You know when a game is so choppy, so stuttery and so laden with visual pop-in and lighting issues that it makes you feel physically sick as you play? No? Well, welcome to Gear.Club Unlimited 2 – Ultimate Edition.
After having found some serious acclaim and success on Nintendo Switch, it was obvious that at some point the Gear.Club franchise would make its way to other consoles. And even though the Xbox racing scene is looking likely to be dominated by the superb Forza Horizon 5 for years to come, as the old saying goes, if you don’t try, you’ll forever be left regretting.
Honestly though, I think Microids and Eden Games will be regretting the launch of Gear.Club Unlimited 2 on Xbox, for it doesn’t come anywhere close to matching the genre leader. It’s certainly not helped along by a whole host of issues either.
I’ve never played a Gear.Club title previously, but have heard wonderful things about the Nintendo Switch racer. As a fan of all things motorsport, it would therefore make sense that Gear.Club 2 would be able to tick a number of personal boxes. It does too, but the entire thing is then seriously let down by the dodgy gameplay which should be there to bring it all together.
Gear.Club Unlimited 2 starts off absolutely fine. Standard racing fare is included in the form of a pretty comprehensive campaign and career in which you’ll be left to fight for the right to party in multiple cars, across a whole variety of classes.
Starting at the bottom and working your way up, the A class racing will see you put behind the wheel of little Alfa 500’s, Mini Coopers and more. From there, race enough and win enough cash and you’ll progress through B,C and D classes, all complete with vehicles from Lotus, Porsche, Ford, Mercedes, BMW and more. As you’d expect, the higher the car class, the faster the vehicles and the more frantic the event. There are a ton of events to enjoy too, with upwards of 250 races keeping you busy for not just the short term, but for many weeks ahead.
Mostly set as straight-up races, the career competitions are complemented nicely with a variety of other exhibition events, with certain manufacturers going up against each other in head-to-head affairs, in elimination races and the like. Honestly though, each and every one pretty much plays as the next; wait for the lights to go green, nail the throttle and hold on in hope of passing the finish line first. Do so, credits will come your way and progression can be made. Fail, and you should just repeat until you are a winner.
This all plays out nicely either via a map screen which lets you wander the world, picking events that appeal, or via a simple to use menu and list. For the most part though, if you have a car worthy of the entry requirements in terms of its sheer power, you’re pretty much good to race with Gear.Club Unlimited 2.
But honestly, whether you will want to race will be a different matter.
Visually it looks okay at best, with cars at least being detailed enough for you to want to get behind their wheel. But from there, it’s all a struggle. The tracks you’ll race around are relatively well designed too, but ultimately they do seem to boil down to a bit of same old, same old, just with different visual sheens attached. Disappointing is not the half of it.
It’s a strange one in terms of the AI too. Not only do they take the strangest racing lines through corners and seem to get totally flummoxed by anything vaguely resembling a chicane, but they’ll crash out easily, before struggling to get back up to speed. They also seem to get slower as a race progresses and whilst you may occasionally find that you need to nail your own apexes to keep up with some of the leaders in the early part of any racer, once you do find a way through the madness, can easily start to make gaps. In fact, it’s like the AI just seems to give up once they’ve been overtaken, settling for runner up spots.
At least that is when the AI actually shows up and through play of Unlimited 2, all manner of bugs and glitches have hit our playthroughs. Pop up of visuals is a massive bugbear, but when the cars you are racing against consistently go invisible, before popping up directly in front of you for a second or two, it makes racing hard. But worse than that, there have been times when we’ve partaken in certain events with the rest of the field entirely invisible to us as the player. The opposition cars are there, because sparks fly as you grind metal on metal, but there’s absolutely no visual representation of the other vehicles. Yes, Gear.Club Unlimited 2 is that much of a mess.
Gear.Club Unlimited 2 – Ultimate Edition was already up against it before it even came to market and so these issues really aren’t helping things. In fact, the Xbox racing scene was easily sewn up by the Forza series and so anything even attempting to replicate any form of motorsport is going to have its work cut out. Unfortunately, trying to compete is the least of Gear.Club’s worries, with clanky menus and jaggy racing ensuring this one gets left in the dust by any and all competitors.
But that’s not all and any good racer nowadays doesn’t just deal with the cars; much of the draw of a driving title is found in the music – something that once again the Forza Horizon series has honed. Here, Gear.Club Unlimited 2 isn’t good, mostly as the ‘radio’ options consist of four choices. You’ll probably find that ‘off’ is the preferred call, but both ‘Rock’ and ‘Electro’ tunes are also available. But what about that fourth option? That’s no more than ‘Shuffle’. Yep, Gear.Club is even severely limited in the tunes you can listen to whilst you race.
Away from the racing and building out your garage with different performance shop units is nice, albeit frustrating as you struggle with a variety of button presses, picking up and dropping cars into specific areas of your garage in the hope you can upgrade its performance. Just giving us some standard lists to do the same with would have been a whole load better and easier, ensuring less of a need to flip and flop between menu systems and loading screens.
If you do enjoy upgrading though, a select few stickers are also in place, giving the creatives a chance to try and design their own liveries. For the most part, it’s yet another pointless exercise, but if you must draw on some personalisation, the option is there.
For all the bad, there are a couple of other little things that this Gear.Club offering does have going for it, and that is the fact it is fairly well specced in terms of accessibility. The standard racing assists are in place, whether that be through Amateur, Semi-Pro or Professional presets. You can also go into the finer details, amending braking, anti-skid and steering levels. And if you must know, yes, there are also a few different horns in place as well. Again, Forza Horizon 5 levels these are not. The problem is, these are minor positives in an altogether disappointing experience.
I can’t sit here and say, with hand on heart, that Gear.Club Unlimited 2 – Ultimate Edition is the worst racing game in the world, for there are some bits which are okay. But it’s so far away from a top podium spot that it’s pretty much worth dismissing out of hand. Bugs, visual glitches and a clunky nature are massive issues that hold things back, and so this will only appeal if you’re absolutely desperate for a new racer. And even then, you’ll probably get frustrated by it long before you reach the upper echelons of the racing.
Gear.Club Unlimited 2 – Ultimate Edition is available to download from the Xbox Store