(Pocket-lint) - We've long been fans of Real Racing 3. Since the launch of Firemonkeys' premium racing title, we've been putting in the hours, spending more time in this game than perhaps any other previously.
There have been several updates to the title, which is part of the reason it's remained fresh, but this most recent, hiding under the banner of adding prestige cars from Mercedes-Benz and Bentley, is the largest update yet: literally a game changer.
There are new races, new cars, but more importantly, a redesign to the game's interface that makes the progressive nature of the levels more apparent. The newsfeed-style vertical listing has changed to horizontal, the cups you've won in races are better depicted and there's a change to the way you progress through things. Since the update, we've been back to improve old races, because the interface makes it easier to see where you can improve.
There has been a tweak to servicing and damage too. Whereas previously you'd arrive at the end of a race and have to part with R$ to repair the damage you'd incurred, now there's a clean racing bonus: complete a race without smashing your car up and you'll be rewarded for it.
On the servicing front, you now have a single bar that degrades to tell you when you need to service the car. Rather than being able to select just the tyres or suspension, for example, it's all rolled together. Unfortunately, that means that by the time you absolutely have to service your car, you're going to hit the full wait, perhaps of a couple of hours.
In that sense, some of the factors that some gamers didn't like, still persist. There's still the hybrid system of using R$ to buy and repair cars, and gold is needed to make some of the final updates to cars, which we think is a little unfair, as gold takes a long time to accrue.
What irks more is that in some cases you'll need a lot of gold to buy some of the best cars. It seems almost impossible to win that amount through sheer gameplay, so it feels as though getting the Porsche 918 RAR Concept (at 150 gold) is impossible without buying the gold with real cash, which would cost you £13.99.
There's now a repeat play bonus, so you'll earn more if you play on consecutive days. But there's also another currency in Real Racing 3 called Drive.
With the introduction of new time trial races, which is a great way to directly compete against friends' lap times, you have to have to have Drive points to compete. That's to stop you just doing time trials all the time. The initial maximum is set at two Drive points, meaning you can only do two time trials before having to wait to accrue more Drive.
You can buy it with gold, as well as increase the maximum Drive points you can have with a big hit of gold, but again, that plays into the hands of the freemium critics: time trial is a great new feature but the limitations puts something of a stranglehold on it.
That aside, we love the additions. Real Racing 3 remains one of our favourite titles, but now feels like it guides you into doing what the developers originally intended - and that's racing in lots of different cars, in lots of different events, rather than just trying to follow one single line.
At the same time, those who criticised the freemium approach won't be appeased. For us that's not been a problem, it just means you have to put in more time and accumulate more trophies to get the most out of the game without spending any real money.