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Real Racing 3: quality gameplay meets the freemium model

With a name like EA behind it, the Real Racing series has a high bar set for itself to offer a great mobile gaming experience. Real Racing 3 is the latest in the series, and it surely doesn't disappoint when it comes to the quality of design. But users are still cautious about the title, as instead of charging several dollars for the game up front, EA has chosen to go with a "freemium" model to generate revenue.

Real Racing 3 offers great gameplay, visuals and sound, but does that overcome the annoyance of constant in-app purchases? Read on past the break with us and see.

When you open up Real Racing 3 for the first time, you're thrown right into a tutorial race before meeting any menu structure. In this tutorial you'll get acquainted with the controls, interface and gameplay. This is useful if you've never played Real Racing before, but veterans can skip right past it to the main menu. That main menu is extremely clean and easy to use, although the touch targets to change settings and view your profile are a little on the small side when played on a phone.

When it comes down to a racing experience, Real Racing 3 delivers something quite satisfying. It's almost surprising how high quality of graphics and sound are available on a smart phone platform, and this is game is a good example of what's possible. By default, your controls are extremely easy, with all of the "assisted" settings enabled. For the more hardcore players, you'll want to turn these off and go with your own movements -- luckily there are many ways to customize how you control the car. The happy medium for me was manual gas and brake, with minimal steering assistance and tilt steering.

You'll have to start off on the easiest levels first, as is the case with these types of games, but they're very useful to get used to how the game plays. You get enough money -- aka R$ -- to buy the lowest level car and get going on the races. You receive money for completing races and "gold" for completing different achievements and unlocks. You can use the money to buy new cars, upgrades and repairs on your current car. Gold can be used for different unlocks as well. It should be noted that you'll continue to receive R$ for winning races, even after you've completed them the first time to unlock future levels.

The settings menu is where you'll spend that hard-earned money. Racing your car means you'll likely incur some maintenance and repair costs, and each one will cost a different amount. While you'll make thousands of R$ per race win, you'll only spend R$75 or so on common maintenance and repair. Car upgrades, however, can be up in the thousands of R$, as are new car purchases. When making an upgrade to your car, there will be a cool-down period associated with it -- somewhere in the 2 minute range for quick upgrades -- that you'll have to wait out to finish. If you want the upgrade done instantly, that'll cost you gold.

Here's where some criticism of Real Racing 3 comes into play: the in-app purchase system. Because the game is free to play, the purchase of in-app currency is what provides the developers with the revenue to put the game out. You can buy different amounts of R$ and gold in the store at prices ranging from $1.99 to $99.99, or purchase different "packs" that include multiple unlocks or features together at a discounted price. It should be noted that the in-app purchases aren't at all necessary to complete or have fun with the game, they're only there to accelerate your progress if you wish.

It's for this reason that we really don't think this is such a bad thing. Players of this style of racing game are used to the concept of unlocks, grinding races for currency and buying different features -- and make no mistake, the game would still have unlocks and repair costs even if there were no in-app purchases. For these people, they're getting a discount on the game because they may never buy a single in-app purchase over the life of playing it. For the more casual player that would rather throw $9.99 at the game and buy a new car, that option is there too.

Real Racing 3 may have put some people off from the start with the new "freemium" revenue model, but that system doesn't detract from the quality gameplay and graphics offered in this game. In many respects, the devoted players that are planning to spend hours playing and enjoy the game management of racing for R$ to finance future unlocks are getting one of the best racing games available for free.

The free to play model also gives players a chance to check out the game with no up-front cost, which you can do for yourself at the Play Store link above.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

  • Just downloaded it...will play after work. Hopefully the in app purchases will not affect the gameplay because I've been looking forward to this game.
  • they do... between the constant sucking of money from your wallet, or making you wait to do something, i uninstalled within 30 min. Its pretty bad. Makes you feel like you are just getting suckered along for an extra buck (or $30). Wont be playing any game like this... ever. Let me pay you upfront to unlock the game. If its that good, make it $10, but you would surely pay MUCH more than this throughout the course of this game and i am just not ok with it.
  • Hi there, Its how you play the game be smart know wich track to race to make money,
    iam level 22 got 45 gold 4 cars fully upgraded!
    So no need for special packages and stuff.
    This game rocks
    Again its the approach to the game really some tracks give you 8400 R$ for 5 minute tracks.
  • I'm not a huge fan of racing games, but I do like to dink with them every once in a while, so a freemium setup didn't sound bad to me. I loaded it onto my phone and tried it out. I didn't realize all the nanny settings were engaged and found it odd that the car accelerated and braked for me. Basically all I had to do was tilt it left or right a little bit and the car started winning races with multiple seconds between me and the next (timeshifted) "person" back. Now I'm not that good at racing games so I found this odd that I was killing it over everybody in the first couple of races, but the gfx were good and audio made all the right "vroom" "vroom" so I just kept going. Then I got to the fourth or fifth race and all the cars literally got up and walked away from me as soon as the race started. There was no possible way I could catch them and had nowhere near enough in game credits won to buy the speed needed to compete without paying real money. This was a major turn off. Then I went to "top up" my oil with in game credits and the phone expected me to sit there for 5 minutes and do nothing before being able to play further (or pay money to make the wait go away)... I killed the game and haven't touched it since. In app purchases do not foster a rich game experience. They just leave you feeling dirty. -Suntan
  • lol thats completely put me off of the game..but I will wait and see.
  • Thanks for your post...there's no way I'd even consider playing a game that's going to make me sit and wait for several minutes before I can play more.
  • Thanks for the post,suntan. You've saved me the trouble of downloading this.
  • Hi there, Its how you play the game be smart know wich track to race to make money,
    iam level 22 got 45 gold 4 cars fully upgraded!
    So no need for special packages and stuff.
    This game rocks
    Again its the approach to the game really some tracks give you 8400 R$ for 5 minute tracks.
  • I notice in the pic of the dash view it appears your rear and side view mirrors are actually showing something. On my Nexus 10 all I see is a gray blob. What device are you reviewing on and why are the graphics derped on the N10?
  • On the Nexus 4.
  • mirrors worked fine on my Verizon Note II as well. Whole game just annoyed me though, just too much crap on the screen in the menus and settings, actual races were fun though and graphics were great.
  • I have working mirrors on my Galaxy S3 but they're greyed out on my Transformer TF300. I also have more frequent framerate issues on my tablet, to the point where particular cockpit view is borderline unplayable at the beginning of races with a large field. Even on my S3 graphics don't look quite as good as I've seen in iOS YouTube videos, so it's probably safe to assume this game is unfortunately better optimized for iOS. Despite that I've been enjoying it - although I really wish it ran as well on my tablet as on my phone - and also invested a bit of money in three starter packs, so I've had zero waiting time so far. I've just switched to another of the currently eight cars I have.
  • I've been playing this game all weekend, haven't spent a penny. I'm on level 11 with 3 cars, 2 maxed out. It takes patience though, waiting 15 minuets for repairs and upgrades are tough. As long as you don't spend all your gold to speed up repair times, you really won't have to spend any money. @Suntan, same thing happened to me. You need to replay older races and build your cash up yo buy other cars. Takes a little time but better than shelling out a bunch of cash.
  • Got this on my N7 and it looks and sounds amazing. Played it so much that I killed the battery in a few short hours. But, other than that, it's a great way to pass time.
  • Sounds like someone got a little something under the table to write something like this. A game where you sit and wait without being able to do anything sucks. Oh wait, you can give me money and you won't have to. But if you want to do anything you have to wait for everything or keep paying and paying. But i would just stay away from the game in general with a option of $99.99 for a game. that doesn't even unlock everything is stupid. Who in their right mind would pay $100 and still wait for things to happen. If we just stay away from games with this concept then game developers will go back to traditional pricing. And we all know EA just wants your money so stay away and make them reconsider their business practice.
  • Darn, it says the game is not compatible with my GSII or Galaxy Tab...oh well, I'll stick with Hot Pursuit.
  • Honestly, the grind reminds me a lot of GT3. It's monotonous sometimes, but playing the same race x10 in order to build up cash reserves also serves to hone you skills pretty effectively and learn the tracks. You must, however, have patience. You can't sit there for 2 hours at a stretch playing this game if you don't want to spend real world currency. This is probably a good thing AS YOU SHOULDN'T BE SPENDING THAT MUCH TIME IN FRONT OF A PHONE ANYWAY! The wait times really aren't that bad, and once you get a few more cars in your fold, you can just switch to a different car and race in another series while you wait for repairs to complete. If you are playing this game for a few hours of arcade-style fun, you will be severely disappointed, or out of some serious cash. If you play this game as intended, aka a serious racing simulation, then you are probably already a fan of this type of environment, and are already accustomed to the intricacies.
  • Whoever wrote this article didn't play it nearly long enough, I can tell based on the numbers and such referenced. Here's why the IAP is a problem: 1. 2 minute wait for upgrades? Yeah, that's what it STARTS at. It grows to 10 minutes+ as you get a couple hours into the game. In fact, you often need to do multiple upgrades and repairs at the same time, resulting in a wait that can take over an hour.
    2. It's not unusual to lose a race, and be stuck waiting 10 minutes to give it another shot. After one race.
    3. If you wanted everything in the game, it would cost you around $500. That is absolutely ridiculous.
    4. This game added repair costs and delays ONLY for IAP money. Previous games did NOT have that mechanic.
    5. The "grind" required to progress in the game grows exponentially, and race difficulty is set so that upgrades never give you a true advantage. It gets to a point where you must drive immaculately (without damaging your car at all, despite terrible AI driving) at least 7-10 times just to move on, without spending money on anything except servicing the car.
    6. Another reason I know the writer of this article didn't play much of the game is that they didn't notice how the servicing costs scale dramatically (not linearly with the rewards from races). Later on, it's not unusual to spend R$1000 or more per race just on maintenance. That's not counting repairs. I could go on, but I think you get the jist. I recommend the writer of this article go back, put some real time into the game, and then make a better analysis of it. A single half hour of gameplay (that's about as much as I'm willing to guess this article was based on) is not enough to judge this game appropriately.
  • The idiot that wrote this article did so to get some money from EA. The is great But the wait is ridiculous. All this article was for was to advertise for EA.
  • Nailed it. Sorry Andrew, this guy is 100% right. RR2 is in a different universe in terms of value compared to RR3. AC shouldn't be encouraging and making excuses for this model. I'm pretty sure EA didn't give you anything for this review so what is your agenda? I think you just phoned in this review and it shows.
  • I downloaded it Thursday morning and love it. I've only played NFSMW twice since then. I've yet to make an in app purchase, I haven't even noticed it. The freemium stuff doesn't subtract from the game at all and the game has yet bugged me about about making a purchase. Very well done across the board.
  • It is physically impossible for you to play more than 3 races without being bugged for money. I'm not exaggerating. Unless you're spending that gold without realizing what it is, you are being bugged to make a purchase after every race thereafter (once your money dries up).
  • I played 6 races yesterday without having to wait an extra second. When I finally did have to repair, I switched cars and played another 4. Also, you've got to be pretty terrible at this game if your money is drying up. If you want to play for longevity, make sure all you cars are queued for repair before exiting the game, even if they don't technically need it. If your cars are all fully healed and serviced before you start your game, you can go a lot longer. One other note: the more you leave the track, the faster you have to perform service. If you learn to keep your car on the pavement, your car lasts a lot longer. /Level 11, 2 cars fully upgraded
    //Not a single gold piece or real $ spent.
  • You can win race after race and still not be able to afford a car, without saving up. Grinding is required. Your statistics are not realistic (probably you remembering things better than they actually are). Skill at a game should have no relevance on the quality of the game itself. In fact, the game should encourage users to learn it and get good at it. Saying it's /my fault/ the game is unwelcoming to novices is inane. Things like leaving the track requiring more service aren't even explained in the gameplay, thus encouraging more IAP. Also, planning ahead of time to avoid waits is an absolutely ridiculous mechanic. The delays were added solely to eek money out of people. In addition, spending money to maintain your car before they require service is a significant waste of the (very little) cash you receive. The costs of maintenance is the same price regardless of whether it's needed or not. "One other note": You have only 2 cars fully upgraded. If you intend to actually get all the content in this game, it would take you approximately 500+ hours of grinding races to get it. There isn't a racing game on this planet that expects someone to grind for 500 hours for something. You act like you don't have cash flow problems in this game, yet you're not even close to reaching the real grind yet. The costs scale exponentially. Finally, my "3 races" statistic is based on the beginning of the game. You could probably eek out more, as you describe, by careful planning, lots of grinding prior, and immaculate driving, but that's not a reward system, that's work. Unnecessary, greedy work. The previous games worked fantastically, and had great scaling.
  • Hi there, Its how you play the game be smart know wich track to race to make money,
    iam level 22 got 45 gold 4 cars fully upgraded!
    So no need for special packages and stuff.
    This game rocks
    Again its the approach to the game really some tracks give you 8400 R$ for 5 minute tracks. Greets
  • As others have mentioned I played several hours since it came out last Thursday. I have yet to spend any "real" money and have had a great time with the game. Graphics and sound are great. Gameplay is very good.
    The Freemium model that so many are complaining about is not a big factor. The first few levels (when i still only had one car) I couldn't sit and play for more than about half an hour before the car had to have serious service (oil change = 5 minutes, to service all 5 sections =~ 45 minutes).
    But by yesterday (Sunday) I had 5 cars. Now I can pretty much play as long as I want. When one car needs service i just play on different tiers that use different cars. By the time I've worn out a couple cars to needing service (damage repairs are instant and use R$) the first car is all ready to roll again.
    So far the worry that I had that you wouldn't be able to progress throughout the game without real-money purchases. Doesn't seem to be the least so far. The only downside that annoys me is the inability to play one progression from multiple devices. I find it absolutely aggravating that I can't have a choice to have one or multiple progressions going. I want to play on my android tablet when i can and enjoy the larger screen and view but for on-the-go want to play on my iTouch. There is no way to do play multiple devices that I can find.
  • Come back and talk about it again when you've managed to actually unlock all the content. I doubt you've realized that it takes over 500 hours to get all of it unlocked. That's not an exaggeration.
  • You haven't played Gran Turismo 5, haven't you? That's all I have to say. Cheers!
  • Or Need for Speed Shift series, or any of the real racing games, but especially Gran Turismo.
  • I'll play the freemium version all day to unlock the next car, no need to complete in-app purchases for me. I love this type of model; as long as it doesn't hinder the ability to beat the game or be annoying with the popups.
  • That's really the problem with this game. It doesn't encourage you to play, it encourages you NOT to play. Most of your time will be spent not racing. If I wanted to not race, I'd play Angry Birds.
  • I don't mind the pricing model, but the prices are WAY to expensive. I'll be playing it for free till I can't anymore, and then just deleting it because the prices are just plain too high. A $99 option? Are they freaking crazy? Top should be $10 which is still double what the app should cost.
  • I love that a new racing game comes out just as I've finished the last one (NFS:MW). Freemium just means a slower, more strategic building of your stable of cars, and some repeat tracks. Loving it. Only wish I could share cars & achievements/money across devices & platforms. {Jonathan}
  • I go back and forth between this game and NFSMW. I hate the waiting on this game but I love the graphics. The game play is too slow compared to NFSMW tho.
  • The price point is the problem. The in-app purchases are incredibly pricey. And the waiting for a purchase is totally unnecessary. Geez, why don't we sit through a closing meeting, and sign documents, and pay for car insurance, too?
  • This game looks awesome but the only problem is... its says my Samsung g3, Droid Razr and Nexus 7...Are there any hacks or mods that would enable me to get this running on one of my devices?? seems kind of pointless to develop a game yet not have it work on some of the most popular phones...thxn Android Central Rules
  • I downloaded a mod which gives you 999,999,999 money and gold so i have the whole game unlocked and all cars and upgraded
  • This is my problem with this model. I have no problem at all paying a reasonable price for a good game. With a game like this that (if comments above are accurate) costs $500 or so to play without delays, we're encouraged to crack it.
  • Just sell me a complete game with none of this buy as you go crap! Who ever invented this kind of @#$% need to seriously rot in gamer, geek, nerd, selfish bastard hell.
    "Developers need the revenue" is the rally cry. Well I need money too and I'm asked to shell out money out for a incomplete game? NO just make a complete game and sell it to me for say 10 bucks and I would buy it hell I may buy it for 20 bucks, but if this is the new way of selling games then they the Freemium vultures not gamestop is killing the video game market, you can still make money by selling a WHOLE game! its been proven and its a fact.
  • This game seems to have been engineered to maximize inconvenience. I've had this game for a few days now. I'm up to level 12, and I've dropped $10 into the game to get a few extra cars and events. Hopefully I can give anyone interested in downloading a quick idea of what their experience may be like. I decided to pay $10 because if this game were not based on the freemium model, it would probably be priced around there. I at least justify it that way. I really decided to put money into the game because it was such bullshit without other cars. However, to my surprise, the experience does not dramatically improve with more/better cars. Sure it is fun to rip around in better cars. But the game is still the same. I will say it again: This game seems to have been engineered to maximize inconvenience. In every cup event, which is the majority of events you play, you are positioned in 20th place and you have 3 laps to make it to 1st. You don't get to 1st in 3 short laps by driving perfectly. You get there by forcing your way to the top, and with this comes the inconvenience. Your car requires servicing/repairs, and as your cars get progressively better, the servicing/repairs get progressively more expensive (not to mention the time it makes you wait for them to be completed - Are the F'ing kidding me?). Do you think you will ever be able to afford the super cars, the cars you want to drive, in the game? If you use the unlimited money cheat, sure, but you sure the hell will never be interested in this game long enough to *exceptionally slowly* build a legit fortune to purchase just one of them. My advice: download the game, but get the unlimited money hack. The IAP are ridiculously priced, and spending the money doesn't stop the game from inconveniencing you... it just changes the cars it inconveniences you with. I feel like an idiot for spending money on this game.
  • I did exactly what you did, put $10, to be consistent with Real Racing 2 original price (yeah the developers deserves this). but completely agree with your other comments. Delaying tactic will keep you into the game for long, but how many people will actually be able to keep that much patience needs to be seen (without spending additional $ or cracking the product).
  • this is one of the best racing game. Download this game and other top free game at