This is dreadful.
There’s so much wrong with Gear.Club Unlimited 2 – Ultimate Edition, it’s hard to know where to start, so let’s start with the positives. Taking the formerly Switch-only racing game and porting it to PC, PlayStation and Xbox (I’m playing it on Xbox Series X) with all of its DLC included at least makes for a substantial offering.
You get a career mode complete with dialogue boxes and static cartoon images of the various characters, a bit like Ridge Racer: Type 4. You get a performance shop to set up and lay out as you see fit, spending the money you win on better facilities with which to upgrade your vehicles, which is nice.
There are over 50 licensed cars, which is cool. You move up through championship tiers as you progress, unlocking ever-faster cars, and the progression in what was the core career mode before all the DLC feels reasonably good.
You can help yourself along the way by entering one-off exhibition events which yield higher prize sums, allowing you to upgrade your cars. There’s an online club option a bit like Driveclub used to have, and split-screen local multiplayer. The game also targets 4K and 60fps on PS5/Xbox Series X and it can look quite nice when it’s all moving smoothly, particularly in a snowy or nighttime setting, leaving space for your brain to fill in the gaps.
But it just doesn’t work. I mean, sometimes it literally doesn’t work. The flagship Porsche event sees the rival cars vanish and reappear randomly, so you can’t even see when you’ve been overtaken or who sideswiped you into the wall.
The endurance races are a joke as your tyres go off after one lap regardless of whether you chose soft or medium compound, forcing you to make an extra pitstop if you want to stay on the road. The AI difficulty level is all over the shop, thanks to the way rival cars always seem to have traction, whereas your car loses speed every time you slip, which on some dusty tracks is at every corner.
They even drive quickly over the gravel (or the trackside painted asphalt that behaves like gravel). Conversely, you’ll zoom away from everyone in other races, wondering what happened to the challenge.
While the game is child-friendly with plenty of tweakable assists and a gentle talk through of its systems as they’re drip-fed into your career, it’ll surely only be children who enjoy upgrading their car to discover they can then overtake the entire field in a couple of corners and never see them again.
You can bang into cars and walls however you see fit if. It helps you because there’s no damage. And even if you do mess up, there’s a rewind button that’s only limited in a few events, making everything else potentially consequence-free. AI cars occasionally collide and skid sideways for a bit, but there’s never an exciting or spectacular crash. It’s dull and feels like an HD remaster of a budget PS2 racer.
But the absolute worst part of all is the dreadful implementation of the fundamental act of turning left or right. Now the game’s running so much more smoothly and I’m playing it on a decent pad instead of Joy Cons, it’s abundantly obvious that the controls are simply inadmissible. There’s no finesse between going straight and turning the car.
There’s a sudden snap and you’re turning, just like there’s a sudden snap back to grip when you stop skidding, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Ridge Racer on PS1.
And if you’re of the school of gamers who like to push the left stick forward to get smoother turning increments, you’re in for a shock. Not only is there no smooth transition into turning, as soon as it does register the input, it applies steering progressively. So a millimetre of turning on the stick held in place sees your car turn a little, then a lot, progressively harder until you’re in the wall on the inside of the turn. It’s maddening.
The track design is poor, with too many long, sweeping turns interspersed with random hairpin bends and a ludicrously high number of roundabouts. There’s no way this many roundabouts are needed on country roads in the middle of nowhere.
There is some improvement in the venues that were DLC offerings, as the track races have some lovely sections of chicanes, and actually look very nice at times when they’re rock solid at 60fps. But the finicky controls, smoother frame rate and constant fishtailing from the degraded tyres then make this event motion sickness central.
I had to have a break; I couldn’t look at it.
Graphically, it somehow looks subjectively worse on Xbox Series X than the vanilla version does on Switch in handheld mode, because the extra clarity allows you to see all the shortcomings, such as frankly obscene tiling of textures, multiple levels of shadow draw-in, LOD on smaller elements of foliage pop-in, complete lack of physics objects to interact with, and clipped and redrawn low-detail reflections of the scenery in your car roof.
Worse still, the game doesn’t even consistently run at 60fps even on a Series X, and the dropped frames make it look shoddy. At least the sound is OK, though the radio stations are simply ‘rock’ or ‘electro’ or a mix of both – and the selection soon starts to repeat.
That this game costs £33.49 is an outrage. At the time of writing, you can get three months of Game Pass for that, and enjoy the brilliance of Forza Horizon 5 and several other racing games (depending on tiers and EA Play inclusion). Almost all of those games cost less than this at retail now too on PC or PlayStation, and any of them would be a better purchase.
Gear.Club Unlimited 2 – Ultimate Edition is a shoddy, glitchy port of a game that already had problems on the Switch. It should never have been ported to the bigger consoles, and certainly not in this state. It’s a disaster.
|Release date||7th December 2021|
|Available platforms||PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S|
|Version/s tested||Xbox Series X|
|Best played with||Controller|
Full disclosure: We received a code for this game for the purposes of review. Here is our review policy.