Work on your dream car in a custom-designed performance shop.
Many genres that once were dormant on Nintendo consoles seem to be roaring back to life on the Switch. Attempting to fill the realistic racing void comes Gear.Club Unlimited from publisher Microids. Gear.Club was originally developed as a mobile title, released by Eden Games in 2016. A port of a mobile game in a genre that has high expectations seemed like a recipe for disaster, but I ended up enjoying the game, just not for the reasons I would have expected.
The statistics advertised for Gear.Club are pretty impressive, featuring 400 racing challenges on 200 unique courses with the choice of more than 30 real life automobiles. Races are grouped together into mini-campaigns based on the category of cars. So for example, the Dream Coast campaign consists of three races and is eligible to be raced by cars in category A1, containing a number of Chevrolet and Nissan models. At the end of each race, stars are allocated based on finishing position, with the goal to finish first in order to get the maximum of three stars available. Additional campaigns are unlocked as your star total grows, which provides an incentive to master each campaign before progressing.
The handling of the car felt good, with options for both traditional controls and motion steering. Eden has been making racing games for 20 years and has developed their own engines for the racing physics. I have to admit the controls felt better after I accepted the fact this game isn’t a version of Forza. I had gotten so used to the feeling of driving in Forza that any other experience seemed inferior, but after a couple hours of playtime and removal of the driving assist, I felt much more comfortable. That’s not to say the options available for the driving assist weren’t impressive, though. You’re afforded complete control over the three methods of assistance: Braking, Anti-skid, and Steering. Each option can be individually tailored or if you’re not comfortable tinkering with the options, three presets are available to choose from.
I’m a pretty competitive person, so racing against AI tends to becomes stale after a while, luckily a couple of different multiplayer options are available. Local multiplayer is included, which allows four-player split-screen. Unfortunately a true versus match online is not available, but a league leaderboard is provided as an alternative. The race is a time trial on a pre-determined track, you’ll be up against some ghost cars to give you an idea of how you're progressing. The multiplayer options are a pleasant distraction, but it’s clear that the main focus of Gear.Club is meant to be individual progression.
From a pure driving standpoint, the experience is OK, but the real fun for me was building my own performance workshop. Starting off in an old factory, money and experience points earned during races can be used to purchase equipment to build your own custom workshop. The amount of available content for the workshop is very impressive starting with a mechanical workspace for engine and transmission work and going all the way full-service spaces with wind tunnels, detailing, and more. The amount of detail goes all the way down to where to place vending machines, plants, and the type of flooring. It’s a lot of work to progress through races and earn enough money to purchase new cars, so the ability to create a beautiful space to display them, along with the means to improve them was a wonderful addition I never realized I wanted.
As a semi-casual racing enthusiast I came away impressed at the overall presentation of Gear.Club Unlimited. The car design is beautiful, the racing is smooth and fluid, and the inclusion of the performance workshop is a welcome addition. While it does fall short of becoming a viable replacement for Forza fans, it does provide the Switch with a fun racing game for enthusiasts looking for a more realistic racing experience. If you’re looking for an experience that is unique only to a racing game on Switch, try taking Gear.Club on a subway or train with the window down and feel the wind through your hair as you blast down the open road driving a beautifully detailed McLaren 570s.