When the first Gear.Club Unlimited arrived on Switch it was in a class of its own, thanks to being the only serious racing game on the system. I was fairly happy with how it turned out, too, despite the obvious concessions to the original mobile version. Although the Switch Racing scene isn’t that much more crowded now, I still had higher hopes for Eden Games’ sequel.
So now here we are with Gear.Club Unlimited 2. A game worked on for Switch from the ground up and promising bigger courses, better graphics and a much wider set of races. Does it deliver? In some ways, yes, but it’s not all smooth driving.
The start of the game gives nothing away. You’re stuck in a Mini for quite a while, playing through a story where you, as a test driver, get bumped up to a full on racer after the driver fails to appear for the first race. It just so happens that your dad is head of the team, too. It’s a bit of stuff and nonsense as far as the game goes, the story just isn’t needed to hold what is really just a traditional tournament mode together, but it does no harm either way. What you do notice, though, is that loading times are an absolute nightmare. Two minutes or so between tracks loading really kills the atmosphere before a race. Which is a shame, as the actual races are longer and far more satisfying than in the first game. There’s also a lack of music when you finally get to race, just the sound of your engine humming away as you race. At the end, there’s no replay, it just pops you back to yet another update to the story (via another long loading screen, of course).
The tournament, and subsequent mini-races that open as you make your way through it, take place in varying locations with different scenery and weather that (slightly) affect the handling of your car. It’s a nice touch that adds a little simulation, as does the improved AI, the ability to tinker with your car parts and the feel of each car. However, the rewind feature, which lets you go back to before an incident to start that part again, has no consequences so forces the game to feel more like an arcade racer despite all the new additions. In the end, the game can’t really work out what it wants to be, but it does lean on the simulation front more than any other Switch racer. The best comparison is with the Need for Speed games.
The garage from the first game has been revamped, allowing you more options to adjust the brakes, tyres etc and spray paint your car, as well as adding decals. You build up the bays that allow you to focus on each of these bit by bit as you go through the tournament, though, and it feels like an unnecessary tutorial for each section when it could have just given players the tools to start off with and then explained them as it went along to those who really needed more help. It does, however, feel much better when everything is in place, despite having to annoyingly pick up your car and actually drop it on each bay to work on another area, which just feels like another additional feature that really wasn’t needed.
Gear.Club Unlimited 2 is a frustrating game, it gets so much right and then puts a few annoying design choices in the way to spoil them. For every great race there’s a long loading screen. For each new track there’s a new text-based cut scene and for all the good design decisions there are several cutbacks. I’m still hoping future patches might solve the loading times. If they do then the game will be vastly improved just from this one action, but for now it’s hard to recommend at full price.