Gear.Club Unlimited Review (Switch) – “Switching Gears”

Gear.Club was originally a mobile racing title released for iOS and Android devices from Test Drive Unlimited developer Eden Games. The team, alongside publisher Microids, has decided to pursue bringing their sim racer to the Switch as Gear.Club Unlimited, which also graces the console as the first racer of its kind. In bringing what was originally a free-to-play mobile racer to the Switch, they’ve converted this into a more premium product, with all the content available in-game without any micro-transactions. Has this racer shifted into high gear for the Switch platform, or is it stuck in first gear?

Gameplay: 4/5

Gear.Club Unlimited puts you behind the wheel of a variety of cars from the Nissan 370z, Ford Mustang, and BMW M2 to powerhouses like the McLaren P1 and Bugatti Veryon. When you start your career, your crew will put you through a few tutorial events to get acclimated to the game’s mechanics, progression system, and overall layout. As you race through the exotic (fictitious) locales along coastlines, deserts, mountains, and plains, you will earn XP and money to further upgrade your cars, purchase new ones and build the ultimate garage.

You will participate in race events, time attacks, and rally events. Race events have you racing against AI opponents, whether it be a point A to point B race, or laps along a track. Time attack has you racing for the top spot, while ghost AI cars are racing to compete against your time. Rally events are easily the most entertaining events, as these have you driving on wide off-road tracks, providing for plenty of drifting around turns at high speeds. Each event is perfect for pickup-and-play as well, ranging from a minute to three minutes per race (on average). Also, the game has a rewind feature. This lets you rewind the latest 10 seconds in a race should you mess up and need to refine your line. You have unlimited uses of these, but will detract from earned XP at the end of a race.

Whether driving on the tarmac in race events or off-road in rally races, driving feels tight and satisfying. The physics in play here are done quite well, and while never teetering towards full-blown simulation, it has a nice balance of arcade and sim controls. However, the game does provide full customization to tweak driving assistance. Whether it be steering assist, anti-skid assist or braking assist, you can fine tune it to your liking. Turning off all the assists will let you truly harness the raw power of each car. Frankly, I found myself grasping the driving better choosing this route. Unlike sim racers like Gran Turismo and Forza, this nice blend of arcade and sim-style handling works really well here and helps make it accessible to anyone who picks up the game. If anything, it’s more reminiscent of PS4’s Driveclub.

Throughout the game’s career, there are four class types: A, B, C and D. You will start at class A, which will consist of somewhat slower cars (but not actually slow), and each class will unlock faster, more exotic cars. Each class is broken up by three subclasses: 1, 2, and 3 (i.e. A1, B3, etc). Each number provides a set of cars used in particular tournaments, while staying within the confines of that car class. Certain tournaments will have a mix of all three subclasses, letting you choose whichever vehicle of yours in that class will be best.

This is only a small fraction of the expansive world you’ll partake races in.

When you’re not racing, you’ll be focusing your time in the Performance Shop, which is basically your own personal garage. This is interesting, as unlike other games of the genre, this has you personalizing and upgrading your garage and stations to upgrade your cars. You will drag and drop your vehicles around the garage to tune them based on the various parts. As you level up, you will earn access to new stations and items to place in your garage, as well as further upgrading the stations themselves to provide better upgrades for your cars. Placing a tire workshop station lets you improve the tires for handling, as well as the brakes. The wind tunnel station lets you upgrade the aerodynamics of the car, and other stations will provide specific upgrades as well. There are even stations to change the exterior appearance of your car, similar to what Need for Speed Underground. While not as extensive as those, what’s here is still very much in-depth. Another neat feature about the garage is that you can change the theme of it as well. Whether it be a 50’s diner or a modernized garage with laminated wood floors, it certainly adds to the personality of your garage.

Now, the game does stem from being a free-to-play mobile title, but the developers have scrapped the micro-transaction route to provide a full-on experience. Unlike other companies that try to push this controversial element in gaming, every piece of content is unlockable and acquired through in-game money. Better yet, the overall progression never once felt like a grind, but rather fluid and kept the pacing just right. There are also missions and achievements to complete, providing another element to earning more money to further upgrade your garage and vehicles. At the moment, you can only have four cars in your garage, with ten being an option in a patch releasing in January.

When you’re not tackling championships littered throughout the game world, you can partake in Leagues. This unlocks shortly after completing a few races and opens the opportunity to challenge others online. However, this isn’t so much a direct online match, but rather more about getting the fastest time on a daily challenge. Think of it like the way SSX’s 2012 reboot handled online multiplayer. Based on your career progression, this will showcase what league you will be a part of. It’s a neat way to showcase just how far along the career you’ve progressed to others. Another really neat feature is when looking through the leaderboards, you can visit any player’s garage to see what cars they have and how they laid out their garage. Additionally, there is local four-player multiplayer, and I can happily say the game runs smooth when all the action is happening.

In terms of controls, Gear.Club Unlimited utilizes virtually every method possible on the Switch: single Joy-Con, paired Joy-Cons and Pro Controller. Additionally, those who prefer tilt controls instead of an analog stick (or even D-Pad) can also enable Gyroscope controls, as well as auto-accelerate. After playing around with each of the control types, including Gyroscope for each controller type, the game honestly feels great to play on any controller preference. There wasn’t an instance where I felt the Pro controller made me play better versus the Joy-Cons, and even the Gyroscope controls felt great. HD Rumble is also taken advantage of here and has been implemented very well. When driving, you will feel any bumps and collisions, but will vary in strength and vibration location. If you start driving off the left side of the road, the left Joy-Con will start to rumble a bit, and vice-versa. Collide into another car and you’ll feel the rumble kick in different sections of either Joy-Con. It really lends to the overall immersion of the game.

Visuals: 4/5

Visually and aesthetically, Gear.Club Unlimited does scream the look of a mobile title…but one of the more visually enticing mobile titles. Cars are very well detailed here, with some really nice reflection effects being showcased. Lighting within the game’s environments are also nicely done, with smooth shadow effects and lens flares when the sun is setting in front of you. Environments are also well-designed, with plenty of vibrant colors to capture the exotic locales you will be racing through. The game runs in 1080p when docked, and 720p in handheld, all while running at 30 FPS. However, playing it docked, there were instances where a few frames would drop during races that were not happening when playing in handheld mode. It was nothing steady, but rather split-second instances that were noticeable, yet never affected gameplay at all thankfully. On the flip side, during the game’s multiplayer testing, we tried four-player split-screen and the game still maintained 30 FPS without hitches. Overall, it’s a nice looking game with a vibrant art style that’s very appealing to the eyes.

Sound: 2/5

In terms of audio, when you have a fast-paced racing game with no music during races, this affects the immersion substantially. While there is music in the game’s overworld, race intro and results screen, and garage…that’s all there is. When the game boots up, you have to choose between the campaign and multiplayer, and there’s no music or even sound effects there. Even the pause menu has no sound effects when moving through the options, it’s just silence. The sound effects in the game’s overworld when acquiring stars and unlocking content sound good, with a nice arcade-style vibe to it. The music that is here is largely unmemorable. Sound effects for the cars are decent at best, with some cars sounding a bit irritating (Ford Mustang, I’m looking at you). The engine effects do vary depending on the camera, so driving in cockpit view provides stronger engine audio, while the rear camera is slightly lower due to the distance from the camera to the car’s engine. Also, there were times during loading where you’d hear a car engine running randomly at the loading screen, then would stop after a second. It’s not irritating or grating, just odd and could use patching. It’s a shame since audio is such a pivotal component for racing games. While races are very quick, the lack of any race music is a big misfire.

Replay Value: 4/5

Gear.Club Unlimited has an immensely lengthy career mode, with hundreds of races to tackle and achieve three-star ranks in. This alone will keep you busy for quite some time. Also, customizing your garage is very engrossing, trying to make it look sleek and display your modded rides. Additionally there are daily online challenges through the Leagues to partake in and compete with others around the world. While there is no proper online multiplayer mode, there is four-player split-screen action, so that’s always a plus for local gatherings. Ultimately, there’s plenty of content to keep you coming back for quite some time. The only lacking element is that there aren’t too many cars to get and add to your garage compared to other racers out there.

Overall Score: 14/20 = 7.0 out of 10

Gear.Club Unlimited is a well-made, entertaining racer that certainly fills the void of realistic racing titles for the Nintendo Switch. The racing physics are tight and rewarding, the environments are vibrant and fun to race on, the garage building and vehicle customization is engaging, and there’s plenty of content to keep you coming back. If it weren’t for the lack of music while racing, this would be a great package for the Switch, but there’s no denying that hurts the experience. Look past that though, and you really have an entertaining racing title that is a very good first effort on the Switch. Racing enthusiasts have plenty to enjoy here and it’s designed perfectly for pickup-and-play sessions.

Pros:

+ Vibrant environments
+ Nice car detail and reflection effects
+ Tight driving mechanics
+ Customizing your garage and cars
+ Hundreds of events, all at a pickup-and-play pace

Cons:

– No proper lobby system to compete with others online
– No music while racing
– Sound effects are a mixed bag
– …did I mention no music while racing?

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Gear.Club Unlimited! Copy reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

Enjoy our review? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @GamersXTREME for the latest in gaming news and reviews.

Curious to how our review system works? Check out the About section.