Real Racing 3 should just marry my iPad, since it's the only game my device will see for the next several weeks. The title has been receiving its share of knocks from reviewers who are maddeningly frustrated due to its freemium model. Hours into Real Racing 3, and the game has yet to cost me a dime. All you need, as Axl Rose once whined, is just a little patience.

For racing and gaming enthusiasts who love to stick it out to the end, there are 45 cars that will speed through numerous officially licensed tracks. The graphics are, if you haven't already seen previous development videos or trailers, absolutely stunning. Excellent graphics and a choice of real cars are all fine and dandy, but what takes Real Racing 3 into its own stratosphere lies in its successful use of its free-to-play philosophy. Before I make my argument for this controversial topic, take a look at my Ford Focus before its sheet white paint job.

Players receive in-game currency, and the cash increases the higher one finishes a race. Currency is needed to repair and upgrade the vehicles, and performing such actions will actually take up several minutes of your time. If you want to bypass all those minutes and finish the job immediately, you'll need to cough up a few gold coins. Unfortunately, the gold coins are scarce, and are mainly given during your level ups, whereas repairs are needed after most races. If you're impatient and want your race to start now and your repairs and upgrades to be finished within two seconds, you'll eventually have to purchase gold with your real money. Although waiting to get your car fixed or upgraded is frustrating, especially if time isn't on your side, Real Racing 3's solid game play actually has me open to spending a little cash. Free to play is great for a forgettable app that I delete within twenty minutes, but if it's a game that's worth its salt, my money is their money! Besides, this Race Car Booster special is a steal!

If you're smarter than I am and decide not to spend any money, there is one way to maximize your time as well as hold on to your real life currency. Once you accrue enough in game cash to purchase another car, buy it! When one car is in the shop, you can enter the other vehicle in another race. If both of your cars need some time to heal, then just kill time.

A camera feature enables you to check out your car from all angles, so that should kill at least half a minute. My Ford Focus, even with a new paint job, looks gnarly after most races.

As for Game Center junkies, there are 65 achievements to unlock, so by the time you've mapped out which goals need to be met, chances are the repairs will almost be done. All of the time you'll spend waiting for races, in the end, is worth it. Especially when the race itself, no matter what the track, is a pure adrenaline rush.

The time shifted multiplayer is one of the game's biggest selling points, as you can race against your friends even if they're actually not on their device. The game applies their Real Racing 3 performance times and applies them to your respective race. If you have a bunch of friends on Facebook or through Game Center, you'll be up against them on most of your races. If you're a lonely heart like me, you'll be bumping up against random online players who probably don't give a damn if you finish last.

Tilting your device to navigate your car is easy and refreshingly seamless in Real Racing 3. Tapping the screen gives you breaking ability, but since this title is all about speed, most of your physical activity will deal with tilting. With respect to smart phone gamers, Real Racing 3, with its sublime attention to visual detail and smooth controls, is absolutely perfect for the iPad. A touch steering wheel and manual brake that appears on your device is another control option if you want to use your fingers or if you want to choose the more inferior method of driving your car. The choice is yours.

Even though I love the time shifted multiplayer feature and the free to play spirit behind Real Racing 3, my most gratifying moments lie when there is an open road ahead of me, with the closest racer far behind my rear view, vanishing off into the distance.

Real Racing 3, with its myriad of upgrades and tracks, is proof that an iOS title can match up with some of the better console titles out there. The look and feel of the game is absolutely on the money, even if it's a free to play title. Actually, whether or not it's a free download will be a moot point down the road, especially after Real Racing 3 runs over its detractors and crosses the finish line.


App Store Link: Real Racing 3 for iPhone & iPad | By Electronic Arts | Price: Free | Version: 1.0.2 | 716 MB  | Rating 4+

8.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating