The Club review

Bizarre Creations are well known for their racing game expertise, and with a long history of providing gamers the high octane thrills around a racing circuit, the team felt it was time to prove that they could diversify a little. The Project Gotham Racing series has been very successful for Microsoft, but as Bizarre enter a new phase of game development, it is in fact arcade giants SEGA that are taking the team under their wing.

The Club is a third person shooter that borrows some of the flavour from the Project Gotham Racing series (minus the cars of course). What started out as a shooter versus cardboard cutouts, has evolved into a frantic, fast paced run and gun game with a difference. The premise is simple, The Club is an International Organization that operates above the law. Its members are the cream of the crop, and range from political figures, royalty and movie stars. The idea is that these individuals seek pleasure from gambling on various unsavory characters that are forced into joining the other side of The Club. This darker side pits them inside abandoned arenas where the onus is on surviving an onslaught of mercenaries and other members forced into The Club’s illicit activities. With a promise of freedom, if the characters can survive there are only two options for these individuals, and that’s to fight, or die trying!

Gameplay:

There are 8 playable characters in The Club, with 6 being available from the offset, and the other 2 unlocked after playing through the game. Each character has their own reasons for being recruited into The Club (usually against their own will via blackmailing), and has various strengths and weaknesses. These are broken down into three categories such as Speed, Strength and Stamina; with each being rated out of 5 stars. Each of the 8 characters are very different in design, ranging from Seager, an extreme sports enthusiast to Finn a gambler up to his eye balls in debt and under pressure from gangsters. As an interesting story, Bizarre designed several characters and showed them around the office, people had to place the characters into groups, with the ones they liked on one side, and the ones they disliked on the other. The team then decided to use the characters that were disliked; the reason being that they wanted to create a gritty game rather than a game filled with the usual run of the mill hero types.

The gameplay in The Club is quite unique and harks back to the days of looking at a high score table on an arcade machine. The whole premise of the game isn’t about story but about obtaining a high score and then the subsequent challenge of besting that score, or better yet getting others to try and beat it.

There are several modes to sink your teeth into across the 8 varied arenas, and these come in the forms of Sprint – where you must find the exit whilst scoring as many points as possible (and obviously not being killed in the process). Siege – where you are confined to a small area of the arena and must hold out from enemy attacks until the timer runs out. Survivor – this is similar to Siege but you have a greater area to move around and pick up health and such like. Time Attack – this is similar to Sprint, however this time you have a time limit to battle against and there are laps. Should you delay or run out of time, then an explosive embedded within you detonates and it’s game over! Luckily you can add extra time to the clock by shooting markers, killing enemies and running through checkpoints. Run The Gauntlet – This is a similar mode to time attack, although this time you have a set time to reach the end of the level. In this mode there are no additional time bonuses, and so you have to balance time spent on killing over time wasted.

The Club is a very fast paced game, although in the Sprint mode, you can take your time to a degree, the main feature of the game is the scoring mechanic, which is quite unique and makes for thrilling runs. It is in fact the scoring mechanic that dictates the general pacing, here’s how it works. Each time you perform a kill you add a multiplier to a combo meter. The score you gain from each kill is determined by a number of factors, and range from getting headshots to richoshet kills and things like action kills ( a kill after performing a rolling move). As you kill, the combo multiplier increases as does your potential score. The meat of the combo scoring is the fact that should you dither it begins to count down (indicated by blocks on the HUD). Once the combo meter counts down, then you begin to lose your combo very quickly. However this can be saved if you make another kill or shoot skull icons scattered around the levels. I found it pretty easy to just run and gun through the levels (there is also a sprint button you can use to move quicker – although you cannot shoot, reload or melee attack during this action) but this misses the point of the scoring; the trick is to go for the headshots and other special kills for maximum points, and make sure you keep the combo meter well and truly topped up. What is interesting is the fact that the enemies appear in the same places every time, and so the onus is on learning the layout and trying to optimize the best way of killing them. Obviously this will take practice, and it won’t be until you’ve tried a level several times before you start being able to perform more flashy kills.

Graphics:

The Club looks pretty impressive when you take the time to look around the various levels. Unfortunately, due to the fast paced nature of the game, you’ll often miss some of the finer details (unless you goof around looking for hidden items in the Sprint mode). The locales are all very different and range from an Ocean Liner, Warehouse, Manor House, Prison and even a part of Italian city Venice. The character models are pretty detailed and it’s nice to be able to pan and zoom the camera around them during the character select screen. As for the other in game characters, they are usually dead before you get too much chance to check them out!

The Club runs very smoothly, although it’s rare to have so many characters on screen at once. I can’t really find much fault with the game’s graphics, other than there are a few hit detection issues especially when close to an opponent (as in the bullets wont hit them). I also found it annoying that my character couldn’t shoot over objects which looked like he should have been able to. The aiming will take a little getting used to, but there are plenty of options in the menu to change the speed to suit your play style. Weapons like the Shotgun felt a little underpowered at times as it would appear that some enemies are immune to its effects. The aiming in general felt a little random also, and it did become annoying to seemingly fill an opponent with several bullets for them to still remain alive and kicking. These are minor complaints but I guess games of this nature always have a niggling flaw or cheapness!

Audio:

Sound wise, The Club is standard fare, you’ve got some up beat in game music to drive you along which helps the mood, but what really stands out are the voices of the enemies. What is interesting here is the fact that they seem to be localized so for example, the Venice level will have enemies with European accents and the Manor level sports guys with cockney accents which is always good fun! The gun sounds are reasonable, but I suggest to get the most of the audio, you fiddle with the options and turn the volume up on your sound system or TV.

Longevity:

The Club is like a beat em up in terms of there is no story as such and so you choose a character and then enter a tournament and try and beat the events on each of the 8 arenas. Once you work your way to the top you are treated to a brief CGI ending sequence which finalizes the predicament of your chosen character. The real longevity of the game is obtaining all of the achievements and of course gaining high scores and letting others try and beat them. This aspect is good if you have competitive friends who come over; if not then you have Xbox Live leader-boards to contend with. At the time of writing, I proudly sit at the top of many leader-boards, however I am sure once the game hits retail that will quickly change.

The club also features the same modes to be played over Xbox Live with up to 8 players, with the added bonus of a deathmatch mode and team games thrown in for good measure. I found the regular deathmatch to be simple, fun but totally unbalanced. There are super weapons scattered around the maps, and if you manage to grab a mini gun as an example, then anyone else becomes cannon fodder. The inclusion of score modes is pretty good and means players can set up a decent number of challenges with other gamers from across the globe. Sadly, there is no replay feature or Gotham TV type mode which would have been a neat inclusion to the package as some gamers will no doubt be in awe at some of the insane scores some players will manage to get as the weeks go by.

Overall:

I have really enjoyed playing The Club as it’s very different to what is the norm, it also has a distinct addictive quality despite its simplicity. I played the demo, but didn’t really “feel” it at the time; however with the full game and a better understanding of the whole high score flavour, I can appreciate what Bizarre are doing here. I think the high score element will be the game’s biggest strength, but also its potential downfall. In an age where gamers expect a story to be told and something more tangible other than a high score table, I wonder if the whole idea will be lost on many gamers? If you are looking for a game which offers fast paced combat and you are of the competitive type, then The Club is most certainly well worth a look. By all means it’s not the best game ever created, but it has enough charm and personality to make it a valid, plausible and original attempt at the shooter genre.

 

8/10

Written by: Rob Cram

Rob Cram has hundreds of video game reviews, thousands of articles under his belt with years of experience in gaming and tech. He aims to remain fair and free from publisher/developer influence. With his extensive knowledge, feels his gaming opinions are valid and worth sharing. Agreement with his views are entirely optional. He might have a bias towards cyberpunk.

No comments yet.

Leave Your Reply