Gear Club Unlimited 2 brings a realistic racing sim to the Nintendo Switch, but let’s be honest, Mario Kart rules all on the popular Nintendo console. Time in and time out, the fine-tuned gameplay is a favorite of even the most hardcore realistic racing fans, but Gear Club Unlimited 2 offers an alternative for those wanting to drive name-brand cars and feel like they’re behind a realistic wheel, not gravity-enabled fantasy karts.
The driving experience in GCU2 is actually impressive for a mobile port to the underpowered Switch system. That’s not a dig at either the game or the console, it’s just the truth. You’re not going to get Forza graphics on the Switch, nor will you get its gameplay quality from a mobile ported racing game. All of that being said, the driving feels wonderful from the get-go and hits a nice balance between realism and arcade racer. That’s a negative and positive at the same time. You will not find a terribly realistic experience in GCU2, but that’s a good thing if games like Forza or Gran Turismo turn you off with their minute features that can make or break your race.
The lack of realism comes from a couple different aspects of the game that I feel are lacking. First of all, the tracks only feature minimal differences in terms of background and difficulty. After a few hours, I felt like I had already played all of the possible tracks, even when new ones were introduced. It all felt too familiar, and true arcade racers make up for this lack of diversity in experience with dynamic visuals, interesting backdrops, and put simply, fun delivery. Nothing about GCU2 is terribly fun, but it is enjoyable.
The cars are rendered quite well and look great in handheld mode. Limitations graphically are exposed in docked mode but you don’t play games on the Switch for top-notch 4K quality visuals. With that in mind, I feel like the graphics are perfect on GCU2 for what the game sets out to be. They’re crisp enough to feel like you’re not just playing the mobile version, and it’s a great experience on the Switch. Graphics for the garage customization and improvement system are less impressive, but that’s far from the worst part of the upgrade feature of the game.
My biggest criticism for Gear Club Unlimited 2 is the upgrade system. While you get a clear and concise way to measure and save experience points to upgrade your car, there’s little choice available in each individual part. You’re not really customizing your car with different parts and having to choose certain aspects of one set of shock plugs over another. It’s more like leveling up your car; another arcade feature that doesn’t feel quite right in this attempt at realistic car work.
I can look past simpler gameplay and more arcade-style presentation, but too simple of an upgrade system makes it feel like a grind towards another part I won’t truly choose or consciously decide is best for my car. The lack of variation in part upgrades is a big red mark on an otherwise acceptable racer. Especially on the Switch, Gear Club Unlimited 2 finds itself a great platform for a style of game that is underrepresented on the Nintendo Switch. Casual racer fans who want a break from Mario Kart will be happy with this entry, but a few compromises and upgrade issues keep it from being great.
Let me add one last thing in favor of Gear Club Unlimited 2. On the Switch, you do not have many options for realistic, or in this case semi-realistic, racing games. If I don’t feel like booting up my Xbox, or I’m watching Netflix and want a handheld experience, this game as a digital option has earned more time than it would have if I played it on Xbox or PS4. It’s a great option for short bursts of playtime when you get a racing fever. Problem is, despite the game’s best efforts and complete opposite presentation, Mario Kart still gets more time from me when I want to get behind the wheel.
Gear Club Unlimited 2$49.99
- Good graphics for the Switch
- Fun option that isn't widely available on the Swich
- Feels good to race these cars in handheld mode
- Shallow upgrade system
- Fails to offer diverse racing experiences throughout progression
- Stuck in shadow of Mario Kart, despite being a different style racer