Sega The Club
- Fantastic scoring system, exhausting pace, instinctive controls, large and attractive courses
- Level paths not always clear, enemies blend a bit too well into the shadows, minimalist sound design, disposable story
What might be most impressive about The Club is that despite the many disparate elements that it cherry-picks from genres as diverse as racing, skateboarding, and first-person shooters, the whole never bears the disjointed feel of a Frankenstein creation, instead ebbing and flowing with a satisfying smoothness that's accessible without being overly simplistic, and action-packed without being nerve-deadening. It's like watching an action movie with the stereo cranked up to 11 except you're the maestro dictating every movement of the bullet ballet.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
As if you needed another reason to lock and load, The Club debuts on the Xbox 360 with a bang!
Just when you think there's no way to make men shooting guns at each other feel new again, Bizarre Creations conjures up The Club, a sick new blend of elements that makes your trigger finger twitch uncontrollably.
If you're looking for a riveting story, skill progression, or a final confrontation with a larger-than-life villain from The Club, you're pretty much out of luck. What little narrative there is resembles that of a fighting game. Basically, it goes down like this: a wealthy group of powerful figures grew bored with what passes for modern bloodsport, and turned their influence toward nurturing an underground club that replaces knuckles and judges with live rounds and grenades. Eight balanced fighters, each with varying attributes, are plucked from their everyday lives and thrust into the most dangerous game any will ever play. Participation is compulsory, and breaking what few rules there are will cause the micro-explosives circulating in their blood to detonate.
A touch of back-story and a short ending video for each are as close as you get to digging into the psyches of intriguing characters like Detective Renwick and the mysterious Nemo. In most other games, such a lack of context might make the attached gameplay feel at least vaguely hollow; The Club, however, is most decidedly not like most games.
If you stripped Marcus Fenix of his armour, force-fed him enough amphetamines to kill an Angus bull, and told him to quit hiding all the time, you'd be able to approximate the blistering experience that The Club offers its protagonists. Each of the detailed and somewhat deformable environments are split into six courses, and there are 17 weapons scattered about for your use; everything from shotguns and pistols to assault rifles and a rocket launcher are present and it all helps make the levels feel like a high-octane shooting gallery where timed reloads and ricocheting bullets are the law of the land.
The overall experience also begins to mimic a racing game in that sheer speed is absolutely mandatory for survival, whether you're taking laps on a predetermined route, or tearing toward the heavily guarded finish line. The reason for this is the scoring system that drives every encounter. Rather than simply chalking up frags, every kill is rated based on shot placement, distance, fancy footwork, and more. That figure gets multiplied by your current combination count, which you add to by racking up kills before your killbar meter bleeds out.
It's a masterful system, because flair and timing count for so much more than brute force. The more you play it, the better you get, until you're comfortable throwing in the embellishments that truly make it your own, whether they involve frequent bullet-dodging rolls, or stitching headshots together with spins for additional points. The arrows that guide your path aren't always common enough when you're starting out, and enemies tend to blend into the shadows a little too well, but repeated play dulls such minor rough edges.
The killbar that makes ludicrous scores possible is constantly ticking down, which keeps your right index finger forever dancing between the trigger button that drops thugs to the bumper that lets you haul ass to your next victim. Breakable "skullshot" targets are sprinkled all over the place to help maintain your streak between firefights, but pumping bullets into flesh is the best way to go. Siege and Survivor events give you a break from the manic pace, since they plant you in a cordoned space you can only venture from for a few seconds at a time, but they're really just the pit-stops between laps, even if the option to blink once in a while is a relief.
Internet Tough Guys
While it is a pleasure to finesse your way through the eight environments solo, taking the action online is almost as satisfying. You earn points by capturing objectives, shooting enemy skullshot collections, capping the opposing leader, or surviving as long as possible in the virtual tag of Hunter/Hunted. Even old standards like vanilla deathmatch are measurably improved when linked with such a beautifully crafted scoring system, and serviced by controls that are virtually perfect once you crank up the aim sensitivity a notch or two.
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