If you grew up in the 90s Gran Turismo was the game to have. A self-styled ‘real’ driving simulator series that has sold over 65 million copies; EA must have been kicking themselves over the success of the Japanese title.
Fast-forward a decade and the Real Racing series launched on what was the Android Market. Now, the most recent release and third in the series claims to be an ultra realistic racing game with a new engine, realistic graphics and a multiplayer system only vaguely explained on the Play Store.
To kick things off there’s a huge download (almost 2 GB) required after the initial install from the Play Store. Once this is complete (it took around half an hour over my home WiFi) you’re brought to a cut scene of a car driving around a track. Only it’s not a cut scene. Within seconds the game places you directly in the hot seat on a track full of cars.
The most notable absence is an accelerator. At first it seemed daft to only include a brake control meaning when you’re not breaking the car automatically hits the gas. However, consider how you play racing games. This isn’t a ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ simulator it’s a fast paced racer requiring hard braking into corners and full throttle on the way out. ‘Coasting along’ is a player behaviour absent with racing games so why bother with an accelerator pedal by default?
Your left thumb, when touched to the screen, jams on the breaks and tilting the phone steers. As I mentioned in my GTA Vice City review I hate tilt to steer set-ups and normally switch to buttons after a few frustrating minutes. Thankfully, it turns out it was them and not me. The tilt to turn capability works surprisingly well in this game and sports no lag whatsoever. When combined with the ABS, rounding corners and skillfully overtaking cars becomes fun and exciting as opposed to frustrating and buggy.
You can alter the controls into a dozen different combinations as well as change the sensitivity of the steering. A gas pedal can be added but having tried it out I found it pointless. Good call, EA.
The controls don’t show up on the screen by default, instead deciding to rely on your finger gestures alone. This leaves plenty of room for the HUD which oddly, and elegantly, surrounds the car, moving with it in some nifty angles. This is a refreshing change to the traditional stationary speedometer and track map.
A Fine Day at the Track
The graphics have most certainly not been overstated. The environment, although basic in its composition at points, offers some fantastic textures and background scenery. It really is a sight to behold on Android. A lot of the time, particularly when playing on the small screen of a smartphones it’s easy to think a game is of console quality. Upon closer inspection, I can say without exaggeration that Real Racing 3 would not look out of place on the screens of XBOX 360 gamers.
Every car has had terrific detailing done and have remained true to their real life versions. From kicking up dust to cracks appearing on your windshield this game has ‘cuts no corners’ when it comes to graphics.
Play Alone, Together
TSM, which stands for Time Shifted Multiplayer is a cryptic offering from EA leaving much up to the imagination. Basically, there is no facility to play in ‘normal’ multiplayer mode either locally or over the Internet which is a real shame. However, TSM enables you to compete against the ‘ghost cars’ of other peoples’ races. For example a person may have completed the race ten hours before you started. But the game will have saved their data and route around the track and replay their car in your race.
If you bump into them or otherwise interfere with the car’s path it’ll react using the AI before resuming its predetermined course and finishing time. Not exactly a multiplayer experience but a innovative and well-functioning feature from EA.
There’s Two Sides to Every Coin
By the times you complete a few races you’ll have noticed that your Google wallet hasn’t been touched. That’s because, unlike its predecessors, Real Racing 3 is free. However, that comes at a price: the dreaded freemium model.
The in-game currency is used as a reward. For the first hour or so of gameplay nothing will seem out of place. Unfortunately, the car you bought with what little currency you’re given at the start will soon be in need of upgrades and repairs. Tournaments in the beginning will award you with currency to introduce you to basic repair and Store features but soon a clinch point is reached. Either spend hours rehashing old races for an ever diminishing reward, leave the game alone for a week or so until the game automatically repair your car for you to coax you back into playing, or part with some real-work cash.
To unlock further tracks, tournaments and cars (of which there are dozens and dozens ranging from basic road cars to super-cars) a visit to the game’s store will also be required.
All in all this is a great game somewhat spoiled by the business model behind it. The quality is enough to warrant an outright purchase which I don’t think many people would mind.
EA might be pushing away users with the Freemium model but for all I know it might net them more than outright purchases.
A fantastic game, well worth downloading even if you decide to stop playing once your in-game wallet is empty.