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Gear.Club Unlimited

Platform(s): Android, Nintendo Switch, iOS
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Microïds
Developer: Eden Games
Release Date: Nov. 21, 2017 (US), Dec. 1, 2017 (EU)


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Switch Review - 'Gear.Club Unlimited'

by Cody Medellin on Nov. 21, 2017 @ 9:00 a.m. PST

Gear.Club Unlimited is much more than a quick adrenaline rush; it is an authentic world of cars. Realistic driving experience, with fully simulated engines, powertrains, suspensions and aerodynamics.

Buy Gear.Club Unlimited

Recent Nintendo consoles haven't been known for racing games. The systems have always had the best kart racing game series in Mario Kart, and the likes of Fast RMX represent futuristic racers, but those seeking more traditional racing with real-world cars have had to deal with shovelware on the Wii and only one game, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, on the Wii U. The arrival of Gear.Club Unlimited on the Nintendo Switch is something special, as it marks the return of more traditional car racing to the Nintendo console family, and it hopefully serves as a harbinger of more titles of this kind in the future. Whether this title is worth checking out, however, remains to be seen.

If you're not familiar with the name, Gear.Club started life as a mobile game. That may set off some alarms, as the mobile space isn't known for producing big racing titles — the Asphalt series notwithstanding. Knowing that the developer is Eden Games may calm some fears, as it has had some console racing game experience in the V-Rally series and the duo of Test Drive Unlimited titles. Gear.Club has been retooled to make up for the lack of microtransactions, but DLC cars are still present for those who want them. The payout for winning races is generous, and gamers can earn a hefty amount of cash for achievements and reaching reward goals, so there's no danger of grinding. Players can easily earn almost all of the cars and a good chunk of upgrades through normal progression.

The presence of DLC cars may be something people want, since the roster is noticeably smaller than the competition's. In fact, the game only has 32 cars and a few manufacturers. Seeing a smaller game go with RUF instead of Porsche is understandable, and having the likes of Alfa Romero and Ford is good, but don't expect other big ones, like Ferrari, Honda or Toyota. At the very least, players can race with some pretty good cars, like the BMW Z4 Roadster and the Nissan GTR Nismo.

The racing itself largely resembles a typical modern arcade racer. You may feel the need to apply the brakes every once in a while, but you can mostly survive on stepping on the gas and leaving it there. Collisions with other racers are fine, but hitting the environment slows you down considerably. There are a few elements that you'd usually find in racing simulators, particularly the Forza Motorsport series. There's an XP system that lets you unlock things as you progress. A racing line is present to provide a better idea of where to go and when to brake. There are also modifiers to assist things like braking, steering and skid control to control the difficulty level. Finally, you can outfit your car with better parts to increase its performance without buying a new ride.

For the most part, the racing is a rather simple affair. Unless you turn off the assists, it doesn't take much effort to overtake the competition and stay in the lead. Opponent AI seems to lack aggression, and you can bowl them over without incurring speed penalties. The tracks are short enough that they'll be over in less than two minutes, which is further amplified when you realize that most of the races only consist of one lap. Unfortunately, there isn't a replay mode, which is a mode that gamers usually enjoy.

The campaign is where a bulk of the gameplay resides, and despite the short nature of the races, the campaign itself is quite lengthy. There are around 400 events; most are standard races, but there are a few rally tracks and time trials. The breezy progression system certainly helps, as there's rarely a time when you'll be stuck replaying a race to obtain the stars needed to unlock the next championship set. Even when you aren't racing, you have a garage to upgrade, which you'll want to do since most of your rewards relate to the garage.

While it provides some decent racing, the campaign feels more at home on the Switch in portable mode than it does in docked mode. The short loading times make the wait times between menus and events go by at a decent clip, but the races feel too short for a sit-down experience. On the go, however, those same races feel more normal, possibly because we're more likely to accept bite-sized experiences away from a standard TV. Determining whether you're more likely to play on the go or at home influences whether this short racing style will work for you.

Multiplayer is where things get interesting. Offline, the game supports four-player split-screen, where you can race with any car and track. It is a rarity to see this feature outside of kart racing games, and it helps that the game performance isn't impacted once you activate this. Online, the game goes for a daily time trial system as opposed to direct online play. Considering the possibility that the audience for this may not support eight-player matches all the time, this is actually a good move. Even if the games are ranked, your placement in each race only increases your rank, and even if this part of the game can feel like a grind, the payouts are significant enough that you won't mind.

Graphically, Gear.Club Unlimited is serviceable. The environments are fine and have decent texture work, but the lack of activity in each locale makes the environments feel sterile. The cars are modeled nicely, but you can still tell the lower polygon work when you see each vehicle up close, and it's also curious that the driver model doesn't move his arms around when turning. The smoke that kicks up when you peel away from the starting line looks decent, but the presence of lens flare is a nice touch when the camera aims at the sun. It all runs at a nice and stable 30 fps. The one knock against the game is the lack of different camera modes. Unless you like racing with the hood camera or having the camera close to the back of the car, you'll be disappointed with the lack of choices.

On the audio side, the game is lively at times and sparse in others. You'll be forgiven for thinking that there's something wrong with your speakers when you start up the game, as the audio refuses to kick in until you reach the track or the campaign's world map. Get past that, and you'll find that the car engines are rendered faithfully, but some other sound effects are muted, such as when you hit the environment or land from a jump. The lack of music in races makes multiplayer sound like a droning affair, which is a shame since the soundtrack is filled with EDM tunes and sounds quite good after races and while browsing menus.

Gear.Club Unlimited is an all-around simple affair. Almost all of the races are short, which is complemented by the very lengthy campaign. The racing is purely arcade in style, and it's more exciting when playing against others instead of against the passive AI. It may not look like a AAA title, but the performance holds up well, and the sense of speed feels right. While not the greatest representation of what a traditional racing game on the Switch should be, Gear.Club Unlimited will hopefully serve as a catalyst to bring more racing titles to the Switch.

Score: 7.0/10

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