For whatever reasons, games with licensed cars have been a bit (okay, REALLY) underrepresented on Nintendo’s home consoles for far too many years. The sole good game with licensed cars during the last generation was 2013’s Need For Speed Most Wanted U, a stellar conversion/update that got overall excellent reviews but didn’t sell as well as it should have. I won’t even mention that Fast & Furious game from the same year because it was memorable for all the wrong reasons.
With the Switch doing so exceptionally well since its launch as a home/away hybrid system, you’d think that at over 1230 or so games in we’d see more and better licensed racers filling up retail and the eShop, but nope. Other than the still delayed rally-focused V-Rally 4, and the upcoming truck sim Spintires: MudRunner – American Wilds, pickings are slim for those who want a more authentic racing experience with branded foreign and domestic cars.
Thankfully, last year, veteran developer Eden Games stepped to the plate with Gear.Club Unlimited, an enhanced upgrade of their popular mobile game that removed the mobile-friendly microtransactions and added more cars and game modes. While well received by racing fans and some critics, there was some negativity about shorter than expected race sessions and some elements that seemed too close to the mobile game’s roots. Still, the game did well enough (and is still moving units at full price) that Eden set out to make a sequel that addressed the issues in the first game while adding improvements guaranteed to make the sequel even more impressive.
Let’s just say they have (and how):
I got to spend some quality time with a build of Gear.Club Unlimited 2 a few days ago and it’s quite clear that Eden has made a true marquee racer exclusive to Switch that racing fans will be proud to own. From the gorgeous Unity 2-powered visuals running at a steady 30fps, even more cars and customization options, new and larger tracks and more, this “more is better” approach should help in making this a must-buy when it’s released on December 4, 2018. The game feels like a more polished, logical extension of Eden’s two Test Drive Unlimited games but with an even more purely racing-focused story and goals.
Handling is a mix of sim and arcade elements, so mastering each car will be a big key to winning events or placing in the money. Options to switch assists on or off are here as are AI settings if you want to raise or lower the difficulty. From what I played, the default AI is pretty competitive and will give you a run for your money, although I know there are those harder core race fans that will
The larger map and its dealerships that allow you to take cars out for a test spin assure that every car in the game will get some love. For those of you worried about the races being too short, Eden’s got you well-covered and then some. Tracks range from smaller multi-lap affairs to lengthy road and other courses that can take close to a half hour to complete. Taking an expensive Bugatti out for a test put me on a lovely and twisty track where I averaged about eight and a half minutes or so per lap with three laps to complete. Granted, it took me a good lap and a half to get the feel of the track, but still, it was great to see Eden going for broke here. There’s an even greater variety of courses in this installment, but don’t expect to see any big deal licensed raceways here nor some sort of track editor.
In terms of customization, it’s deeper than in the first game, but not so in depth that you’re lost in too many options. That said, you’ll need to win races or place well enough in order to afford to expand not only your garage, but the work stations in them that allow for certain custom options (such as rally car tweaking). If you like creating your own stickers and really showing off your creative skills, that’s a big feature here with a fairly easy to use option that allows for quite a bit of flexibility. The nice thing is nearly everything garage-related is a drag/drop process and there are a wealth of goodies to unlock from garage layouts to all sorts of non-functional goodies. In other words, you can easily spend as much time fiddling with your garage as you do racing, if that’s your thing.
Split screen play in offline mode with two players was just as smooth as solo play but the real tests will be the upcoming 4-player mode update as well as any online modes once the game is out and players hop on to see what’s what. My fingers are crossed that this content is as flawless as can be and will have a core base of dedicated users as feedback rolls in post-launch. One thing you likely won’t see are in-car viewpoints other than a hood camera. Personally, I don’t mind this at all, but I know there’s that subset of racing fans who demand car interiors with working dials or bust in every racing game they play. Still, if Eden can get a demo up on the eShop at some point (even as a post release download), I’d bet even the saltiest of speed freaks will see this one’s going to be special on a few fronts.
There’s a ton more to cover here, but that creeps into review territory and this is in no way, shape or form a review. Still, Eden and publisher Microïds are clearly holding the pole position on the Switch racing games front and with Unlimited success ahead of them for the near future, they’re in charge of the best licensed racer on the platform.