Two of the most popular racing games on Android are about to go head to head. Which handles the smoothest? Which has the best engine? Which has the sparkliest paint job? Okay enough of the metaphors, I’m going for a test drive with these Android racing games on our Google Nexus 7 (2013). Let’s take a look…
EA Mobile have a ton or popular Android games under their belt, such as Plants vs Zombies and The Simpsons: Tapped Out. Real Racing 3 is one of the most downloaded racing games on Android, featuring astounding graphics, officially licensed tracks and tons of cars, it offers a true-to-life racing experience.
Gameloft are another huge Android developer, producing titles like the Real Football series and the recently released Modern Combat 5. Asphalt 8: Airborne is the latest addition to their widely popular Asphalt series, focusing more on exotic locations and crazy stunts than the grounded realism of Real Racing.
Real Racing 3
In Real Racing 3 you begin your journey with only one car and no status, and must win competitions to improve both. There are a variety of real-life races to take part in, all but one are locked when you first begin the game, so you are steadily introduced to bigger races and steeper competition as you progress.
There is certainly a lot of content here, each race has a variety of challenges. You earn money and fame by completing each race, and the money awarded allows you to unlock more cars or upgrade your existing ones. Your car needs to be serviced or upgraded from time to time and you must either spend the money awarded from your winnings or from in-app purchases. One means you will have to wait for a few minutes for the repairs to take place and the other is instant. (You can guess which payment method is instant.)
Real Racing is a really comprehensive package, it has leaderboard integration so you can see how your friends are doing and try to beat their high scores, and some great race events like an elimination mode where every twenty seconds the person in last place is eliminated, which adds another layer of excitement to the proceedings.
But some annoying things get in the way. It’s great that Real Racing can offer real cars and locations, but the price structure is crazy. You are often prompted to spend real life cash to fix up your car, and while this may just be the state of free to play games, it’s incredibly cynical that you are almost forced to spend real money to progress. It’s an unneccessary limit that only detracts from the overall experience. Also, I was often prompted to download albeit small updates when I wanted to play certain levels or challenges.
Asphalt 8 throws realism out the window. If you’re familiar with something like the “Burnout” series, you should be right at home with Asphalt 8. It relies on drifting, using turbo boosts, and making jumps to stay ahead of the competition. It is frantic and often exhilarating.
By the 8th iteration of the game you would hope Gameloft know how to make the racing mechanics work, and truthfully the actual racing is fantastic. You get a real sense of speed and drama, crashes feel realistic, the tilt controls work nicely, and blasting through London city streets or the Nevada desert is beautiful. Crashing your car at high speed causes a “wreck”, which happens often. Fortunately, the penalty only takes you of the race for a second or two.
Like Real Racing, you can purchase in game currency or earn it through winning races, but it doesn’t pose quite as significant a threat to your wallet as EA’s offering does. For starters, your vehicles won’t cost you money to be maintained. You are reminded of what you can purchase before every race however.
Asphalt 8 features quite a brutal online experience which worked super-quick, in no time at all I was up and running with other players. It also has some other interesting modes which focus less on simply racing to the finish line, like Knockdown, where you must create more crashes than your competition.
Real Racing 3
EA have done a good job of making the controls feel responsive enough for the tight turns and precise handling necessary to beat your opponents. The brakes and acceleration are already taken care of for you, so all you do is rotate the device in your hand. The races are decided by how well you can master the turns, the controls are all-important, but thankfully EA have delivered in this department. Gesture controls aren’t really my thing, but neither are touch-screens, and while the screen never feels like I have complete control, I was impressed that most of the time it did what it should.
Asphalt 8 handles in a similar way to Real Racing 3 but adds on screen controls for another layer of depth, and difficulty, which I found it hard to manage on the Nexus 7. It’s simple enough in principle, you rotate the device like a steering wheel to turn right and left, but tapping the left side of the screen manages your braek/drift, and tapping the right side uses your "boost". Maybe this will work better on smaller devices, but I often worried I would drop my tablet when trying to avoid on-screen danger.
Real Racing 3
Overall, Real Racing 3 has great presentation and graphics, even if there is a frame rate drop at the start of races or when all the cars are together on-screen. There are a ton of different stages, including some nice city levels, and the car models look really sharp. Realistic physics also ensure damage appears on your car in real-time, with bumpers hanging off and trunks caving in when they become damaged.
Asphalt 8: Airborne houses some of the best graphics I’ve ever seen on a game from the Play Store. Brilliant particle effects, destructable environments and debris, and on-screen facets like lens glare all add to the already great art style. The locations, while fewer than in Real Racing 3, are completely different from each other, and there are a number of cool things going on in the background to distract you, from hot air balloons and planes flying past, to giant robots just hanging out. It's really impressive.
It goes without saying that both of these games can become money guzzlers if you let them, so in the end it depends on whether you favor a realistic driving sim or an arcadey romp. For me, Asphalt 8 has more interesting and exciting minute-to-minute racing. It’s hard to create a realistic feel on an Android device, so Real Racer 3 is already fighting a losing battle. Asphalt 8 also makes success without spending money a little more achievable, and has a better soundtrack too. So I think Asphalt 8: Airborne has pipped Real Racing 3 to the post.
Have you played either of these Android racing games yet?