“GCU2 doesn’t stand a chance against its competitors, but it works for the Switch.”
- Local multiplayer is fun
- Adjustable controls and settings
- Unique to the Switch and uses all its features
- Waiting on true multiplayer
- Racetracks look generic
- Limited compared to the alternatives
- Feels incomplete
The first Gear Club Unlimited was a mobile game released as a Nintendo Switch exclusive. It lacked a lot of the features that many other racing games have today. With short tracks, a small selection of cars, and a lack of online head-to-head multiplayer, it didn’t really stand out among the competition.
Gear Club Unlimited 2 is an improvement. It now has online multiplayer, longer race tracks, a larger selection of vehicles (50 instead of 32), and new modes that give it a fresh coat of new paint. These are all welcomed changes to the series and a foundation for something great, though GCU2 still feels incomplete in some regards.
Gear Club Unlimited 2 comes equipped with a campaign, local co-op, and an online multiplayer mode (though, at the time of this review, it’s still unavailable). Local multiplayer is available through split-screen mode and can support up to 4 players, as well as Switch tabletop gaming. In multiplayer, you can choose between an arcade mode where players can compete in a single race, or a championship mode where players compete in four different races. The local multiplayer was my favorite mode overall and is a feature that’s well-suited to the Switch.
A solo league is also present, and drivers can compete with the ghosts of other players and set new records. Drivers with the best ranks get to walk away with trophies and potentially get promoted to another division at the end of the season. Players can also join or create online clubs that earn rewards. This is all standard fare for a racing game, but as we mentioned before, it’s nice to see that Gear Club Unlimited 2 has placed an emphasis on multiplayer this time around.
A mobile game in disguise?
Gear Club Unlimited 2’s mobile history shows. It looks, feels, and plays like a mobile game ported to the Nintendo Switch, and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, don’t go in expecting a more sophisticated racing title. It’s not a simulation, but it’s also not an arcade game. It controls like a mobile game, but if you can look past the spirit of its mobile past, it can be good fun.
If you don’t feel like dealing with the nuances of semi-realistic driving, you can open the settings and fiddle around with the assists. Depending on your preferences or abilities, you can select between Amateur, Semi-Pro, and Professional presets, or take it a step further and adjust the percentage of braking, anti-skid, and steering assistance.
The local multiplayer was my favorite mode, and it’s a feature that’s well-suited to the Switch.
Playing on Amateur required barely any effort at all. I was able to hold down the acceleration and the game would do all the work for me, sans the steering. On the opposite end, Professional controls were incredibly sensitive, and I found myself spinning out far more than I’d like to.
If you want to up the ante, you can turn on the Tilt function which utilizes the Nintendo Switch’s motion controls to turn your Joy-Con into a steering wheel. With all assists turned off, this makes for some very intense and at times, hilarious gameplay during local races with friends.
There’s a diverse number of race tracks set in four locales: desert, coast, mountainside, and nature. Each of these places has a distinct look and feel, going so far as to have distinctive weather, though it doesn’t impact the driving at all. While these race tracks look appealing at a glance, they quickly lose their charm once you realize there’s a lack of personality. Trees look copy and pasted, and environments look generic. Frequent choppiness and drops in framerates don’t help its cause, either.
Gear Club Unlimited 2 looks and feels incomplete, almost as if it’s more of a foundation than a finished product. This, in turn, makes the longer races more monotonous than enjoyable, and you’ll be doing a lot of them if you plan on capitalizing on the game’s customization options.
The game’s central hub is the workshop. If you want to drive a Lotus 3 Eleven with all the bells and whistles, you achieve that here. There is a total of seven workshops that include upgrades and customization options for your car such as engine, gearbox, custom parts, paint and sticker jobs, body, tire, and brakes. The part upgrades take the form of unlockable levels (Tires – Level 1, Tires – Level 2, and so on) starting with stock parts and then becoming available as you increase your workshop rank.
You can add personal touches to your performance shop as well, changing the theme and rearranging each workshop to your liking. Of course, all this customization is going to cost you, but you can use the money earned through races to unlock and upgrade your workshops and cars. This can feel a little grind-y, especially with races becoming a literal drag so quickly. Microtransactions aren’t part of the game, but it sometimes feels designed with them in mind.
Winner by default
When you think of racing games and the Nintendo Switch, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the first thing that comes to mind. It brings a more casual racing experience to the popular hybrid console. What if you crave something more realistic? Fast RMX certainly doesn’t fit the bill with its futuristic, arcade style gameplay and GRIP places more emphasis on its combat than its racing.
For now, Gear Club Unlimited 2 is the closest thing to Forza Motorsport 7 or Gran Turismo Sport that you can get on the Switch, so it stands out in that regard. Each of its 50 licensed cars has its own statistics and unique handling. The multiplayer co-op is where the bulk of the fun lies, especially on the Nintendo Switch, and where you’ll likely spend most of your time when you’re not in the workshop.
Gear Club Unlimited 2 has made strides since its predecessor. Some new features such as new cars, online multiplayer, and Clubs are a welcomed change to the series. It’s disappointing that we didn’t get to experience the multiplayer since it could turn what feels like an incomplete experience to something with more weight. While Gear Club Unlimited 2’s offerings are considerably thin in comparison to its competitors, it’s approachable gameplay, customizable controls, and emphasis on group play make it a considerable choice for the Nintendo Switch.
Is there a better alternative?
Forza Motorsport 7 or Gran Turismo Sport are the better alternatives. They are not available on the Switch, however, so Nintendo fans would have to purchase an entirely different console to enjoy them.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the king of Switch racing games, and a must-have if you don’t already own it. That said, it’s in a different sub-genre. Some players may prefer the more realistic trappings of Gear Club Unlimited 2.
How long will it last?
In its current state, without true online multiplayer, Gear Club Unlimited 2 loses its appeal quickly. With online multiplayer and continued support, it could last until the next release.
Should you buy it?
Only buy Gear Club Unlimited 2 if you’re looking for a Switch racing game with real-world cars and feel. Other racing games, like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Fast RMX, offer faster, more fluid fun.
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