Gear.Club Unlimited (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Tomas Barry 21.11.2017

Review for Gear.Club Unlimited on Nintendo Switch

With the release of Gran Turismo Sport, Forza Motorsport 7 and Project Cars 2, it's fair to say that the PS4, Xbox One and PC have all received a healthy dose of driving titles for this year. Nintendo Switch owners, on the other hand, have had quite a limited selection so far. While the likes of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and FAST RMX are fantastic arcade experiences, real world racing fans, looking for a more grounded thrill, have been somewhat neglected up until now. That's where Eden Games come in, responsible for some historically significant titles, such as V-Rally on the PSone and Test Drive Unlimited on the Xbox 360, the latter of which introduced petrol heads to open world mechanics. In more recent times, the studio has gravitated toward mobile platforms, and Gear.Club Unlimited is an improved version of Gear.Club, which first released on Apple TV, iOS and Android back in 2016.

For any racer with an emphasis on realism, the handling model and its versatility can often make or break the experience overall. It needs to be friendly enough to keep the more casual fans engaged, with driving assists that are scalable to suit individual needs, whilst not allowing those elements to compromise drivers seeking an experience on the more serious side of the spectrum. In this respect, it's mostly good news. Gear.Club Unlimited features a decent amount of options, five notches of scalability for braking, anti-skid and steering assistance. It's also possible to turn off the racing line, although due to limited camera perspectives (behind the car and above the bonnet - particularly when playing in handheld mode) it may be tempting to leave it on. These options help players of varying skill levels compete together, although it must be said that switching everything off hardly leads to an ultra realistic drive that's comparable to Forza Motorsport 7 or Grand Turismo Sport on the equivalent settings.

Screenshot for Gear.Club Unlimited on Nintendo Switch

In this respect, it is a bit of a mixed bag. Gear.Club Unlimited deserves praise for the core of its physics engine, which encourages a measured approach towards cornering. This is not a Ridge Racer type-affair, where you can fly through every bend, never considering easing up and engaging the brakes. Even with the maximum of driving assists engaged, a careful approach is necessary to succeed. Drivers are rewarded for good anticipation, and for trying their best to hit the apex appropriately. In addition, the rally stages, which are unlocked after a little progression in career mode, require players to be mindful of elements like weight transfer, providing an additional sense of challenge.

However, while the car physics can feel quite sophisticated in passing moments, there are a lot of shortcomings, which will annoy those who prefer a sim experience. Scraping against a wall often, for instance, chalks off an unrealistic amount of pace, which is more irritating because the AI drivers have a knack for showing you the space and then closing it down, leading to plenty of costly moments. In general, in fact, the AI drivers do not seem to react to your presence appropriately at all. They turn in on each other, and on the player, and generally put the driver on edge in the wrong way. This is also not helped by the fact that when using the hood camera, you can't check your left and right.

Screenshot for Gear.Club Unlimited on Nintendo Switch

Then there are the shortcomings due to hardware. The major restrictive issue is the lack of analogue triggers, meaning drivers can't ease up on the throttle gradually or apply just a touch of the brakes. It essentially means that many scenarios must be navigated with a series of micro-adjustments, rather than one dynamic and reactive process, since brake and gas application and reduction seems to happen gradually, no matter what the context. This takes away a great deal of control and intuition from the driver, and there's no way of getting around this. It's slightly improved by using manual transmission, but still this issue strikes far too frequently. It's probably half the reason the rewind feature is there, which is a shame.

In addition to the lack of analogue gas and brake application (a hardware issue, which is out of the developer's control), Eden Games missed a trick with the HD rumble, which is disappointingly light and devoid of enhanced detail, especially considering the issues described above; feedback that successfully conveyed over-steer and under-steer (and the difference between them) could have been a saving grace. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case. In handheld mode, the analogue is so twitchy there's a tendency to over correct, so that often the desired small adjustment ends up becoming a chain of overzealous reactions. Playing in TV mode with a Pro Controller, it doesn't fare much better. Since half the joy of realistic racing games is in sensing and calculating one's way out of trouble, these issues in combination really work against the fluidity of the experience. If one accepts Gear.Club Unlimited as an arcade experience, it's a small problem, since applying enough car upgrades lessens the severity of these problems, but for those expecting more realism, these things somewhat hold back the experience.

Screenshot for Gear.Club Unlimited on Nintendo Switch

The best aspect of Gear.Club Unlimited is its range of cars and customisation. Over thirty real world motors can be purchased, ranging from vehicles like the Alfa Romeo 4C and Nissan 370Z, to the Lotus Elise and McLaren P1. While the big racing series certainly have more choice, there's no doubt that there's a pleasing array on offer here, which Eden Games intends to expand in the future with DLC. Credits come thick and fast, not just earned from races themselves, but a constantly updating checklist as different race classes and objectives in the career mode are ticked off. This means that the next ear-marked car never feels too far out of reach, and since the car upgrade system is so surprisingly deep, there's a great sense of variety and flexibility to the system overall. It should also be noted that the car models are extremely impressive, with detailed interiors, as well as exteriors, which can be examined further when in the garage.

Speaking of which, Gear.Club Unlimited also features an interesting take on the upgrade side of things. Using credits earned in-game, players gradually expand the garage with workshops for each specific aspect of car management. Players will start off with just a little bit of real estate, enough for a Level 1 mechanic and cosmetic workshop, but before long the warehouse will be four times the size, with upgradable areas for everything from tyres and suspension, to a rally workshop. Initially, this might feel a little overwhelming, but once up-to-speed with the process, it's a clever and very rewarding aspect of the experience. The only real issue with it is that it sometimes feels a little cumbersome, because the button mapping system is rather confusing and, just as in the main career menu, it sometimes lags and is slow to respond. Hopefully, the Day One patch addresses this.

Screenshot for Gear.Club Unlimited on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Gear.Club Unlimited is a fun but flawed experience. It's disappointing that races come in such a short-burst form, lasting for only one or two laps, and around two minutes at most. While this does make it an excellent candidate to fire up whilst on the bus or on-the-go, when playing in TV mode, this structure means that the fun can be altogether too fleeting. Graphically, it's quite pleasing in handheld mode, but it doesn't exactly look fantastic when docked, where the textures look much muddier and less impressive. The career mode certainly offers a lot of variety and depth - even including an online league - and there is also a four-player multiplayer, which provides plenty of entertainment and performs admirably. However, the actual driving experience, in too many ways, seems quite wide of the mark. As a mobile experience, it's okay, but this is not the Switch's answer to Forza and Gran Turismo.

Developer

Eden Games

Publisher

Microids

Genre

Driving

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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