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Mixing equal parts PGR and Geometry Wars, The Club delivers indulgent hardcore pleasure...
- Core score/time mechanic feels exciting and new.
- Combat feels spot on.
- A hardcore classic to keep you coming back.
- Multiplayer modes hugely disappointing.
- No online Gunplay option.
- More tournaments, more locations please.
Bizarre Creations switches the racetrack for the battlefield with the eagerly anticipated release of The Club. Described as a shadowy, secretive organisation that attracts punters from all walks of life to compete in an underground bloodsport, The Club is best described as Fight Club meets The Running Man - a gold bullet to anybody who notices the Killen link.
Taking place across eight tournaments, each consisting of multiple different stages and game types, the parallels between The Club and PGR are immediate. Each of the eight available characters to choose from are graded based upon Speed, Strength, and Stamina, providing a strong sense of variety in much the same way as choosing between a Mini Cooper S and a Ferrari Enzo.
The ranges of different gametypes available in the single-player campaign are both rewarding and creative, helping to realise the full potential of The Club's premise. Whether it's the start-finish introductory nature of the Sprint; last-man styled Siege or Survivor events; or sprinting through the stages, collecting time on the way with Time Attack. Things get a little more sadistic with the Run The Gauntlet mode, challenging you to reach the exit before micro explosives inserted into your bloodstream explode!
Welcome To The Club
Fundamentally based around the habitual combo, The Club's primary challenge consists of running towards the exit, racking up kills along the way to maintain your score combo and win a Bronze, Silver, or Gold bullet at the end of the tournament. Sprinting through the stages with a CNN-cam close to Gears of War, The Club rewards scores based on varying conditions such as distance, accuracy and multikills. Combos count down quickly so the need to find the next kill is constantly on your mind, bringing a sense of urgency and pace that sets The Club out on its own from the onset. Expanding upon the basic goal of killing to combo, a range of special killing techniques such as the Death Roll (an instant kill after a roll), the Snap Shot (immediate kill after a 180 turn), Rico-Slay (bouncing bullets of walls) and many more adds a Kudos style mentality to the proceedings - kill or be killed, but do it with style.
It's a skill-based game that gamers labelled as 'hardcore' will understand and enjoy, a hearty double-barrelled blast in the rapidly bloated face of 'casual' games - and for that we love The Club. Call us hardcore, call us snooty, but there's something so primitively entertaining about The Club's clever use of old-school game mechanics (score and time) coupled with the intensity permitted by the Xbox 360 and PlayStation3. The Club rewards little things such as the vital necessity of a roll or knowing when there's a lull in the action to reload - just like a perfect gear change coming up to the Laguna Seca's Corkscrew (ok we might be getting into the whole PGR/The Club thing a little too much!)
Nevertheless the similarities to PGR continue. With many of the game types involving a start and an exit, gaining the scores needed to compete on anything above the Casual difficulty requires knowing the layout of each stage and the positions of the fodder along the way. Level design is a true quality of The Club. Skullshots, which provide a timely boost to your combo in addition to a kill, are placed with the precision you'd expect from a studio better known for their exploits in the racing genre. It's much like a racing game, you get to know the tracks and you shave vital seconds from the final time. Despite the varied and densely packed stages, on the whole Bizarre Creations have avoided a potential pitfall with thoughtfully designed levels and an abundance of handy arrows to guide the way. On the first run through it's easy to get a little lost and end up with a pathetic score; second time through and that score begins to look a little better; third time through and you're hooked!
As with PGR, the bite-sized tournaments coupled with the insane difficulty means that The Club is the type of game you'll enjoy if you like to keep coming back for more. It doesn't take too long to run through the eight tournaments on offer (although Insane and Real are another thing entirely), but that's only where the fun begins. Not only does progress through the tournaments reward extra characters, but also unlocks content for the brilliant Gunplay mode.
Offline A-Go Go
Essentially a playlist editor, Gunplay allows you to mix-and-match your own combinations of gametypes, stages, and weapons, creating a playlist to challenge your mates to by taking it in turns to beat the score and Pass the Pad. Embracing the action-packed, innovative styling of the main game, Gunplay brings multiplayer to the experience with stunning effect.
Unfortunately, despite the mouth watering potential of multiplayer in The Club and the previous pedigree of PGR online, the generic collection of staple shooter gametypes in the multiplayer specific modes fail to represent the same brilliance that the single-player game and Gunplay exude.
Having soaked up far too much time in the office during the last week, you can imagine our anger and frustration at the game's generic assortment of multiplayer modes. Having delivered the goods with a creative punch of explosive magnitude in the shooter genre, Bizarre have abandoned all sense of that accomplishment by simply collecting the staple Deathmatch, CTF, Zombie, and Territories gametypes and renaming them. The Club multiplayer rarely moves beyond more than a generic experience befitting its tired selection of gametypes. Why Bizarre couldn't have Gunplay online is beyond me, or perhaps had two players playing the main game with special combo rewards for stopping your opponent's combo - believe me I've thought a lot about it!
Although we have to applaud the inclusion of a 4P splitscreen mode, the fact that there's only going to be three other opponents makes the Score Match gametype about as engaging as solitary speed-dating (not that I'm talking from experience).