Valentine’s Day comes early: Real Racing 3 hits New Zealand, Australia

Today is a big day for iOS gamers as Electronic Arts launches the third installment in its popular Real Racing franchise. The game was originally scheduled for February 28 release so it wasn’t clear why Electronic Arts decided to post it today, but we’re not complaining even though the game initially launched in the New Zealand and Australia App Store.

The good news don’t end here: as promised, Real Racing 3 is a free download with some unaggressive in-app purchases, a major strategic shift for Electronic Arts which typically prices its most recent iOS games between $5 and $10.

It’s a massive download: you will need to have up to two gigabytes of free space on your device to install Real Racing 3, but Electronic Arts swears “it’s worth it”

At post time, the game was available from the App Stores in New Zealand and Australia.

It isn’t clear whether the game is set to officially launch in the United States today or on February 28, but rest assured we’ll update the post with the US link in either case.

Real Racing 3 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 001)

The game features the new new Mint 3 Engine which delivers persistent car damage, fully functioning rear view mirrors and dynamic reflections for a super-enhanced racing reality.

Here’s the full list of features:

Real cars
Featuring Real Racing’s largest roster of cars yet, don’t miss our new manufacturers like Porsche, Lamborghini, Dodge, Bugatti, and Audi. Take the wheels of over 45 intensely detailed racers and test your skills on an authentic 22-car race grid – for the first time on mobile.

Real tracks
In another first for the Real Racing series, burn rubber on a full lineup of real tracks in multiple configurations from top locations around the world, including Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Silverstone, Hockenheimring, and many more.

Real people
Like nothing you’ve seen before, our innovative new Time Shifted Multiplayer™ lets you race anyone, anytime – even if they’re offline! Every career event is filled with fully interactive, AI-controlled time-shifted versions of your Game Center or Facebook friends, as well as other players from around the world.

More choices than ever
Compete in over 900 events like cup races, eliminations, endurance challenges, and drag races. Upgrade your car parts to maximize performance. See the action through a variety of camera angles and fine-tune the controls to your personal preference.

The premier racing experience
Powered by the remarkable new Mint™ 3 Engine, Real Racing 3 features persistent car damage, fully functioning rear view mirrors, and dynamic reflections for a super-enhanced racing reality. Enjoy a rich, next-gen game with the most advanced cross-platform social and competitive racing community ever. Real Racing 3 delivers it all.

And two more screenies.

Real Racing 3 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 002)

Real Racing 3 1.0 for iOS (iPad screenshot 003)

The eye-candy is best enjoyed on newer devices, like the iPad 3/4 or iPhone 5, though Real Racing 3 is also compatible with the iPhone 4/4S, fourth-gen iPod touch and iPad 2. You will have to run iOS 4.3 or later to play the game.

If you’ve already tried Real Racing 3, do share your hands-on impressions with fellow readers down in the comments.