There are nine minutes to go until the oil in our Focus RS will be changed. We’re going to have to wait, as most of our gold has been ploughed into upgrading the car, while the in-game currency (R$) we’ve had to spend on repairing the damage wrought by creatively aggressive cornering techniques means a second set of wheels is just out of reach. Real racing, it seems, isn’t as glamorous as it looks from the outside.
Of course, there’s always the option to buy more R$, or a car pack, through in-app purchase, but Firemonkeys has done an admirable job of folding those paywalls into the gameplay. Having to keep your car serviced to maintain peak performance strengthens Real Racing’s sim aspirations, while the need to pay for repairs encourages more thoughtful driving and adds a real-world layer of peril to overtaking.
It’s a shame, then, that the driving itself doesn’t live up to the realism found elsewhere. Each car feels different, but handling models lack subtlety. Perhaps unsurprisingly, few of the vehicles are satisfying to drive before you invest in a few upgrades, and the lack of haptic feedback or even manual gears mean EA’s “hyper-real racing” claims ring hollow. Misjudge a corner and the cars’ lack of inertia is revealed – a quick stab of opposite lock and you’ll usually flick back to the racing line like a Scalextric model.
This is a sensitive employment of free-to-play, but despite its presentation and name, Real Racing 3 remains an arcade game in sim clothing, and one hamstrung by its host format. Limitations that keep it firmly in the tail-lights of deeper console experiences.