Gear.Club Unlimited Review | Not perfect, but still a blast

Nintendo isn’t exactly known for hosting high-quality racing sims. Many people own a Playstation or an Xbox just to play “Gran Turismo” or “Forza Motorsport.” The most a Nintendo system usually gets is a new Mario Kart game and a couple of “Need for Speed” ports, fun but very arcade-like experiences. Eden Games, the developer behind the “V-Rally” and “Test Drive Unlimited” franchises, is hoping to change that with “Gear.Club Unlimited” for the Nintendo Switch. It nearly gets there, too.

“Gear.Club Unlimited” is based off the mobile game of the same name and is published by Microids. That lineage both helps and hurts the end product, especially when considering the platform. The dual nature of the Switch lends itself to both quick, bite-sized games or longer play sessions. Most of the races on “Gear.Club Unlimited” are just a lap or two long, lasting roughly a minute, give or take. It’s a different style than the simulation rally stages in V-Rally or the open-world gameplay of “Test Drive Unlimited.” The format makes it super easy to pick up for a few minutes, but it makes the entire racing experience more arcade than racing sim and doesn’t keep you invested for very long.

Still, there’s a lot of game here and a long single-player campaign. There are hundreds of races on various tracks and surfaces, including a good bit of rally, though no real-world locations are present. Eden Games did a great job making each surface feel different, even if the tracks layouts themselves just feel like variations on variations of the same several configurations. Cars react differently if you put a wheel into the grass or when on loose dirt on a rally stage. It’s far better than I was expecting for a port of a mobile game.

While each car does drive differently, the actual gameplay is a far cry from what you get with “Forza” or “Gran Turismo.” You feel the difference between a front and mid-engine car. Same for front, rear and all-wheel drive. That said, the steering is twitchy and the cars have a tendency to oversteer. Braking is inconsistent and doesn’t seem to scrub as much speed as you would expect, even after packing in some upgrades. Often the quickest way through a corner is to downshift, press the handbrake button and drift.

The biggest issue isn’t the fault of the game so much as the Switch. The controller doesn’t have analog trigger buttons, meaning the signal is simply on or off. That’s not good for racing sims. There’s no way to gradually feed power out of a corner or knock off a bit of speed with a light press of a button. It’s either full gas or full brakes which only puts the game further in the arcade category.

There’s a lot more than just racing here, and that’s where this game really shines. The RPG-esque gameplay allows you to gain points and levels, opening up more cars and customization options. The car list isn’t massive, but it does have relatively new models from Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Chevy, Ford, Lotus, McLaren, and more. Eden Games even went down the old Gran Turismo route and used products from Ruf rather than Porsche.

The cars themselves are all rendered in impressive detail, far better than you might expect for a Switch game. There are smooth edges and nice lighting on the models, though the reflections and finish still look a little artificial. Because the cars look so good, it makes them fun to customize and upgrade. The sound isn’t perfect, but you won’t mistake a high-revving Lotus for a burly American V8.

There are plenty of ways to modify your car and your garage. You can upgrade engines, suspension, wheels, tires, brakes, aero, and just about any other performance part. There’s not much in the way of fine tuning, but the differences are mostly discernible. Visual upgrades include wheels, body kits, and paint. A lot of it is locked away, but it’s relatively easy to earn enough points.

Altering your garage proved surprisingly fun in the same way decking a house out in The Sims is enjoyable. You can arrange your paint booth, tire bay, suspension bay, and more along a grid pattern. In addition, you can add things like chairs, TVs, and vending machines to make your digital garage the lounge space you’ve always dreamed of. Most of the items are cheap and credits are easy to win through races, so you never really have to compromise between buying a car or buying upgrades for your garage.

“Gear.Club Unlimited” is a bit of a mixed bag. There’s a lot here, especially for the $ 44.99 price. That’s less than Mario Kart or most other first-party Switch games. It’s a lot of fun, too, if you don’t expect too much out of it. It’s not a good racing sim in the same vein as Forza or Gran Turismo, but it is a pretty good arcade racer. Once I reset my standards and just focused on that style of gameplay with real cars and lots of custom options, I had more fun. Sure, there are better racing games out there, but the only other game that offers the option to play on the go is Mario Kart.

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