The Club doesn’t talk much: it doesn’t need to. Things like detailed back story and plot progression do nothing but get in the way of a perfectly good arcade shooter. The Club itself is an underground blood sport run by the most powerful people in the world, and its participants are usually forced into the game. The winner of the game is awarded a prize and their freedom, and that’s it. When playing the game, and I certainly hope you do, don’t think too hard on these things. They’re really of no consequence, and by the time you ask, “How crazy does Seager have to be to volunteer himself for the Club?”, your combo has already started to bleed.
Bizarre Creations, the studio behind Project Gotham Racing, effectively and successfully took PGR’s Kudos system and brought it to the Club in the form of Combos. Each successful kill earns the player a point total, adjusted by factors like range, style, and accuracy, and increases the combo multiplyer by one. Chain together kills before the timer runs out, combine them with rolls and turns, and you can gather some serious points. In addition to kills, combos can be increased or timers reset by finding and shooting “skull shots,” small orange signs scattered throughout each stage.
Even the most naturaly gifted gamer will find that memorization is important in the later difficulties. Casual, the game’s easiest level of difficulty, is almost relaxing in pace and execution, but the gap between Casual and Reckless is sizeable. As the difficulty scales, more baddies spawn before you that do and take more damage; this improves on your chances of getting a high score, but requires a bit of forehand knowledge.
The game looks decent: no major hitches to be seen, no significant screen tearing, no framerate hiccups. It doesn’t do much to push visuals into the stratosphere, but the character models in all cases are detailed enough to satisfy anyone but videophiles. It sounds much like it looks: a mix of reasonable audio, mediocre voice acting (aside from the main announcer, who proclaims “Rico-slay” in the most platonicly sexy baritone I’ve heard since UT2k4), and a slew of acceptable environmental sound effects.
The Club’s single player offering is comprised of a Tournament mode, similar to most racing tourneys where your finish in each event adds a point total to a grand total, an Event mode, where you can try each level individually and practice your art, and Gun Play, a set of unlockable event playlists with a cumulative total score set as par. Each event has a specific type. In most, you’ll find yourself racing against the clock, either to find the level exit before the timer reaches zero or to simply survive for a set period of time. Others will give your free reign over the level while you blast your way to the exit, but all have a minimum scoring requirement for success (which is nowhere near the score required to place well in a tourney). When playing through the tournament circuit, I felt as though I were playing the same game type every event and is certainly the biggest disappointment in solo play.
The game’s saving grace is almost certainly its multiplayer offering. It’s unfortunate that Bizarre Creations didn’t include some of the standard multiplayer modes like CtF, but modes like Hunter Hunted, which plays like a game of tag, offer many hours of fun. The ability to host your own match or play in someone else’s game is pretty solid, though a more robust set of options could never hurt.
Choosing one of the eight characters over another doesn’t effect your success much in the single player modes, but the Rochambeau effect is sizeable in multiplayer. Fast characters, like the ones I usually play, die quickly and hit less hard, but can easily back out of a combat or rush into melee range; characters like Adjo are built like tanks and move like them, but can mow down crowds with relative ease. Each character caters to a slightly different play style and I can only applaud Bizarre Creations for such a simple yet elegant balancing act.
There is, however, one major flaw that crosses between single- and multiplayer: controls. They’re slippery and slow to react, no matter how high you turn the sensitivity. While it’s not hard to adjust to the loose feel, it can be a major frustration for anyone used to tight and responsive setups. Whether this was a design choice or an oversight I can only guess, but shooter fans should be prepared for a few tutorial sessions before jumping into multiplayer or attempting to climb the leaderboards.
All in all, I’m happy to have it in my collection as a game built to satisfy my need for slaughter in short bursts. I might even bust it out at a party some time and let others try it out, but until the formula can undergo a bit of refinement, I don’t forsee the game finding mainstream approval. Give it a rent before you buy and possibly wait until the price drops a bit.