Are you the type of gamer who obsesses about reaching that top score? Trying to climb the leaderboards by memorizing levels and executing pinpoint perfection is an old-school trait that most modern games have long since abandoned. The idea of playing a level over and over simply to get better probably sounds repulsive to some of you out there, but back in the glory days of arcade (I really am trying not to sound old and bitter here) this was what kept us playing for hours on end and pumping endless amounts of quarters into these machines.
Bizarre Creations has always been known for loving the arcade style of game play. Whether it’s in their racing title Project Gotham or everyone’s favorite XBLA addiction Geometry Wars, they have always created titles that are best played in short bursts. Their latest title The Club continues this formula with a stripped down arcade shooter that focuses more on speed and quick thinking than involving narrative.
The best way to describe The Club is a mix between a racing game and a twitch shooter, with a hint of fighting game thrown in. The entire time I couldn’t help but think back to Midway’s quirky arcade title The Grid. What separates Bizarre’s latest from other shooters though is that instead of pouring waves of enemies at you and simply asking you to eliminate them; the game rewards you for speed, style and accuracy.
Each kill nets you a combo counter; if you kill someone else before this combo bleeds out it increases. The higher the count the faster it ticks down creating a sense of tension and urgency that will certainly ignite a fire in the hearts of arcade gamers everywhere. It is entirely possible to keep the combo going throughout the entire level, which is great for those out there who have an obsessive nature with discovering the best route through each level.
The core single-player experience consists of a series of areas broken down into several levels. You can choose from six different characters from the outset each one possessing different levels of strength, stamina, and speed. None of them feel significantly unique so it’s usually wise to find a balanced character and stick with it. This of course doesn’t apply if you are playing on Insane or Real difficulty as strategy plays a much larger role here. The tournament mode will run you less than three hours with each character and outside of some Achievements in the Xbox 360 version there isn’t much reason to keep you coming back. The brief CGI endings are nothing to write home about and the story, while clever and interesting in bullet points, fails to flesh itself out in any form.
There are five distinct events in The Club, but in all honesty it’s more like two with a couple of variables. These break down into run through the level and find the exit or defend a set area until the timer runs out. As I mentioned there are of course variants on both of these types such as running laps around the level while killing enemies to earn more time. The long and the short of it all though is completing the level with massive combos and earning lots of points along the way. It is also worth noting that the levels never change, each time you enter them the enemies spawn in the same exact places and perform almost the same exact routines. The reason for this is of course repetition. But repetition in a game is bad you say? Well when you have a game like The Club that is driven by perfect runs and huge points, then repetition is a must. So if that is not your cup of tea you may want to pass on this one.
Another interesting aspect about The Club is the reward system for special kills. There are quite a few unique kill awards for different ways to eliminate your foe. For instance you can ricochet bullets off of metal surfaces for the Rico-Slay. Sometimes you will come across an enemy with a riot shield; go into precision aiming mode and deliver a head shot through his glass opening. While it doesn’t necessarily change the game play, it does add a nice sense of accomplishment when pulling one off.
Of course if you grow tired of the single-player Bizarre Creations has added a pretty substantial multi-player mode. You can play up to eight players online and four offline in split-screen mode, something we rarely see anymore but truly appreciate. The online mode consists of your typical deathmatch and team modes found in most shooters as well as a unique twist called Hunter, Hunted. In this twisted form of tag one player is being hunted by everyone else, and then once they are killed a frenetic form of tag ensues. While it won’t re-invent the wheel it does offer something outside of the usual fare. The only disappointing aspects of the online mode are a lack of players online and a complete divorce from the combo system found in the single-player.
Now if there is one thing that we have come to know about the fine folks at Bizarre it’s that they know how to make a game look fabulous. The Club is certainly no exception in this area. The levels are all nicely designed and highly detailed, complete with some destructible elements. The frame rate is rock solid and the main characters are very well designed and animated. The enemies on the other hand feel like drones in some areas with stilted animation as well as being repeated far too often. The sound is spot-on with plenty of solid gun effects and nice explosions, while the music is simply fitting.
With so much focus on creating an interactive experience in games today it is always nice to see one that simply focuses on being fun. The Club may not be the most intricate experience you will have on the consoles this year, but it certainly will be one of the most intense. Fans of old-school arcade shooters owe it to themselves to at least give this one a rent. While the game is certainly a fun outing it won’t be worth sixty bucks to everyone.