It's only been three years since the debut of Real Racing on iOS devices, but the series has swiftly sped into the forefront of the portable racing scene as EA's flagship franchise for its impressive HD graphics, fun multiplayer and extreme attention to detail. In less than a day, Real Racing 3 is set to be released on iOS and Android devices, and it looks set to steer into even greater territory.
MMGN had the opportunity to attend the launch of Real Racing 3 today in a EA-hosted Melbourne event, and secured some hands-on time with the game and had some brief chats with members of the game's local development team, Firemonkey Studio -- a merger between original developer Firemint and Iron Monkey -- and I got a good look and feel of how much more has been added, improved and optimised in the pick-up-and-play racer.
The official presentation of the launch trailer and an initial hands-off demonstration of the game's changes and features showed it's clear Firemonkey are pushing the technical capabilities of iOS and Android devices, as well as what kind of experiences gamers expect from a mobile or tablet game, and a free-to-play one at that, the first in the series to integrate micro-transactions.
Checkout the development diary of Real Racing 3.
The freemium model is essentially tied to waiting periods. While racing through the streets of Melbourne, past Flinders Street, Federation Square and through glitzy Southbank -- a faithful and stunning recreation of the best city in Australia and the world (come at me) -- I had gotten a bit too aggressive and tried to run another A.I. racer off the track and damaged the front bumper of my car.
While the damage reflects aesthetically (magnificently; I really did a number on my car), it also affects car performance. In order to repair such damage, you can pay using the currency awarded in-game for successful races and wait a few minutes or hours -- depending on the damage -- for the repair to finish. Or you can pay a small amount to skip the wait, or get more cars and money so you don't have to wait on your only car for repairs every-time.
While the freemium business model doesn't appeal to everyone, I can see how some might like having the option to get acquire better cars or events from the get-go. The amount of content on offer is also probably not what freemium skeptics would expect -- with a staggering 900+ events and large range of the best cars. From traditional races to 'Elimination' timed runs, sleek Lamborghinis and sexy Porsches, there's not going to be a lack of races or cars to experience.
Visually, Real Racer 3 is up there as one of the best looking tablet/mobile games around. Each car model alone has more polygons in its headlight than a car from the the original Real Racing, and it reportedly took the team around a month to work on each car. It definitely paid off, as every car model and environment is crisp, colourful, extremely detailed and simply stunning. The real-world recreations of Melbourne, as mentioned before, are faithful and a joy to race through.
Firemonkey have recreated Melbourne and its iconic landmarks faithfully. Try racing past Flinders!
Firemonkey provided plenty of camera options for car enthusiasts to ogle at their vehicles - cockpit, over the hood, third-person, etc - and the free-view mode offered in the car garage will probably satisfy the expectations of those car lovers seeking the best HD mobile/tablet gaming experience available to them.
The multiplayer is probably the best aspect of Real Racer 3. While not head-to-head multiplayer, the game's integration with Facebook and other social media sites pulls player's race data and syncs it with your game, with the A.I.'s performance, track time and damage reflecting your added friends.
Even if you're offline, the game will retain player data and shows your friend's best time, and this alone will easily be a hook to keep coming back to beat your friend's record without worrying to co-ordinate on going online at the same time to race.
The A.I. also shifts in difficulty according to your skill level, and if you connected with friends through the Internet their performance will be a mix of real-world racer data and their own.
Connect with friends via Facebook and compare and beat scores and best times.
If you find things too easy or difficult, you can turn off the default controls -- which let players tilt to steer, with everything else assisted by the AI -- and gain more control, though the default option suits the tablet and mobile platform.
I left the event very impressed of the mobile racer. As someone who plays mostly console games, I can say I will definitely see myself downloading Real Racer 3 for the multiplayer -- some casual on-the-go racing fun with friends, and the waiting period for repairs suits my play-style with mobile games. For the bigger racing enthusiasts, the free-to-play model may make you weary, but the number and variety of events, cars and the stunning HD visuals should be experienced for yourself before dismissing it as just another casual mobile title. Besides... it's free!
Real Racing 3 launches at midnight in Australia on the iTunes Store. An international release and Android release will follow on February 28.
By Nathan Misa