Gear Club Unlimited 2
Reviewed by Shaun (@reviewsbyhughes)
Developer: Eden Games
Category: Racing, Simulation
Release Date: 04.12.2018
I had three key questions upon loading Gear Club Unlimited 2 for the first time. Have the developers:
- Sorted the rather poor and unresponsive handling of the first one?
- Made graphical improvements upon the original?
- Taken full advantage of the capabilities of the Nintendo Switch?
These three pertinent points will be discussed in our review of Gear Club Unlimited 2 here at The Switch Effect.
From the humble beginnings of Gear Club on iOS and Android in 2014, Eden Games developed and Microids published Gear Club Unlimited. Seemingly an expansion upon the original free-to-play driving sim, Gear Club Unlimited sought to capitalize on the lack of racing simulators available on Nintendo’s hybrid console. Suffering from the tarnished brush that splashes ‘port’ across all that it touches, Eden Games’ efforts were met with mixed reviews, whisperings of failed potential, and concerns over its price point. In the year that has passed since their initial release, Eden Games and Microids have looked to right the wrongs of the original and have now released Gear Club Unlimited 2.
Beginning this review with what, for me, was the most pressing concern for GCU2, I will discuss the driving mechanics. In any racing simulator, arcade or not, the manner with which the car holds the road, behaves, and responds to player input is the most important element. The greatest scenery, the most impressive list of cars or multiple game modes cannot mask the fact that if a car doesn’t handle as it should, it very quickly becomes unplayable. My personal experience of the original GCU was one where: I played it for quite some time, had some time away when other games took my intere upon my return, I could not get back into it. Try as I might, I just could not play it.
Reflecting now, I believe it is because when the game first released, I was willing it to be better than it was so that I had a great driving game for my shiny new Switch.
Thankfully, it gives me great pleasure to report that this has been addressed. Although a long way from the realistic driving simulators of Forza and DriveClub, the cars in GCU2 are great to handle – most of the time. The cars stick to the road well, are responsive to deft touches of the joy-cons and braking has seen a vast improvement – most of the time. There are occasions where it doesn’t seem to do what is requested, although my experiences with this were few and far between.
Equally as impressive are the upgrades available – the same as those seen in the original – as they have a noticeable impact on how your car handles and how well you compete against the other racers. This was the most important question of the three I started this review with, and I am happy to see it has been improved.
Forging a career
I always felt the original GCU had a lot on offer in its’ career mode. From the different car categories, to the variety of tracks, and the plethora of car manufacturers available, I was right at home forging my own career and I am here too. I predominantly spend most of my playing time in the career mode of driving games, and GCU2 offers many different race modes that we have come to expect from the racing genre. Time Trials, Eliminations and your run-of-the-mill race are all present here, and each is well-placed so as not to make it tiresome or mundane. To achieve the elusive 100% completion of the career mode will take quite some time and it provides excellent content and replayability.
As well as the excellent content on offer, earning credits from winning races and using these to modify my current car or purchase a new motor that was most appealing in the Showroom is as rewarding as ever. Second on my list of questions was the graphics, and the cars available look detailed and pleasing to the eye. I also like the enhancements made to the tracks themselves, with each setting having its own personality and presenting its own challenges. For example, changing to rally tyres for an event was welcomed and kept the game varied and interesting.
Outside of the career mode, the game offers one other item on its main menu: multiplayer. Playable either locally or online, you can take the racing to the competition and test your metal against true competition. The clue is in the name with the ‘split screen’ option, and allows for up to 4 players in a race at any one time. The other mode available at the time of review is ‘Club and Leagues.’ Here, you can either join or create your own club and participate in a league, completing daily challenges against players from around the world to compete for points. At the end of each day, your points are tallied and totaled on the leaderboard. In the races I competed in, I raced against the ghost cars of others and it was a smooth enough experience with the loading of the ghost cars etc. to make it a pleasant inclusion.
2 steps forward, 1 step back…
Unfortunately, much like the original, Gear Club Unlimited 2 is not without its faults. Varying in importance from ‘something to consider’ to ‘please fix now,’ GCU2 seems to have taken 2 steps forward and one step back. The first, and most pertinent issue which is firmly planted in the ‘Please fix now’ category, is a lag which can be found in every menu interaction and within many races. The best way to describe it would be as if the game is constantly trying to keep up. Whilst graphically eye-catching and steeped with content, the game doesn’t strike me as demanding upon the Switch console and I am unsure as to why it feels this way. I hope that with a patch, this is able to be rectified as although it isn’t game breaking, it does affect the atmosphere and intensity of the races. I also found that loading times were abnormally long. Here’s to hoping that the two issues are interlinked and can be fixed.
The other issue which, again, I hope can be rectified, is the manner with which the AI cars interact with the landscape. First noticeable on snowy levels, the AI opponents are floating on top of the track and this doesn’t support the vision of creating a racing simulator. Once I noticed it on the snow tracks, I then couldn’t help but notice it elsewhere. This is a shame considering how well the cars have been designed and the detail showcased in the landscapes themselves. On the note of the landscape, I found that there were times when I was taking a corner and my car would knock into a blank space. I understand why it would be important to ensure the confines of the track are adhered to, however the level of immersion and freedom is hindered as a result.
The fairest way to summarize Gear Club Unlimited 2 would be with the following statement:
Gear Club Unlimited 2 is everything I wanted the original Gear Club Unlimited to be.
I believe the developers are now in possession of a solid foundation for a racing sim on the Nintendo Switch, and, with the right care and attention, it could be developed into a flourishing franchise. I hope that the Eden Games and Microids partnership continues to build and focus on what is truly important in a driving game, as Gear Club Unlimited has the potential to become a household name as a result.
*At the time of review, GCU2 has another online mode which is yet to be released. We will update you in due course.
Buy Gear Club Unlimited 2 on the Nintendo eShop for $59.99
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