Developer: Bizarre Creations
Release Date: February 19, 2008
High scores are an aspect of games that has been mostly forgotten. In the beginning, it was the only thing gamers fought for; it was their bragging right. Even platformers such as Super Mario Bros. had some sort of score associated with the end product. There's been an effort to revive the concept of high scores in games such as Halo 3, which includes the scoring metagame for each level, but it's Bizarre Creations' new third-person shooter, The Club, that really brings high scores back to the forefront of gaming.
In The Club, you can eventually choose from one of eight characters, each a member of this exclusive "club," where you seek blood for fun and blaze through guys with endless amounts of ammo. However, since entry requires an astronomical fee, one must be of high status to even be in this exclusive organization, and once you've been admitted, you're in for life. This is information that you'll have to glean from the instruction manual, since much of it isn't explained in the game. From what I read, the logistics of such an organization don't make any sense. I mean, who are these pawns who are willing to give their lives to participate in a game in which CEOs, royalty and celebrities kill them for sport? This is pointless to think about, however, because as logically flawed as The Club's plot may be, the story does not matter because this is about mowing down enemies to attain that coveted high score.
There are three basic types of events in The Club: sprinting to the stage's exit, surviving within chalk boundaries for a certain amount of time, and running two or three laps through the stage. Naturally, all of this must be done while trying to get the highest possible score.
The Club utilizes a combo system that rewards you with a multiplier each time you kill an enemy. After you kill an enemy, the combo bar starts ticking away, and if you don't kill an enemy before the time is up, you start "combo bleeding," which means that you lose your multipliers one by one until you get another kill.
Combo bleeding can be avoided in a number of ways. You can shoot diamond-shaped skull signs to add to your combo and restore the ticker. Pressing the right bumper allows your character to run so you can get to the next bad guy much quicker, thus preventing combo bleeding. What it boils down to is constantly killing, pumping lead into everything that moves, and never stopping the madness.
In single-player, you have two main options: Tournament and Single Event. In Tournament mode, you play through eight different levels with six events per levels, while in Single Event mode, you can replay these individual events to try and earn the highest score on that particular stage. Leaderboards are available for every event, and it will take a marksman with knowledge of each stage to climb the leaderboard ladders. My only complaint while playing through Tournament is that the first time through an event, the route to the exit may not be as clearly marked as one would wish. At times, I would follow a path of enemies only to be led astray and eventually begin combo bleeding.
However, aside from that minor complaint, I was impressed with each level. They all contained exceptionally detailed, elaborate layouts that sometimes made me regret that I had to simply rush through each level. While there may only be eight levels, each one is aesthetically different enough that they are worth exploring just so you can get the feel of them.
There is also a Gunplay mode, where you can choose which level, gun set and game type you want to play, and create a playlist of these options to play through your choice of events. While this is an interesting option, I found it more entertaining to challenge myself with the events already available in the Tournament and Single Event modes.
While many people will be satisfied with simply trying to get the highest scores on their favorites events, The Club's multiplayer segment almost equally as enjoyable. You can play the standard deathmatch mode, but there are some unique and interesting features. First off, you have a deathmatch mode, Club-style, in which players vie for the highest score in the same way you would in single-player — kill multiple opponents in succession to rack up the multipliers and put your adversary's score to shame.
On the team side of multiplayer, there are modes where you can defend your base for a certain amount of time, try to guide a "fox" to the other team's base to score points, hunt the opposition's "fox," or destroy the opposing team's skullshots. I really enjoyed The Club's multiplayer aspect; the game is so intense that bringing the combo system to the multiplayer venue really steps up the motivation to run around and kill people as quickly as possible in order to get some high multipliers.
One problem I have with The Club is that is may be a little too expensive for its arcade style of gameplay. The premise is pretty simple for a market that is now filled with shooters involving deep stories, such as Bioshock and Halo 3. However, it's the high score-hungry gamers who will get the most out of this title.
When I started playing through Single Events, I felt the familiar addictive rush I got from playing Bizarre Creations' other score-driven game, Geometry Wars. I would play through the title again and again, each time getting a better feel for it, and each time watching as my high score increased. Of course, this kept me coming back because I wanted to increase that score. It's that feeling that drove me to earn a high score in Geometry Wars and continues to drive me to get high scores in The Club.
The bottom line is that as addictively fun as The Club is, it is not for everyone. If you pick up this game looking for a third-person shooter with an engrossing story, just put it back on the shelf. This is for gamers who have that certain twitch in their systems. This is for the gamers who get their kicks from continually challenging themselves to beat their own high scores, and giggle at the marked satisfaction of seeing their names rise in the leaderboards.
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