Alan Baxter On November - 18 - 2009

The famous and highly 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 that they are able to develop exquisite racing titles which any gamer would be proud to have in their collection, the folks at Bizarre Creations want to show the world that their talented team could produce successful games in genres other than high adrenaline racing games; and here is their first attempt, The Club. Have Bizarre managed to make The Club as fun and successful as their flagship series, or should they just return to the piston-pumping franchise and produce more spectacular racing games? Carry on reading to find out!

Venturing completely away from the racing scene, 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 incredible high scores. Whilst completing these objectives in the game, you will get an “Arcade” feel about the whole experience due to retro games involving similar gameplay and score based missions. There is a lack of third person shooting games aswell as Arcade style shooters currently available on the Xbox 360 games console, and therefore you might find The Club to be a nice change from titles currently in your collection.

With the game being an Arcade style shooter, 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. There are two main ways you are able to score points, with these firstly being killing enemies, and secondly finding and shooting “Skullshots” located throughout levels. Skullshots are tiny, diamond shaped targets which contain a skull and an orange background; and when shot, add points and time onto your combo. The combo system is much more complicated than just being awarded a set number of points per kill however; with the distance away from the enemy, headshots, and also the type of enemy killed all taken into consideration. The further away from the enemy, aswell as scoring a headshot, are the key to scoring the maximum amount of points possible per kill, and beating your opponents to the top of the leaderboards to become the unprecedented king of The Club!

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 the 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 of walls or shooting through surfaces in order to eliminate your foe.

As you relentlessly surge through the levels, destroying everything in site, you will need to pay attention to your combo bar and multiplier in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Everytime you kill and enemy, your combo bar gets filled up, and a x1 multiplier gained. Your combo bar will not stay there for long however, as it instantly begins to tick down; and if you leave your next kill or skullshot too long, 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 manoeuvre inbetween kills encourages quick and intense gameplay, and will really keep you on the edge of your seat as you hunt down the nearest enemy or skullshot, eagerly wanting their blood on your conscience so that you can add another thousand points to your score. Not only will killing enemies keep your combo bar alive, but with every enemy killed, x1 bonus will be added to your multiplier. In theory, if there are 100 enemies in a level, you could end that event with a 100x multiplayer, resulting in some serious points being achieved! The higher multiplier you have, the more points you will receive every time you successfully kill or shoot a skullshot. For example, if you have a 10x multiplier, you will earn ten times the amount of points you usually would per kill; and this is the key to achieving the highest scores amongst the gaming world. 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.

Last but not least in this highly complicated yet powerfully effective scoring system comes the end of level bonus you will receive. The manner in which you complete a level will have an impact on the amount of points you score, with combo bonus you finish the level with being multiplied by a health bonus, which is then multiplied by your accuracy bonus; and the total of this sum being added to your original score in order to give you a final level score. This end of level bonus is a nice feature as it will encourage you to accurately fire instead of carelessly spraying bullets everywhere in an attempt to hit a target, and also take up intelligent positions to avoid losing health. With these thoughts, new tactics will have to be implemented which will often drastically change the gameplay. Its then up to you whether you’ll take the careful approach hiding behind cover and aiming down the sight for headshots, or storming through a level like a raging bull or steroids, trying to cause the most damage and destruction possible. Each method can result in so much enjoyment being had!

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 are still plenty of options to dig your teeth into and get many hours of enjoyment from. Four more options to be precise, and these are Tournament Mode, Single Event, Gunplay Mode and Multiplayer modes, including Xbox Live play. Tournament mode is the main bulk of single player events in The Club. As the name of the mode suggests, you compete in tournaments against computer A.I, with each tournament consisting of on average 6 events. Winning an event will bag you a sweet 10 points, second place you will get 8 points etc, with dying or failing to complete the event earning you a big fat 0 points. At the end of the 6 or so events, your aim is to be atop of the leaderboard, with your character shining bright and proving he is the undoubtedly best member of The Club. In order to achieve this goal, you will have to participate in no less than 5 different events; these being 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. You will find yourself begging for more merciless victims to kill in every way possible during the Sprint events, as you will frantically look for ways to crank up your points total. Before the event, depending on which difficulty level you choose, you will be set a target score to achieve during that round. If you fail to annihilate that target score, expect to be ranked low down the leaderboards, and therefore have a reduced chance of proving you’re the best member of The Club. Running around levels and scoring points to the best of your abilities incredibly fun, and at the same time very addictive. If you are a perfectionist, you might want to try and beat your previous scores in Single Event mode which I will talk more about later in the review.

Siege events challenge you to survive in a small, confined area indicated by cones and white line, whilst being bombarded from all corners by enemies. Your enemies only have one simple goal, and that is to wipe you from the face of the planet. In order to successfully complete the event, you will have to survive for a target time set to you before the event begins, with the time differing depending on which difficulty level you have chosen. On the harder difficulty levels, Bizarre Creations would not expect you to last the full target time without taking health, and therefore have strategically placed medikits around the area. However, there is a small catch. If you venture out of the coned area for more than 5 seconds at any one time, bombs which have been hidden inside of you will detonate, leaving an unpleasant scene. If you going to risk venturing outside of the white line and cones, you will have to be quick and use intelligent tactics to complete the task quick enough. With health, countless number of enemies attacking you, and clever tactics needing to be implemented to survive, Siege is a very tense and enjoyable event which you will look forward to throughout each tournament.

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. In fact, killing enemies will be a major factor in completing this event successfully, due to every kill adding 3 seconds of time on to your clock. Aswell as killing enemies, small targets with a picture of a clock will be located around the level, which when shot, will also award you with an additional 3 seconds of time. On the harder difficulty levels, you will find yourself panicking to locate more targets and enemies as you watch your timer tick down at what seems to be a rapidly increasing rate. You certainly won’t be lardy darding around, thinking about what programmes are on TV that evening! Its heart-pounding gameplay like this which helps bring The Club in to the Arcade category, and keep you hooked throughout the whole experience.

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. Just surviving might not be enough to crank up the required score, so you’ll have to aim for strings of headshots and pulling of stylish moves; which are not easy when you’re being attacked from every side of the map! Survivor is a challenging, but also fun game type which like the other events, will keep you enthralled until the end. The final event type, Run the Gauntlet, is similar to Time Attack events, but you battle your way from the start to finish of a level in the set time limit, instead of running laps around the level. You unfortunately do not have the luxury of adding time to your clock, due to now killing enemies will not add 3 seconds to your clock, and there are no targets which added time to your clock. This helps make the game type more challenging, which for most gamers will be more enjoyable.

The 5 events you will encounter during Tournament mode all have varying objectives which will result in boredom being avoided, and a great deal of fun being had each time you play the event type. Although each type differs from the next, they all bring the same, high intense gameplay that will boil your blood and have adrenaline rushing through your veins, as you either frantically rush your way through a level, try to avoid getting your leg blown off, or try to link kills and targets together in order to achieve the best combo and score possible. If you have high blood pressure levels or can’t cope with stress well, I advise you against playing The Club! Your anxiety levels will likely rise as you battle to gain the top leaderboard spot or attempt to better a previous score.

During your time with The Club, you will fight in 8 different locations throughout the world, with each location 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, among others. Each location provides a different setting and atmosphere, and this helps stop the game becoming repetitive in a short amount of time. In Tournament mode, there are 8 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, and this will be set at an old and rusty Steel Mill in Germany. Each tournament being completed unlocks another for you to participate in. 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. Bizarre have been clever in this aspect, as it guarantees the player will complete Tournament mode if he/she wishes to participate in Single Events. 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. This might put the gamer off playing the game at all due to being forced to play modes and maps he/she did not wish to.

The Single Event mode can be accessed via the main menu, and this is where you have the chance to replay any event you encountered throughout Tournament mode. Whether you just replay the event for enjoyment factors or are aiming to beat your high score is up to you, but having the choice to choose particular events without having to replay the appropriate tournament is a very nice, time-saving feature indeed. However, you will have to unlock the event in Tournament mode before you have access to the level in Single Event mode, and this may be seen as a nuisance by those who have no desire to participate in the tournaments. Each event also has an online leaderboard, which will allow you to compare your high scores with friends, whilst seeing how you match up against The Clubs elite contenders. Competition is a very motivating factor in today’s lifestyle, especially between friends; and therefore Bizarre have cleverly given you the opportunity to prove and brag to your comrades that you’re the coolest under pressure, and the greatest arcade shooter around. Single Event mode may also appear to the completionists among you. The Club consists of 4 varying difficulty levels, ranging from the ridiculously easy to the stupendously hard. As you complete an event, a bullet will flash up on your screen to signify that event has been won. With a bullet being awarded for each difficulty level, 4 bullets can be collected for each event. The harder difficulty levels will also provide a sterner test to complete, and therefore blood, sweat and tears might arise before you can are blessed with the sight of the “Real” difficulty bullet. 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, then you will aim for achieving 4 bullets in every event. With 49 overall events and therefore 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.

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. Gunplay mode is where you create playlists of your favourite events to play through, and therefore 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 opportunity to conquer the event. Having 3 friends watching can bring on the nerves and anxiety, putting you under pressure to perform to the best of your abilities; otherwise, get mocked for missing that easy headshot and producing a score which your Grandma could beat! The interruptions between gameplay and putting your buddies under pressure can result in a lot of banter being had, increasing the enjoyment of the evening, whilst making winning even more satisfying than it already was. Along with the choice of events and number of players, each playlist is also customisable with difficult levels and weapon types. This will allow you to make the playlist as easy or hard as your heart desires, and can increase the replayability of the game by a great deal. If you invite friends round who believe they are the messiahs of the gaming world, challenge them to complete a playlist on the Insane difficulty level with only a measly pistol equipped. In contrast, if you have a friend new to gaming with you, a playlist could be created on the Casual difficult setting with access to the most powerful sub-machine guns. 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.

“With all these modes and events to participate in, how many characters do we have access to?” I hear you ask. The answer to that question would be 8 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. This mean looking marksman possess only 1 star in the speed category, but a highly impressive 5 stars in strength and 4 in stamina; making him the perfect maniac to take into the heart of a gun fest. 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. Kuro flaunts an impressive 5 stars in the speed category, allowing him to manoeuvre around levels as fast as a cat on fire, but unfortunately suffers in the strength and speed department, having 2 and 3 stars respectively. Aswell 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. 3 stars in each category are present for Renwick, making him a reliable outfit for your killing needs; although reliable, not noticeably strong in any particular area. As you experiment with the 8 different characters in the game, you can certainly note a difference in the way they perform certain tasks. For example, it is easy to spot Kuro being far quicker on the ground than Dragov, but Dragov eliminating the enemies in harder difficulties at a faster rate than Kuro. With each characters performance differing from one another, you are guaranteed a totally new experience everytime you find enough courage to venture into The Club. The characters 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.

The Club produces extremely intense and enjoyable gameplay whilst offering varying locations and characters, but like many other games, unfortunately Bizarre’s latest creation has a few disadvantages which will slightly hinder the experience. The control system may take some time to get used to, with the aiming speed in particular being a problem. As you propel the right analogue stick in either direction to turn your character, it almost feels as if a slow motion scene begins to occur. By the time you’ve finally managed to aim where you first intended, your target is likely to have now taken cover; and that impressive headshot and dream combo score you had thought up, vanished with the enemy. Bizarre Creations have tried to counter this by including a 180 degree turn via simply pressing the Y button, but this can often disorientate you and aim you even more off target. Your best bet for turning at the speed of light would be rolling and moving the analogue stick at the same time; rolling can be executed by pressing the A button. This comes of as a cool looking manoeuvre and can be effective if used in the correct situation, but isn’t recommended in tight spots such as alley ways! The aiming system in The Club will still allow you to achieve superb, high hitting combos, but a sharper system could have been implemented which would have taken the game to the next level, adding even more enjoyment to an already thrilling game.

The aiming system in The Club is a letdown, but an even bigger disappointment is the lack of replays after each event. If replays were employed, many more hours of enjoyment could have been had reliving your best high score runs and combos, watching you dive relentlessly around your favourite level, pulling off jaw-dropping headshots one after the other. These replays could have then been saved to Xbox Live for friends and foes to see, so you could prove these amazing feats you lecture about, instead of telling people until their ears bleed with boredom. A replay system could have had huge potential in The Club, and it’s a real shame Bizarre decided to leave this feature out, considering how experienced they are with implementing replay features in their previous racing titles. All we can do now is hope replays are added via Download Content in the near future, but unfortunately it’s an unlikely prospect.

On the plus side, you might not have had time to watch the replays anyway due to there being 8 enthralling multiplayer modes for you to partake in. 3 solo modes and 5 team modes are present, so whether you prefer to stand alone or be part of a menacing squad, Bizarre have catered for you. Not only is there 8 modes to play, but each mode provides contrasting gameplay to the next. If you fancy participating in a Solo game and taking on the world by yourself, you will have the choice of playing “Kill Match”, “Score Match” or “Hunter Hunted”. Kill match is your typical Deathmatch, with the first person to reach the target number of kills first being the victor. If that target isn’t reached, then the player with the most kills after the time limit runs out will take home the title of numero uno. Nothing new and imaginative here, but still a fun, solid game type to waste away the hours in. Score matches are near identical to Kill matches, the difference being you must be the first player to reach a score target instead of a certain amount of kills. The victor will be the player who can best pull off incredible combos and multipliers similar to those in single player events, whilst leaving the competition behind to wonder “how the heck did he do that?!”. The final solo mode, Hunter Hunted, is an original game type where the first person to get killed takes the title of the hunted. When you become the hunted, it is your job to avoid all over competitors and avoid dying at all costs, and this is due to you scoring points for every second you manage to stay alive. However, you are at an unfair disadvantage, with your vicious predators being able to spot your location on their radar; resulting in it only being a matter of slowly ticking seconds before your position is bombarded with desperate enemies, soon to be eating your bones for breakfast. Hunter Hunted mode is a great thrill ride, especially when you take the role of the hunted. It can be a very tense situation as you try to survive, knowing people who will do all within their power to kill you, only being just around the corner.

The solo modes within multiplayer offer a good variety of fun game types, but the team matches is where The Club really shines. You have access to the standard Team Kill match, a Team Deathmatch with a rearranged title, Team Fox Hunt, Team Objective, Team Siege, and finally Team Skullshot. Team Fox Hunt is a simple yet addictive game type, where each time has a player nominated as “The Fox”. The first team to kill their opponents Fox is the winner. In Team Fox Objective, highly tactical battles will occur where you try to safely manoeuvre your Fox in to your opponents’ base for a certain amount of time without being killed. Teamwork is essential in this game, due to having players protecting your base from the incoming Fox threat, and other team-mates protecting your own Fox as sneak behind enemy lines in to the opponent’s base. Gamers who thrive on working as part of a team will find themselves spending many an hour in the Team Fox Objective game mode.

Similar to the Siege events in Single Player modes, Team Siege requires one team to defend an area whilst the other team attacks and tries to take over the land. The defending team must attempt to stay alive as long as possible before being eventually overran by the relentless opposition. Teams will then swap over, and the former attacking team will now be defending, trying to survive a longer period of time than the now attacking team managed. Team Siege is certainly a fun game type, as it lets you pit your wits against opposition players to see who acquires the best survival skills. The final multiplayer game type, Team Skullshot, requires you to hunt down your opposing teams skullshots that have been strategically placed around the map by the developers at Bizarre. If you are the Blue team, finding and shooting the Red skullshots before the Red team eliminates all of your Blue skullshots will bag you the victory, along with the bragging rights. Team Skullshot can introduce more frantic and heart-pounding gameplay to The Club, as you eagerly such for your opponents’ skullshots, whilst at the same time watching your back, eliminating enemy players, and protecting your team-mates; there is certainly a lot to think about! And this only adds to the enjoyment. Your overall multiplayer experience with The Club has the potential to be an extremely enjoyable one, filled with plenty of action packed fun and the relentless killing of others.

The graphics in The Club are similar to the gameplay; very well done indeed. Whilst they are not comparable to Gears of War or Bioshock’s groundbreaking graphics, they are more than respectable and include some lovely lighting effects, along with detailed environments and characters which will make you feel more involved in the game. 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. Losing your hard earned combination because you are unable to find the correct path to take in order to find more enemies or finish a level can become extremely frustrating, as you will have to restart the event to have a chance at reaching the required score target or reach the exit within the set time.

The award winning composer Richard Jacques, famous for producing music for games such as Jet Set Radio and Mass Effect, has been hired by Bizarre Creations to create the musical score for The Clubs single player experience; and he did a pretty good job of it! 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… The deep, commanding voice of the commentator lets you know when headshots have been accurately pulled off, along with special moves such as the “Rico-slay”. The voice to bring your attention to these aspects is a welcome addition to the game, but can often become overly repetitive if you play the game for any reasonable amount of time without a break. If you have enough skill to execute headshots, you will unfortunately have to hear the word pronounced in exactly the same tone, over and over again. The sound of bullets ricocheting of different surfaces has been done particularly well along with explosions, which all help to make the game feel more realistic and adds to the atmosphere of the game.

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, you 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 isn’t much of an achievement to me… Aswell 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 achievements will see you unlocking points for winning your first Ranked match, winning a Ranked match in each of the 8 locations, and the feared “No, Seriously” achievement, inspired from Gears of Wars “Seriously” achievement, 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.

AUDIO – 70

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

VISUALS – 70

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!

PLAYABILITY – 80

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.

DELIVERY – 70

The lack of a replay mode is a big letdown, 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.

ACHIEVEMENTS – 85

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…

SUMMARY

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 aswell!

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