Real Racing 3 review: Racing at its finest, but with freemium hitch

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The Good Real Racing 3 improves upon a great racing-game franchise, with beautiful graphics, lifelike physics, upgradable cars, and real-world tracks.

The Bad The freemium model prevents you from racing while your car is upgraded or going through maintenance.

The Bottom Line Even with the freemium model, Real Racing 3 still holds the crown as best racing game on a touch screen.

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8.5 Overall
  • Setup 7
  • Features 9
  • Interface 10
  • Performance 9

Real Racing 3 (iOS | Android) is the best in the popular auto racing series so far, with real-world cars, tight controls, and amazing graphics, but some people still may be turned off by the game's somewhat intrusive freemium model. In fact, this game would have been a CNET Editors' Choice if EA had stuck with the one-time purchase model of the first two games in the series.

Real Racing 3 delivers the most realistic racing experience available on a touch-screen device. Everything from the car models and textures to the lifelike physics as you speed around real-world tracks fully immerses you in the racing experience. You have a number of different control options, including tilting your device to steer or using an onscreen steering wheel.

There are also Driver Assists that help you with steering, traction, and braking into turns if you're worried about the difficulty of the game early on. But as you get used to speeding around the track, you can turn off the assists and rely on your own driving skill.

In Real Racing 3, you need to win races to make in-game cash and earn fame points. The in-game cash (R$) lets you upgrade your current car or buy new cars to qualify for different racing series. Fame points help you gain levels, with cash and gold coin bonuses at each acquired level. With your first car you'll be qualified for the Pure Stock Challenge and the Road Car International, both of which have a series of races you can compete in that include cups, elimination rounds, head-to-head challenges, and even drag races. But to race in the game's many other racing series, you'll need to buy one of the cars featured in the series to unlock it.

Once you've earned enough money, you'll definitely want to upgrade your car, too, because in the later races of each series, your opponents' cars will get faster. Choose from Engine, Drivetrain, Brakes, and Tire upgrades, each of which will give you an edge in your next race.