When I first reviewed Gear.Club Unlimited 2 back at the end of 2018, I was left feeling mildly irritated, at best. Despite chalking itself up as the next big Switch racer due to its being exclusive, it was ultimately just a passable arcade racing experience with some rough edges that could use work. Now, almost two years later, Eden Games has brought it back out again to introduce a whole new racing discipline: circuits. I never imagined Gear.Club as a track racer, and, well, now I guess it is a track racer with Gear.Club Unlimited 2 – Tracks Edition — but there’s a catch or two.
Getting into gear
The new Tracks Edition is really an expansion on top of the existing Gear.Club Unlimited 2 rather than being a standalone game. With that, it shares all of the DNA with the regular Gear.Club Unlimited 2, and that right there is what’s made playing it a tough pill to swallow.
You do at least get loaded up with a variety of new cars from the start, though a good chunk of them are just track-based versions of vehicles that are already in the game. The new races are separated into two distinct competitions, the Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Endurance Championship events are split into four vehicle categories (ranging A-D) with four races for each category. That comes to a total of 16 EC races, and with the Le Mans races, you’ll get 18 in total. There are six circuits, though the Le Mans races have their own single circuit with a healthy amount of straightaways and sharp curves. The other circuits are quite fine from a design standpoint, but I just wished the gameplay mechanics made them enjoyable to drive on.
A sim or a sin?
Even though Tracks Edition is an expansion, it functions almost entirely independently from the rest of the game from a design standpoint. In this mode, Gear.Club Unlimited 2 tries to take on a more simulator-esque feel. Each race is time-limited and you have to prep your car to handle the laps properly. This involves selecting the best tire compound (Soft, Medium, or Hard), which affects the grip. Fuel management is also present, with the advice being to fill it only for the number of laps of each race, as having too much affects weight.
Neither mechanic felt like it truly made a difference, however. Driving on the different tires didn’t seem to make my cars handle any differently, and the performance didn’t seem to be negatively affected by driving on a tank that was either nearly empty or nearly full. But it’s the actual driving experience where things get messy.
Initially, during the Category A races, I actually found myself having a bit of fun. Racing a variant of the BMW M3, I was able to place fourth overall (as your placement in each race will determine what your standing is by the end of the category’s season). Winning races or placing high will net you Endurance Points. These are used to unlock better functionality, such as decreasing pit stop times. It would be nice if winning seemed attainable, however.
As I stated, the Cat. A races weren’t half bad. But when I moved onto Cat. B, things began to fall apart.
Before you start a season, you select a single car that will be used in each of the four races. The fastest car in each category is unlocked for you from the beginning (though you can opt to buy other cars, for some odd reason). Even so, in Cat. B and onward, it didn’t feel like I was driving the best car. While I felt like Cat. A gave me a chance, the difficulty curve in Cat. B is almost absurd. My car’s stats didn’t seem to matter at all as the AI never broke a sweat. I hardly ever saw any mistakes or crashes. Thus, it all felt extremely unfair. There isn’t a way to alter AI difficulty either, so you’re basically left sitting at the back of the back unless you really try to fight your way up. And there’s no way to restart a race either without going back to the main menu and starting again from there, an absurd design considering there’s a restart feature for even the qualifiers.
Speaking of, the optional qualifier before every circuit race will determine your grid position. However, trying to get a good lap time is yet another challenge. Again, the AI just comes off as too perfect here. Even more authentic sim racers that I’ve played, like Forza Motorsport 7, are more inviting and accessible than this.
The real icing on this mud cake is that upgrading doesn’t even seem to make much of a difference. While it did in Cat. A, no matter how much extra power I threw into my Alfa Romeo, my Cat.B performance was terrible. Not to mention this put me right back to where I was in 2018, loathing Gear.Club Unlimited 2‘s money-hungry economy and unnecessarily tedious upgrading system. Circuit cars require you to purchase a specific circuit workshop, which needs to be upgraded to access higher-level parts. That, of course, costs money. So, again, the non-microtransaction-but-still-totally-microtransaction-system that this game has had since 2017 is still here.
And that’s not the only bad trait that remains present. The deplorable presentation also remains. Visually, Gear.Club Unlimited 2 has always been flat, yet still has managed to have a choppy frame rate and long loading times (with abundant loading screens). All this time later, and while Eden Games has been able to add new content, it hasn’t fixed these crucial issues. There’s no way I should be playing something as simplistic as this in the 20 FPS range when we have beautiful titles like GRID Autosport, RISE, and FAST rocking up to 60 FPS with more visual complexity.
While you can put a sick engine into an old jalopy and make it run like a rocket, if it’s still rusty and scrappy, it won’t be that enjoyable of a ride. That’s essentially how playing Gear.Club Unlimited 2 – Tracks Edition feels. What could have (and should have) been a standalone game has become this weird add-on to what remains a barely palatable arcade racer. The new “sim-like” mechanics are hardly passable, and the AI seems permanently set to hard mode. The later races feel impossible due to the cars being too overpowered to control properly, and the final race in the Le Mans competition is literally paywalled, requiring 2,000,000 CR to buy the appropriate car.
There just aren’t any redeeming qualities at play here. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 both had awesome authentic racing sims, so why can’t Nintendo Switch, a system far superior, have the same? Well, it does — and it’s called GRID. If you want a decent track racing experience, you’re far better off there. Gear. Club Unlimited 2 needs to be parked in a garage and just left there. If Eden really wants to turn this into something, head back to the blueprints and build something that can really compete. Otherwise, just take a detour.
A review code was provided by the publisher.