The Club Review

Alan Baxter

The talented developing studios, Bizarre Creations, are most famous for creating the extremely successful Project Gotham Racing series which has sold millions of copies worldwide. Having already proven themselves as masters of the racing genre, the folks at Bizarre Creations chose to show the world that their talented team could produce successful games in genres other than high adrenaline racing games with The Club being their first attempt. Join us as we venture through Bizarre’s creation in attempts to see if they’ve managed to make The Club as fun and successful as their flagship series.

I wouldn't like to see that flying my way!

The Club is a Third Person Shooter game that relies solely on you producing outstanding kill combinations, completing levels in the quickest time possible and wracking up incredibly high scores, all presented with a very arcade-like feel. Scoring a shed load of points will be one of your main priorities throughout your experience with The Club, and therefore an in-depth “Combo System” has been implemented. Your score is primarily based around killing enemies but also hinged on shooting “Skullshot” targets located throughout levels. The combo system is much more complicated than just being awarded a set number of points per kill however. The distance from the enemy, headshots, as well as the type of enemy killed are all taken into consideration. Mastering these elements is the key to beating your opponents to the top of the leaderboards to become the unprecedented king of The Club! The Club features eight characters, all with differing appearances and personalities. Each character in the game has been given a rating out of 5 stars for Speed, Strength and Stamina attributes. Picking a character with the correct strengths and weaknesses to suit your style of play can be crucial to success in The Club. If you have a no-nonsense approach to gaming, Dragov, “a Siberian hunter and the most wanted criminal in Russian history”, might just be the character for you. If you prefer a more “run and gun” approach, Kuro, “a deep-cover operative with a stolen identity”, could be the perfect choice to suit your gameplay tactics. As well as characters with specialist categories, you have the choice of using solid all-rounders such as Renwick, a member of the NYPD for more than 30 years, who refuses to take crap from anybody. Each character’s varying attributes result in a large amount of gameplay and replayability value, something that is gladly welcomed after a lack of story mode and different game types.

Eliminating enemies in one of the special ways the game allows will net you even more points per kill. By pressing the Y button, your character will instantly turn 180 degrees before you can flash an eyelid. If you make mince meat of an enemy immediately after this move, extra points will be added to your combo due to the added difficulty and style of the kill. The same applies to terminating an enemy after performing a roll or courageously smashing through a door. The environment will also allow you to achieve a huge bonus per kill, by ricocheting bullets off walls or shooting through surfaces in order to eliminate your foe. As you relentlessly surge through the levels destroying everything in sight, you will need to pay attention to your combo bar and multiplier in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Every time you kill an enemy, your combo bar gets filled up, and a multiplier gained. Your combo bar will not stay there for long however, as it instantly begins to tick down. If take too long to score your next kill you will lose all of your built up multiplier and have to start building your combo bar up again. Having a short amount of time to maneuver between kills encourages fast paced and intense gameplay and will keep you on the edge of your seat as you hunt down the nearest enemy or skullshot, hungering after their blood so that you can add to your score. Attempting to keep your combo bar and multiplier from running out is truly an intense and gripping experience, which results in serious fun being had.

Explosions are plentiful in The Club.

Last but not least in this highly complicated yet effective scoring system comes the end of level bonus system. The amount of points you score whilst playing, multiplied by the combo, health, and accuracy bonus you finish the level with, equal your final level score. This end of level bonus is a nice feature as it will encourage you to fire accurately instead of carelessly spraying bullets everywhere in an attempt to hit a target and also take up intelligent positions to avoid losing health. In the end though, it's up to you whether to take the careful approach hiding behind cover and aiming down the sight for headshots, or storming through a level like a raging bull on steroids.

One of the first things you will notice when loading up The Club, apart from the action packed and highly entertaining video introducing the games characters, is the lack of a story mode. The lack of an immersive campaign mode may put some gamers off playing The Club, but there is still plenty to dig your teeth into and get many hours of enjoyment from, including four different modes. They are Tournament Mode, Single Event, Gunplay Mode and Multiplayer modes which obviously includes Xbox Live play.

Tournament mode is the main bulk of single player events in The Club, in which you compete against A.I opponents with each tournament consisting of on average six events, scoring points for your place on the leaderboard. In order to reach the #1 position you will have to participate in no less than five different events including Sprint, Siege, Time Attack, Survivor and Run the Gauntlet. Sprint is a simple yet fun game type, with only one goal in mind; score the highest amount of points possible before finally smashing through the barricade in order to exit the level. Siege events challenge you to survive for a set amount of time in a small, confined area indicated by cones and white line, whilst being bombarded from all corners by enemies. Time Attack events require you to complete a certain amount of laps of a level in a specific time limit; and yes, there will still be plenty of baddies to eliminate along the way and score big combos. The Survivor events are similar to the Siege tasks, but instead of small, confined areas, you will have a larger area to roam in. A big advantage you may think, but in Survivor, not only do you have to survive a certain amount of time against a large onslaught of enemies, but also meet a target score set before the round begins.

These five events all have varying objectives, keeping the game fresh and fun each time you play the event type. Although each type differs from the next, they all bring the same, highly intense gameplay that will boil your blood as you either frantically rush your way through a level, trying to avoid getting your leg blown off, or attempting to link kills and targets together in order to achieve the best combo and score possible. If you have high blood pressure or can’t cope with stress well, I advise you against playing The Club!

Some levels appear too dark, expect to get lost!

The Club features eight different locations throughout the world for this intense action, with each differing greatly from the next. Fight to the death in abandoned prison cells in the USA, a derelict Manor House in the U.K or the underwater city of Venice, amongst others. Each location provides a different setting and atmosphere which will keep you coming back longer. In Tournament mode, there are eight different tournaments for you to conquer and take the coveted number one spot. You will only be able to enter one tournament from the start however, set in an old and rusty steel mill in Germany, that you will have to beat before unlocking more tournaments. Not only will the location be unlocked for Tournament mode play, but also Single Event play, and therefore completing Tournament mode can be a big incentive for those wishing to have access to other features of the game. The downside to this feature however is that some gamers may only want to play a certain map, and if that is the last location in Tournament mode, all other maps will have to be played and completed before hand.

Each of the Single Player events also has an online leaderboard which will allow you to compare your high scores with friends, whilst seeing how you match up against The Club’s elite contenders. The Club consists of 4 varying difficulty levels, ranging from the ridiculously easy to the stupendously hard. The harder difficulty levels provide a more stern test to complete and therefore blood, sweat and tears might arise before you are blessed with the sight of the “Real” difficulty bullet award. If you are a gamer who looks to squeeze out the maximum amount of playability from a game, or you just can’t stand seeing incomplete tasks, aim for achieving 4 bullet awards in every event, one for each difficulty. With 49 overall events and 196 bullets to collect, it might be a while before you can declare yourself the ultimate bullet collector, and master of the Single Event mode.

Those shielded enemies are definitely toughies!

Gunplay Mode is likely to be the option you choose to play when friends come round, staggering home from the Pub for some fast-paced shooting action, and features the ability to create playlists of your favourite events to play through, creating your own tournament. Each playlist can have a maximum of 12 events, and be played by up to 4 players on the same console. The “Pass the Pad” technique seen on older consoles will be implemented here, where each player uses the same controller and watches their opponent as they wait for their opportunity to conquer the event. Having three friends watching can bring on the nerves and anxiety, putting you under pressure to perform to the best of your abilities or get mocked for missing that easy headshot and producing a score which your Grandma could beat! Along with the choice of events and number of players, each playlist is features customizable difficultly levels and weapon types. This will allow you to make the playlist as easy or hard as your heart desires and can increase the replay value of the game by a great deal. The possibilities are endless in Gunplay Mode, which makes this an extremely desirable option to experiment with and have many a laugh whilst during the company of others.

Unfortunately, Bizarre’s latest creation has a few disadvantages which will slightly hinder the otherwise-fun experience. The control system may take some time to get used to, with the aiming speed in particular being a problem. An even bigger disappointment is the lack of a replay feature after each event, something that would have provided many hours of enjoyment. On the plus side, you might not have had time to watch the replays anyway due to there being no less than eight enthralling multiplayer modes for you to partake in. Three solo modes and five team modes are present, so whether you prefer to stand alone or be part of a menacing squad, Bizarre have you covered. Each mode provides contrasting gameplay to the next.

Fight with your friends in team-based online games.

The graphics in The Club are similar to the gameplay, in that they are very well done indeed. Whilst they are not comparable to top tier titles such as Gears of War or Bioshock, the graphics of The Club are more than respectable and include some lovely lighting effects, along with detailed environments and detailed characters. Particular parts of levels however appear to be too dark, and this can often result in you completely missing an enemy who’s firing bullets in to your soon to be dead corpse, or getting lost and running out of time.

Award winning composer Richard Jacques, famous for producing music for games such as Jet Set Radio and Mass Effect, was hired by Bizarre Creations to create the musical score for The Club’s single player experience and has done a stellar job here. Orchestral music appears just at the right times during events and is perfectly done to still allow the effects of weapons and the commentators voice to prevail over the music. Speaking of the commentator’s voice, if I have to hear “Headshot” one more time, well… Let’s just say I won’t be writing any more reviews until I’m out of hospital. The Club also features some great surround sound, with the sound of bullets ricocheting off different surfaces and explosions being done particularly well.

Will you employ the brave, stealth approach in multiplayer?

The Club has a nice mix of single and multiplayer achievements, which also consist of numbingly easy and extremely time-consuming tasks. You will be rewarded for playing through and completing Tournament mode, bagging a nice 10 gamerpoints for each tournament. If you have the skill to complete the tournaments on the Insane difficulty, you’ll acquire an extra 20 gamerpoints per tournament. There is, unfortunately, a catch here though that makes these achievements far easier to achieve. You will not have to win the tournaments on Insane, merely survive them till the end. You can finish at the bottom of the leaderboard and still get awarded the achievement. Finishing bottom of a leaderboard doesn't seem like much of an achievement to me. As well as tournaments, you will be rewarded for achieving impressive combos, finding all the skullshots located throughout the game, and pulling off all of the skill moves explained earlier in the review. None of these achievements are notably hard, but might require some patience to achieve. The multiplayer side of the achievement set will see you unlocking points for winning your first ranked match, winning a ranked match on each map, and the feared “No, Seriously” achievement, obviously inspired by Gears of War which will unlock after you have achieved 10,001 kills in ranked matches. Having the “No, Seriously” achievement in your collection will prove to the gaming world that you’re a highly skilled and committed member of The Club! The challenging yet do-able achievement list will appeal to many gamers, due to the 1000 gamerpoints being very accessible if you have the motivation to put in the effort required. All in all, a decent set of achievements.

Good orchestral work and sound effects are present, but hearing “Headshot” over and over again from the commentator might test your patience.

The Club is very appealing on the eye with some gorgeous lighting effects and highly detailed environments, but is let down by some areas in levels being too dark, resulting in you getting lost too easily. Enemies will often be located in these dark places; and it’s not fun getting bombarded with bullets by somebody you can’t find!

The lack of an immersive story mode might put a few people off The Club, but the 3 main single player modes, compiled with a terrific online segment with no less than 8 varying modes, should be enough to keep you entertained for a long while yet. Re-attempting events in order to beat your previous high scores or battling to conquer your friend’s measly attempts can be incredibly addictive, as you try to prove to the world that you’re the ultimate member of The Club.

The lack of a replay mode is a big let down, as this feature would have brought the title from being a good game, in to a great game. We can only hope replays will be added in the near future via download content.

The Club provides a carefully thought out achievement list consisting of both single and multiplayer achievements. The contrast between easy and hard, time-consuming achievements is just about perfect, allowing a fair percentage of points to be achieved in a short time period; but only the hardcore fans of The Club achieving the full 1000 gamerpoints. You must be addicted to the game to achieve “No, Seriously” and kill 10,001 helpless victims…

If you’re looking for a third person shooter with intense, heart-pounding gameplay, The Club is the perfect game for you. On the other hand, if you like to stroll around, taking in environments and having a relaxing time, avoid The Club at all costs. Frantic, fast-paced action is presented in its best form by Bizarre Creations, who prove they can produce more than just fantastic racing games; incredibly fun arcade shooters as well!

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