Monday, March 4, 2013

Real Racing Revs A Competitive Edge

Real Racing 3
Not everyone was thrilled when Electronic Arts (EA) swooped in to acquire Firemint, a developer that found its Real Racing series frequently outpaced EA's Hot Pursuit series as one of the most loved racers on handhelds. Most people were afraid that the beauty of Real Racing would quickly disappear.

It didn't, mostly. What EA did instead was merge Firemint with Iron Monkey to make Firemonkeys, the new Australia development team responsible for creating the first free-to-play entry in the Real Racing line. Real Racing 3 is an entertaining addition, even with the introduction of new in-game economics, time delay deliveries and repairs, and semi-real friend competition.

Maybe it's best to get the setbacks out of the way.

There have always been two sides to the freemium business model sported by some handheld games. Some people loudly hate it. Some people quietly love it. And the reception that freemium software developers experience is always a crap shoot — wildly successful or painfully short-lived.

Here's the reality of it. On any given day, most of the top ten grossing apps on Google Play and in Apple's Appstore are freemium games. So despite pushback against the concept, too many people are willing to shell out $100 for in-game purchases (or more), even if a paid version valuation of the same game (no in-game purchases) is probably less than $10.

Although many Real Racing fans would prefer a one-time premium game price as opposed to freemium, EA makes a genuine effort to strike the middle ground. It's possible to play EA freemium Real Racing 3 without having to make in-game purchases if you are willing to progress at a less than prideful pace. Not all developers are nearly fair; most make in-game purchases semi-mandatory.

In this case, in-game economics drive the decision. After any given race, drivers will have to use some of their winnings to maintain and improve their vehicles. This includes repairs for damages that occur during the race, routine maintenance like oil changes and new tires, and upgrades to gain an edge.

None of the game economics are unreasonable (especially if players are smart about it), making the free play possible. What might be a little less appreciated is the real-time waiting periods for upgrades and services (incidental repairs are instant). You can spend gold, the game's second and harder-to-come by currency, to eliminate wait times. But if you do, you might be passing up other perks later in the game.

Finally, Real Racing 3 has the promise of real players via Apple's inventive asynchronous multiplayer mode. The time-shifted multiplayer feature allows one friend to race and challenge a second friend one day, and then allow the second friend the chance to race the next day. In other words, racers don't race their friends as much as they race friend "doubles" based on Game Center or Facebook friends who also own the game. It's almost cool, unless you want to race them in real time.

The allure of Real Racing 3 remains mostly the same. 

Although the review invests more room on the setbacks more than the successes, it's largely because the allure of Real Racing hasn't changed much. The beauty of the game has always been associated with its gorgeous design and an intuitive interface.

This time out, EA added additional high performance manufacturers —Audi, Bugatti, Lamborghini, and Porsche — to create a slate of 46 race-worthy cars. As players progress and save some race winnings, they can purchase additional vehicles for their fleet.

Real Racing 3
All of the tracks are modeled after their real-life counterparts — places like Mazda Laguna Seca, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Silverstone, Hockenhemring, Indianapolis, and others. While races can include an immersive 22-car grid, there are several race variations — a combination of styles developed by both development teams. They include drag races, head-to-head races, elimination rounds, fastest times, and fastest speeds.

If you aren't playing with friends, the game will select random players from the Game Center (or Facebook, if you connect the game to your social network) to act as clones. The players selected are generally picked because they are have comparative skills. The only downside is that EA games always gives players the last position in the race (as opposed to affording them qualifying times).

Real Racing 3 Speeds Ahead At 6.7 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

As far as play tips, always make repairs and take care of maintenance first. It's hard to finish in a paid position with a damaged car. As you accumulate more money, invest in upgrades to boost performance and avoid the temptation to waste gold on wait times.

Eventually, wait times won't matter because you will be able to toggle between cars. Likewise, don't count on upgrades to give you a maximum advantage. You'll have to drop some driver assists, allowing you to barrel through corners faster (among other things).

The bottom line? It's fun and free (unless you choose to fuel it). You can download Real Racing 3 from iTunes. You can also get exclusive deals at Origin powered by EA Games, including other race titles and console game releases. Worst case, you can always delete the game after a few races.
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