Gear.Club Unlimited On Nintendo Switch Is The Portable Racing Sim

Gear.Club Unlimited
  • Switch
  • Racing
2017-12-01

A solid library of third-party titles remains crucial to Nintendo Switch’s success. While Mario Kart remains the best-selling game of the racing genre, plenty of gamers want something a little more realistic than chasing down a big gorilla in a tie. Enter Gear.Club Unlimited, the latest racing game for the Switch by developer Eden Games, the team behind the classic Test Drive Unlimited and V-Rally. I was invited to Eden’s office to try it out.

Just like Gran Turismo is to PlayStation and Forza is to Xbox, the Switch-exclusive Gear.Club aims to be the hybrid console’s definitive racing sim. Also similar to Gran Turismo and Forza, Gear.Club Unlimited serves as a visual showcase for the Nintendo Switch hardware, capable of 1080p on an HDTV and 720p in its handheld configuration. Still, the platform choice is an interesting one—Nintendo’s hardware lacks the outright graphical fidelity of the 4K-ready Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro. However, what Gear.Club Unlimited manages to achieve on the hybrid console is impressive. It’s a fresh title worthy of a place in any gamer’s Nintendo Switch library.

The introduction to Gear.Club Unlimited starts with the Performance Shop, essentially a car enthusiast's “dream” garage. The Performance Shop not only serves as a user interface that allows a player to store cars to use in races, but also as a hub with various bays that perform visual or performance modifications. Cars can also be placed in the “showroom,” where players can swoon over every inch of their virtual Bugatti's immaculate paint. The doors can be opened for  a better look at the interior as well as the engine cover (wait, Bugatti Veyrons don’t have engine covers) to peek at the mechanical bits underneath. All of this allows Gear.Club Unlimited to show off how far it’s able to carry the Switch’s graphics, and create a stronger emotional bond between the players and their cars. As the players progress, their Performance Shop will also expand in size, capable of holding more cars, interior decor options and themes (warehouse, modern, ‘50s diner, etc.). Think The Sims for cars—one could spend quite a bit of time here.

Of course, the true meat and potatoes of any racing game is the driving experience. Gear.Club Unlimited leans slightly closer to the classic Need for Speed than Gran Turismo. The driving physics are hardly authentic and the roads in this game are fictional, but the team managed to create a fine balance between challenging and predictable handling to make the racing enjoyable in its scenic, European-inspired environments. In total, Gear.Club Unlimited features more than 400 races. However, its car list is a little thinner at just 32. Still, the quality of the selection is sublime. In some cases, I was quick to pick up on the characteristic of certain cars—the balanced 370Z and the twitchy Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione both felt particularly authentic, as Eden Games did a great job reflecting the power output and weight of the real counterparts. However, the Dodge Challenger featured a surprisingly quick turn-in, which sort of defies the heft and size of the car in real-life. While not all cars are particularly dialed in perfectly, Gear.Club Unlimited succeeded in making cars of similar tiers perform at similar levels for close competition.

Speaking of competition, the Gear.Club Unlimited team was adamant that the game must perform split-screen races without a hitch, even if there are four players sharing a screen. Despite its modest 30FPS output, Gear.Club played the split-screen flawlessly and never experienced screen tears, glitches, or visual hiccups of any sort. Eden Games did its homework and recognized split-screen gameplay is going strong within the Nintendo community.

Still, gamers on PC, Xbox and PS4 prove online multiplayer is more popular. On that front, Eden Games mentioned Gear.Club's partnership with McLaren for an online contest called World’s Fastest Gamer. And unlike other esports championships focused on one specific game, the World’s Fastest Gamer competition invites players of various racing games across  platforms. Gear.Club Unlimited will join titles like PC’s iRacing, PlayStation 4’s GT Sport, and Xbox's Forza to seek the best-of-the-best virtual racing drivers.

Gear.Club Unlimited may seem somewhat out of place in an esports event among more realistic racing sims like iRacing and Project Cars 2. But while those games demand steering wheel setups like the Logitech G29 to get the most out of the experience, Gear.Club Unlimited is, in fact, more entertaining with traditional controllers. Combined with the Nintendo Switch and the game’s short sprint races, Gear.Club Unlimited will appeal more to casual players and really lends itself to the Switch’s portability. And in that format, Gear.Club is also more accessible to an even younger demographic of gamers who don’t necessarily get steering wheels at home.

“A lot of esports fans watch League of Legends to learn tricks and techniques from the pros,” said Eden Games CEO David Nadal. “With World’s Fastest Gamer, there’s a different fantasy that we’re proposing. If you win, you have a chance to put on a real race suit for a career in motorsports.”

Overall, Gear.Club Unlimited is an entertaining racing game that plays to the strengths of the Nintendo Switch. Easy-to-pick-up driving dynamics combine with respectable graphics, stable frame rates to make a dependable gaming experience in the living room and on the go. It’s a strong introduction to racing on the Switch, and we look forward to what the team at Eden Games will bring next. At this time, the devs plan to deliver three free DLC updates within the first six months following Gear.Cub Unlimited’s release. Beyond that, the team will rely on the feedback from the gamers to steer its post-launch development

Gear.Club Unlimited arrives Dec. 1 on Nintendo Switch.

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