Following an earlier launch in certain regions, EA's Real Racing 3 is now available to download for Android and iOS worldwide. The original Real Racing was one of the first titles to prove the iPhone's worth as a credible gaming platform, and the series has been a mobile mainstay ever since. Real Racing 3 continues that trend with improved graphics, a huge amount of content, and the same trademark control system, but there's one major difference this time around — it's free.
In-app purchases permeate every facet of 'Real Racing 3'
There's a catch, of course: in-app purchases permeate every facet of Real Racing 3's existence. With each race your car sustains damage, drains oil, wears out its tires, and so on, and you need to pay in-game currency to fix these issues if you don't want to be left behind on the track. This currency is doled out in meagre amounts when you place high in an event, or you can buy more with real-world money.
But it doesn't stop there — once you upgrade or service your vehicle, up pops a countdown timer of a few minutes that you're encouraged to skip with another form of currency, which is even scarcer than the first. If you don't have the money — virtual or real — your only recourse is to quit the game and wait for a push notification to let you know that the work has been carried out.
It's a shame, because the game itself could be great. It features some of the most impressive mobile graphics we've ever seen, the list of cars and courses is endless, and the way it integrates your friends' lap times into your races for a pseudo-multiplayer experience makes it all the more immersive. The problem is that it all just feels so cheapened by the business model; while it's possible to play the game a little each day without forking out money, and it's not quite as egregious as Square Enix's recent exploits, the constant nagging for cash grates. What happened to unlocking game content through skill?
Anyone looking for a deep experience will likely feel ripped off
Real Racing 2 found success with a $2 million budget and a fair $9.99 price point, but spending the same amount on its sequel wouldn't get you nearly as much content — the "Race Car Booster Pack" costs that much alone, for example, but contains just one car, two events, and 65 pieces of virtual gold to spend on speedy repairs. Although it's not necessarily surprising from EA, who this week said it would be adopting microtransactions across all of its games, it's certainly disappointing to see the model spread to its formerly "premium" titles. Some may be grateful that an impressive game has been offered with no upfront cost, but anyone looking for a deep experience will likely feel ripped off.