When the original Gear.Club Unlimited launched for the Nintendo Switch, I was quite positive about it, especially after coming out of its mobile counterpart which was riddled with microtransactions and other mobile trappings. It also helped that the competition was pretty much non-existent for a racing game featuring licensed cars. Fast forward to now, and the genre is pretty much uncontested, giving the Gear.Club sequel apt breathing room for people who were enamored with the first, to continue their racing shenanigans.
Anyone familiar with the original Gear.Club on the Switch will undoubtedly feel right at home with Unlimited 2, as most of it remains unchanged. Races must still be initiated from a huge world map, and money earned from races can be spent on buying new cars but, more importantly, can also be spent on buying upgrades for your Garage which can then offer upgrades for your cars.
The handling for each car seems to be improved here as well, especially once all the assists are turned off. It certainly takes some time getting used to, even though that might be more attributed to the tiny joycon sticks, but thankfully the game’s rewind feature, which makes a return from the first game, makes all your mess ups that much more palatable.
Unlimited 2 also looks a bit better than the first game, but not by a whole lot. There’s some impressive detail on the car you’re driving, but everything else has pretty low textures, undoubtedly to keep the game running at an acceptable framerate. Though that, unfortunately, isn’t accomplished. Like the first game, the sequel also caps at 30fps, which wouldn’t be that bad, if it didn’t occasionally dip below that. Racing games feel better when the framerate is fluid, so therefore when there’s any sort of hiccup, it makes the game feel less responsive, and ultimately more frustrating. Sadly, an infinite-use rewind button can’t fix that feeling of frustration.
Perhaps the biggest letdown, seeing as though this is a sequel that isn’t tied down to any mobile counterpart, is how similar the game is to its predecessor. I enjoyed the progression from the first, but that was mostly because all the mobile trappings were removed, which felt refreshing after playing the mobile game. However, in the sequel, it feels a bit lazy. Why wasn’t the progression completely overhauled this time around? What we got instead was a nearly identical game with a slightly bigger roster of cars and some added detail to them.
It also doesn’t help that everything needs to be earned through repetitive race grinding. Nothing in the game is earned just by winning and instead needs to be won with credits. That wouldn’t be too rough if the credits flowed a little more freely.
The worst offender though, and this is easily the biggest issue, the loading times are absolutely monstrous. They can range anywhere from 40-50 seconds before each race. Yes, you read that right, almost an entire minute is spent looking at the loading screen before each and every race. On a console where every minute of battery life is precious when playing in handheld mode, this is unacceptable. But even when playing on your TV, waiting that long before every race grates on your patience.
Gear.Club Unlimited 2 isn’t a bad game by any means. Like its predecessor, it’s a competent racing game on a console that has a racing sim drought, but I was just expecting a bit more. I was expecting an overhauled single player progression.
I was expecting better performance, even 60fps as I was hoping for more optimized graphics. I was expecting instant load times, especially for a game that is meant to be pick-up-and-play, but instead, I have to waste nearly a minute before each race.
The only thing the game has going for it is being a racing sim without any sort of competition, and maybe that’s why the sequel feels so lackluster. When your only competition is the first game in your series, then the drive to innovate is far smaller.
As a big fan of racing games, both sim and arcade, it’s hard to recommend at full price. And if the developers intend on making a third entry in the franchise, I hope that they take a long look at how to innovate this series, rather than iterate it.