Gear.Club Unlimited 2 Review
Gear.Club Unlimited 2’s new Endurance race expansion turns the game into something that, until now, just hasn’t been available on the Nintendo Switch. Finally, sim racing fans have an actual option on the hybrid handheld console.
That’s not to say that the Gear.Club Unlimited sequel is a sim racer. The game is still largely the same in terms of structure: it feels a lot like a mobile racing game, with a defined progression track, a piecemeal upgrade system and some silly “story” progression.
Like the first game, Unlimited 2 has awful loading times. The time between booting up the console until you get to a race is downright terrible. The actual driving is fine, if slightly imprecise. It’s firmly an arcade racer set in realistic locations. On the Switch — with the lack of pressure-sensitive triggers — there is just no way to get a fully sim-racing experience.
So…the core Gear.Club Unlimited 2 experience is just fine. You race real cars in realistic locations, mainly in point-to-point races. Buy new cars, upgrade them as you upgrade your garage, rinse and repeat. The game looks pretty good — I really like the car models, even if the environments can use a lot of work. In the core game, released nearly 2 years ago, there are upwards of 250 races and 55 cars to run through.
But the reason we’re taking a look at the game in fall 2020 is the recent release of the Tracks Edition DLC. This new content brings along a slew of new cars, a time attack mode and some actual track racing. There are a handful of fictional tracks, as well as the Le Mans track, along with a series of endurance races.
The fictional tracks are each fun and reminiscent of other real-life tracks. The endurance races are a great length, and tire and fuel strategies provide enough variety to give a decent introduction to sim racing.
At the beginning of each endurance session, you will have the chance to set a qualifying time, running the lap as many times as you’d like to set a time. Each race, I’ve run just one lap and decided to roll into the actual race, whether I was starting in the middle of the pack or a dead-last 12th. Usually, by the end of the first lap in the actual race, I was already up in the top 5.
As you head into the race, the game lets you know how long the session will be — 12 minutes, 14 minutes, etc. — and how many laps are estimated. Pick the soft tires, and know that you’ll need to pit after 3 laps; hard tires might last 5 laps. When filling the gas tank, do you start with a full tank to cut off refueling time later on? Or do you fill the tank just enough to get through the first stint, and run leaner and faster?
These kinds of strategy calls are why I love real-life racing. Gear.Club does a decent job of making these decisions matter, as the braking zone deteriorates over time, or you can go faster on the softer tires and so-forth. Yet, it also feels like the choices are somewhat inconsequential to the race result. No matter where I start, when I pit or how I race, I’m always around the lead on the last lap. I’m not sure if the game has “rubber-banding,” but it definitely feels like it.
Also, the first endurance race I ran had a huge bug at the end. I’d filled my tank with enough gas to just get me through the entire race, and crossed the finish line in first place. Then the game made me run an additional lap all by myself, during which I ran out of fuel. I got a screen that said I lost the race, but then I received points as if I’d placed second. I had no clue what to think, and approached the next race somewhat over-fueled.
Gear.Club Unlimited 2 really is a serviceable sim-cade racer on the switch (heavy emphasis on the “cade”.) The new tracks and cars bring a different dynamic to the game, and I truly love racing on tracks. If you have a Switch and want a decent track racing experience on-the-go, this is absolutely worth it. However, if you are interested in this style of game and have access to another console, then a game like Forza, GRID, or the upcoming Dirt 5 may serve you better