It might take a while to understand what Bizarre Creations is after with The Club, but I would wager it hits you at a certain point in the first round of the tournament. Each round consists of a half-dozen stages with varying setups. The stages might have you just getting from point A to point B or try to hold out for two minutes in a set killzone. Then there’s the timed run with laps. You actually run through a set course, with respawning bad guys, completing perhaps two or three laps before you’re done. This is so unashamedly videogame territory that you can’t help but smile. If you stop to wonder where all this cannon fodder comes from and how come it’s always in the same places, the game just falls apart. But that does not matter.
The game is set in realistic, very dry, drab and colorless environments. The characters are a little comic book -like, but generally aspire to be photorealistic. The weapons are real, but the damage is not. Nor is there excessive bloodshed. It’s a weird combination of videogame aesthetics and real world grit.
You shouldn’t play The Club as a third person action game á la Gears Of War, because it plain does not work as one. Hitting the bad guys is not important: maintaining a steady rhythm is. Once you get your head around the concept and accept that your slow turn rate forces you to move in straight lines, you begin to see the levels and foes as notes and beats in a song you need to build up. Your combo starts ticking away, you sprint frantically forward to find something (anything!) to shoot to not lose your tempo. I think my brain is in a 2D shmup mode and not the considered, tactical mode that most third person shooters require. It’s all about the high score table and getting through the levels is inconsequential in itself.
I feel the drab environments are more miss than hit, with enemies blending into the colorless backgrounds. The levels can be hard to navigate and they are far too samey. Variation would have been most welcome. In the gameplay, the melee options feel inadequate. The music is a disappointment from Bizarre Creations after Project Gotham Racing 4’s great soundtrack. This is surprising considering it’s by esteemed industry veterans Richard Jacques and Jesper Kyd.
I understand that for most people, this is not something they want to play at any length. For people appreciative of a high score table, it is addictive entertainment – certainly one of the best score attack games in recent memory, if disappointing in some respects.