If you’ve seen Hostel you’ll have some idea what The Club is trying to portray: a secret underground organisation that essentially sells entrance to a deadly bloodsport to anyone willing to put their lives on the line. The game gives you the option to select from eight such members as you battle through nearly 50 sections across 8 diverse levels in what is little more than a next-gen third person score attack tournament.
Don’t buy The Club expecting a lengthy story-based shooter as chances are you’ll be disappointed, Bizarre have gone back to the old school of game mechanics with the emphasis on obtaining the highest possible points for each part of the game. Repeating play is rewarded, but you’ll need to be the sort of gamer that enjoys trying the same portion of a game over and over again, seeking out hidden targets, aiming for headshots and keeping up the combo multiplier.
Scoring high is the key to getting the most of The Club, and although combos are the main way to top the online charts (of which there are 200) you’ll need to keep your eyes out for Skullshots (secret targets) and the best way to link up kills whilst performing fancy context-sensitive moves between the bad guys. Long distance shots, ricochets and even shooting through objects net you even more points, and once you’ve gotten through a level alive it’s time to try again and go for points.
It’s an interesting alternative to the normal shooter gameplay, and once you get your head around what the game is asking for it all works rather well. The main Tournament mode is played against the other seven members of The Club and events are pushed your way in sequence with league points awarded at the end of each gametype, which include sprints to the exit, time attacks and the defence-based ‘siege’ which involves keeping your ground against hordes of oncoming enemies.
For a lighter bite, players can try Gunplay, which lets you pick and choose from any gametype and build your own playlists, which is what Sega call the ‘back from the pub’ mode, and we can see why: eight levels of ‘Sprint’ with a few mates is a real giggle (the game supports 4-way split screen) and there’s always Single Event if you just want a quick blast before breakfast.
Gamers with an internet connection benefit the most from The Club: the online leaderboards constantly reflect your skill levels against others, and there’s a whole rack of multiplayer options too, including races to a set score target, hunter/hunted tag, standard deathmatch and variations on the Tournament types like Team Siege and our favourite: Team Fox Hunt which involves seeking out and killing the other team’s fox whilst protecting your own.
Each member of The Club has their own statistics (such as speed and strength) which does provide some variety across the game types, and with a massive collection of weapons the game is really only hamstrung by it’s old-school style of play, which whilst refreshing and exciting at first can become frustrating and repetitive before the game is over. Each of the eight arenas (from the initial Steel Mill to an abandoned Bunker, via an old English stately home and the backstreets of Venice) does provide a change of atmosphere but the gametypes remain the same and you’re only going to get as much out as you put in.
If this is sounding like a blast then we’re sure you’ll find much to enjoy with The Club: the controls are smooth and responsive and the graphics and audio are serviceable enough to warrant the entry fee, but by playing like an on-rails lightgun game at times and a standard run-about shooter at others means that The Club doesn’t quite feel as nourished as it could have. There’s stacks of fun to be had here, but you’ll need focus and determination to dig the best bits out – we like it, but know what you’re getting into before handing over the £50.