racing simulator. Difficulty scaling ranges all the way from casual, almost 'Arcade' like handling, to tough-as-nails simulation where every control you need is placed at your fingertips. While true multiplayer is currently (and understandably) absent from the game, the AI is directly influenced by your friends on Gamecenter and Facebook (as well as a smattering of other random players).

Dubbed 'Time Shifted Multiplayer', the end result is an always changing, always unique race experience. However, it has its downsides; notably you have no real control over who you're paired with and while you'll often find yourself amongst the company of peers, you'll occasionally be thrown up against seriously under-geared or worst of all, over-geared opponents, destroying the flow of progression entirely.

However, I've danced around the issue for too long. While the heart of RR3 may be that of a thoroughbred racer, it's surrounded by an all but impenetrable IAP system designed to exact payment from the player over and over again. Much like a 'Freemium' title, almost every ancillary action you take requires a combination of basic in-game currency and either time or 'gold', the game's 'premium' currency.

Just purchased a car? You'll have to wait for that to be 'shipped'. Need to juice up your car to keep up with the competition? You'll pay and wait for that too. So far, so normal, but the rabbit-hole goes deeper.

Damage you sustain to your vehicle in a race is considered persistent and will carry on between races. The damage directly affects the performance of your vehicle, so you'll want to fix it as soon as possible... only you'll have to pay, and yes, wait for the damage to be reversed. Oh, did I mention that repairs are carried out sequentially and not in parallel? For every piece you repair, the repair time total is increased.

... But wait, there's more.

All of this could be forgiven if the cash-flow was enough to support smooth progression. Sadly, the anemic rewards make it hard to keep a single vehicle at a competitive level, let alone the running costs of repairing said vehicle as well. It doesn't stop at maintenance either. Vehicles must be bought to participate in 'Showcase' matches (if you don't already own them), and simply using your vehicle will eventually require top ups on engine oil, replacement brakes/tires and so on.

As mentioned in the disclaimer, you can forgive all of this if you're patient, but the fact remains that even those who choose to cough up the cash will be nickle-and-dimed in to spending their premium currency until they're back to square one. It's no wonder full multiplayer features had to be left off the table - as it is having your face melted by a 'TSM' boosted AI from a player who has paid their way to a better vehicle can cheat you out of a podium position; to have to play against a 'pay to win' player in real time would be crushing.

There's a pervasive sense of being able to look, but not touch. This is a game that says 'wouldn't it be great to enjoy all of this?' and then makes you wait, albeit a nominal time, but wait none-the-less. You could spend all day racing at lower tiers and attempt to avoid collisions, but you'd still be forced to 'maintain' the vehicle at some point, cutting you off from the gameplay. You could race another vehicle, but you'll only burn through your resources twice as fast, once again cutting yourself off from the flow of progression.

Despite the brilliantly implemented controls that provide an almost visceral level of feedback; despite the sharp, industry leading graphical technology that has to be seen on the best iOS devices to truly believe them; despite the incredibly engaging 'Time Shifted Multiplayer' concept making the AI feel better than ever; all of this is undercut by a need to force the player to stop playing and open their wallet.

Ultimately the IAP model drives a wedge between the player and the game on offer. If Real Racing 3 has anything to offer, it's a kind of martyrdom. For a game considered to be one of the major releases of the year to fall so low shows just how toxic this kind of game implementation has become.

Screenshots

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