Game Title: Gear Club Unlimited
Developer: Eden Games, Microids
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Retail (GameStop Exclusive) | Digital
Battery Life: 3-4 hours
Download: 5.4 GB
Nintendo has been known for racing games, but a lot of that genre pretty much comes down to games like Mario Kart and Diddy Kong Racing. Those are fun racers, but they are not racing sims, per say. When a lot of car fanatics look towards video games, they look for games that not only have real cars in them, but work hard to become Realistic Driving Simulators, putting in realistic detail into the cars as well as real-world physics into the driving and handling of those cars.
When you look towards Sony and Microsoft, there are established brands for this sort of game, which are Gran Turismo and Forza. For Nintendo, what is there?
Thanks to Eden Games, the developers behind almost 25 years of racing games, from the Need for Speed series to Test Drive Unlimited, the Switch has gotten what was advertised as one of these types of driving games. Here is my review of Gear Club Unlimited for the Nintendo Switch!
Due to this game having no story, this section shall remain blank.
Gear Club Unlimited is classified as an Arcade-style racing game with light sim building elements. With no free-roam map, you go from race to race from a point-to-point map and, with each race being relatively light on length, it feels like a very Arcade-like experience.
The first thing we need to go over is this: Gear Club Unlimited is an enhanced port of Gear Club, which is a Freemium game you can play on iOS and Android. So, what is the difference between the two? From what I’ve experienced, from a gameplay perspective, here is what has changed between the original Mobile release and the Nintendo Switch release:
1. In-App Purchases have been removed, giving you an unlimited supply of Rewinds
2. In-Game Achievements that used to give Gold for IAPs now give normal cash for purchasing new cars
3. A few new control options are available
4. Graphics have been slightly enhanced
Aside from the above, it is mostly the same game. So, given that mobile is Free and Switch is $50, let’s talk about what the game has to offer to start seeing if there is a justification in that price-tag.
Progression in the game is based off of locked areas on the map and winning races. At the start, you only have one car dealer and races built around those lower-tier vehicles. As you win races, you earn money for upgrades and more cars, and you earn Gold Stars depending on your place at the race’s end. As you gain stars, you unlock new areas of the map, which in turn, unlocks new races, new championships, and new car dealers for taking on the higher-tier races.
Along with this is one of the game’s most unique features: The Performance Shop. In order to upgrade your cars, you have to make and upgrade facilities for different types of tune-ups. You can use your money to create Performance Facilities for tune-ups like Engine and Aerodynamic upgrades as well as Cosmetic Facilities for changing the paint style or adding Wings or Body Kits to your cars. This is just as much fun at times, as races because you can freely place and upgrade these services as well as parking spaces and dozens of decoration items to customize your shop.
When you get into the actual races, you are placed on either asphalt tracks for normal races or dirt tracks for Rally Races. There are a few types of races, but all pretty much come down to finishing the race before anyone else. That’s also where the handheld nature of this game can really shine. Each race is bite-sized, most only lasting 2-3 minutes at the most before you end the race and get your rewards. These quick races are perfect for on-the-go travel when you only have a few minutes to spare for a quick race or two.
The most unique and flexible feature in races is the Rewind feature. In any race, at any time, you can tap X to freeze time and rewind your race around 10 seconds or so, letting you resume anywhere you were at the Rewind’s Time. This is useful for fixing mistakes or repeating turns to try to learn and master them. On Mobile, these were In-App Purchases, but in Unlimited, you have an infinite supply of them.
While the car roster isn’t huge at 32 cars, it is worth noting that Eden Games worked with all car manufacturerst to represent realistic physics and handling, making every car a different kind of experience once you go into your races. There is a big difference in handling when you swap from your tuned-up 2015 Mustang GT to your newly-acquired Nissan GT-R Nismo.
There is also an extended amount of flexibility. Whether you’re a casual racing fan or a hardcore one, the game has built-in difficulty settings to suit to your own taste as well as driving assists that will let the AI influence various parts of your car, like changing gears, braking for turns, and even the acceleration, itself. You could set it so all you have to do is turn, or you can set it so you do everything, all the way down to changing gears as you speed up.
Finally, we need to talk about length. With each race only taking 2 minutes to complete, you have to think about how long it will actually take you to finish the game. Unlimited features around 200 different races and the final section of the map requires you to have 529 stars, which is completing a bare minimum of 176 of those races. Considering I spent just as much time in the Performance Shop as I did in races, I would clock unlocking everything at a bare minimum of around 11-12 hours, assuming you never repeat races to grind for money.
Outside of that, you’ve also got multiplayer. The downside of this is that Multiplayer is Local-Only. You can do 2-4 player split-screen locally, but there is no Online Mode outside of the Daily Race events where you race and compare your score to others around the world via Leaderboards.
Outside of control additions like Transmission options and HD Rumble, Gear Club Unlimited also offers you button controls for your racing. On Mobile, you had to buy the Game Vice controller (which is advertised every time you open the mobile app) attachment for button controls, which would set you back no less than $75-100 on its own. So, considering the perspective of someone who wants button controls, this version of the game is easily half the price of that attachment.
Controlling the game isn’t too hard. You can steer the car with the Arrow Buttons/D-Pad and/or the Left Analog Stick. All four triggers are used as well. L and R are used for changing camera angles and looking behind you. ZL is used for the normal brake while ZR is used to accelerate.
The face buttons can be a little different, depending on your settings. By default, A and B are also used for Acceleration and Brakes, but if you set Transmission to manual, they’ll be used for shifting gears. X is used for activating Rewinds, and Y is used for the Handbrake for sharp turns and drifting.
Graphically, the game’s cars look absolutely gorgeous. There was a huge amount of detail thrown into each individual car, from accurate interiors to their real-world counterparts to the mirror effect on the car bodies that showcase actual environments that you are racing past. While the environments aren’t as massively-detailed, every car looks really nice.
In comparison with the Mobile release, Unlimited looks around the same. It does have slightly-enhanced graphics, but you have to look really close to actually see the difference.
Performance, I only have one issue with. Frame-rate is a solid 30 fps and the game’s never crashed on me. However, there is one glitch that I want to talk about. About half a dozen times as I played the game, I would go into a race where most of the controls would no longer work. The Left Stick would start rotating the camera and Braking/Accelerating would do absolutely nothing.
When this happens, you need to quit to the Overworld Map and re-enter the event. It is a minor inconvenience, but one that I found to happen relatively often.
Considering how bite-sized the races are, I was hoping for some decent Battery Life, and that is about what I got. Here are my times, from 100% to 0%:
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 08 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 30 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 52 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 58 minutes
As the above shows, you’ll get around 3-4 hours per charge, which isn’t too bad. It’s a little higher than the average, so your bite-sized racing will last you a good while on-the-go.
In conclusion, Gear Club Unlimited can really be defined as bite-sized realistic racing for your on-the-go travels. While it doesn't have Online Multiplayer and a control glitch makes redoing races inconvenient, it has more than enough content to justify paying for it this time around, especially considering the button alternative on iOS and Android.