If you’re a fan of realistic racers, 2017 has been quite the year. From Project Cars 2 through to Forza Motorsport 7 and the return of Gran Turismo. But, with none of the above available on Nintendo Switch it's up to the likes of Gear.Club Unlimited from developer Eden Games and publisher Microids to fill that sizable gap on the portable meets home console.
A gap in the shape of a realistic racing game with cars from popular makers of automobiles like BMW, Lotus, Ford, and so forth. It has been a stellar year for the Switch in terms of both exclusives, indie titles, and ports of classic games from recent years. But, even with the arrival of Gear.Club Unlimited, there’s still room for a good realistic racer.
Which is a shame because Eden Games has quite the pedigree of talent – with the French studio behind many of the great V-Rally games from generations past. The issues with Gear.Club Unlimited are many, but ultimately come down to the fact that it’s essentially a supped-up version of a mobile game – repurposed for Nintendo’s latest console.
This means races generally take only a minute or two to complete, progression is a little grind-y in the sheer number of races on offer, and visually it’s a far cry from Forza on the Xbox 360. Yeah, outside of the serviceable car models this isn’t going to impress. And where playing games like DOOM or Mario Kart 8 shine in handheld mode based purely on the fact that they can be played that way, Gear.Club Unlimited doesn’t look any different to any number of mobile racers available today.
Okay, so that might be a little negative right out of the gate. Where Gear.Club does succeed is in how it successfully translates the progression of a microtransaction-filled mobile experience to a full-priced game. It’s simple really, and that translation means more money an XP earned after each race. Resulting in you being able to buy new vehicles and upgrade those already in your garage quite easily. It's strange but this aspect never feels grind-y, and the levelling and garage system is quite detailed and well designed.
It’s just that there seems to be way more races than there are track variations – a balance that results in racing the same locations for quite sometime before a new environment or track is introduced. Although nice for a press release, boasting over 400 races can also be detriment. Quantity never trumps quality. Also, with only 32 or so cars split across different classes, 400 races seems like a bit much.
Again, as a racing game that began as a mobile title most of the races can be completed in a minute or two. This is perhaps one of Gear.Club’s biggest faults, because it leads to the impression that overall, you’re spending more time in the menus, garage, and loading screens than actually racing. Not that the racing itself is anything special, and even though there are assist settings for braking and traction, even with everything turned off Gear.Club feels more like an arcade racer than a sim. In that the cars never really feel like they’re on the track and they generally tend to handle unrealistically when cornering.
The not-that-great frame-rate doesn’t help matters either.
On the plus side Gear.Club for Nintendo Switch does offer split-screen racing, but again the core racing isn’t all that fun. The best bits are outside of the racing, collecting and upgrading cars, and remodeling and arranging your garage. Which, in case you were wondering, isn’t a good thing for a, you know, racing game.