Real Racing 3 Review: Free and awesome

 
It’s absolutely insane that I can play something the caliber of Real Racing 3 on my phone and tablet. Years ago, I never would have dreamed of playing something with the quality of console game on a cell phone. Man, have times changed. We’ve certainly come a long way since the days of Snake on a Nokia, haven’t we?
 
RR3 is a major triumph in every way. It’s visuals are absolutely stunning, though on a larger screen like my Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1’s, the jagged edges are somewhat more pronounced. The gameplay works perfectly for a mobile sim racer, especially when you consider that sim racers are best played with a wheel and pedal setup so you can feel the grip of the tires and bumps in the road. Basically, everything points to a full sim racer NOT working on a mobile device; yet here it works, and it works really damn well.
 

 
Going back to the point I made about sim racers needing to be played with a wheel setup; a second factor also plays into the controls: touchscreens. It’s no secret that I despise touchscreen controls. I hate them. I know there’s really no way around it, but I hate the feeling of a sweaty, smudgy finger begin dragged around my screen, and the loss of any tactile feedback. I just hate it.
 
With RR3, you have a number of control options. The one I chose to use is the default, which involves tilt steering (assisted steering off, assisted braking off, traction control on), automatic acceleration, and manual braking represented by a floating brake pedal on screen. There other ones you can play around with which add a floating accelerator and even a virtual steering wheel, but which scheme works best is completely up to you. Maybe you don’t care about mashing your fingers all over the screen and would prefer a virtual wheel; that’s your call.
 
[quote_right]It’s gorgeous. I was surprised to be driving through the tutorial level and see light reflections playing off the car models. Very cool indeed.[/quote_right]While the game probably would be shooting itself in the foot if it made the car handling as exact a science as it is in a full console/PC sim racer, RR3 does an admirable job of distancing itself from something like Need For Speed: Most Wanted for mobile devices. Both games use tilt steering and a similar control scheme, but it’s clear right off the bat that in one, you can wrench your hands from side to side as hard as you want and go into a nice controlled drift, and in the other if you do the same thing, you will spin out. To the best of its ability, RR3 makes you drive as you would in real life.
 
This means you are not hitting a corner at 100 MPH and simply sliding through and continuing along your merry way. It means you are not engaging in a game of bumper cars with everyone else on the track. It means there is no nitro button to mash and go rocketing through the level.
 
Graphically, the game is gorgeous. I would say it is on par with something the likes of Gran Turismo 4, but since everything is on a small screen, it’s harder to pick out the pixilation. It’s gorgeous; I was surprised to be driving through the tutorial level and see light reflections playing off the car models. Very cool indeed.
 
And now, we shall address the FTP/microtransactions of RR3 that has everyone’s panties in a bunch. First off, let me point out that after poring through the game and looking in every nook and cranny (figuratively speaking, of course), I could not find an instance where segments of the game are locked and you are forced to buy them. I spent money in one instance only in my whole time with the game, and it was only because I was pressed for time and couldn’t wait to just unlock it for free.
 
The microtransactions in RR3 are all in the “unlock this feature sooner than you normally would over the course of play” variety. That’s it. It’s like it was in Shift 2 where you can purchase a code to unlock every car as opposed to spending hours and hours playing through the game unlocking them yourself. Same thing. In fact, from what I understand, EA’s whole announcement about having microtransactions in all future games seems to be of this variety; pay to unlock quicker, but still retain the ability to unlock everything in the game for free at your own pace. I honestly don’t know what all the fuss is about; it’s not like there’s 200 cars in the game and EA is not allowing you to touch 100 of them unless you pay. But I digress.
 
[quote_left]For the price, you really can’t get much better than Real Racing 3. I mean, what’s better than free? [/quote_left]In the case of RR3, the issue lies with repair times. As with any good racer, your car will take damage, especially if you happen to be that one jackhole that likes to ram everyone in a sim racer. Depending on the damage type, repairs will take anywhere from a few minutes to hours (real time). You can spend coins to initiate these repairs immediately, but of course, that costs in game currency, of which there is a finite amount. Obviously you can earn more coins by simply playing through the game, but if you’re in no hurry and can only play the game in short bursts at a time, you might as well save those coins for something else and just spend the time on repairs.
 
The final thing I want to touch on is RR3’s multiplayer. RR3 uses a system called Time Shifted Multiplayer that basically works like a mish mash of asynchronous MP and Forza’s Rivals Mode. Using TSM, RR3 tracks certain info from every player that plays the game, info like car damage, lap times, and certain other tendencies. When playing the game, the other “AI” cars on the track with you are essentially real players. You get their real screen names, and the way each one behaves is theoretically how that player would behave in real time. It’s a fantastic work around to mobile multiplayer, and something I wish were present in more games all around. I dislike multiplayer greatly, but that’s more because of the people I run into as opposed to the concept on multiplayer itself. TSM would be awesome.
 
For the price, you really can’t get much better than Real Racing 3. I mean, what’s better than free? It’s gorgeous, addictive, has a great multiplayer mode, and personally speaking, being the gearhead that I am, it’s absolutely fantastic to be able to carry around a sim racer in my pocket. Very few games on mobile can challenge a full console title of the same genre, but if RR3 were released on the PS3 or Xbox 360 today, I’d probably go out and buy it.