So, if The Club is all about gameplay and not at all about story then I guess you want to know how it plays, right?
Well, it plays OK.
The controls are simple and fit with the generic third person shooter system; shoot, fire, quick-turn and sprint are all there, so the game isn’t difficult to control nor hard to understand. The key is learning to use those few actions in the right way, getting to know the levels, and learning how to exploit the clever little scoring system.
Unlike most action games, The Club uses an explicit scoring system which issues out points for killing each enemy. Every time a corpse hits the floor a combo timer starts and you’ve got five to seven seconds to make another kill, scoring again and adding a multiplier to the figure.
The key then, is speeding through the empty sections and learning to trust your instincts. Tempting as it is, it’s not worth spending twenty seconds killing that annoying guy with a shotgun – not when you could just run past him and get onto the next kill.
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Naturally, such a reward system is built with further complexities and exists for players to exploit. As such, the further away you kill from and whereabouts on the body you hit can affect your score. Getting in someone’s face and shooting them in the toe is worth less than a straightened spring – the points lie in making crackshots; headshots at extreme distances.
The scoring system makes further allowances for skilful shooters if players can perform rolls and dives while they kill, turning simple athletics into stunning deathrolls. Capping somebody with the last bullet in the clip is worth extra points too – plus limitless cool.
With such a complex scoring system though, a game like The Club needs to have perfectly designed levels which don’t succumb to the standard trappings of corridor-shooterland. Here, Bizarre Creations has come up with the perfect solution – one cleverly bought over from their work with racing games. There are only about ten levels in the game, but each one is quite massive and stylised and players will only fight in a specific segment of the battlefield at any one time.
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Think of it like a racing simulation; there are perhaps four or five big cities you can race in, but the hundreds of events that weave different routes through those streets. That’s exactly how it works in The Club. Each arena is based on a simple concept – Prison, Steel Mill, Wrecked Ocean Liner – but through each arena there are a good few routes or events.
The levels themselves are brilliantly designed too and are full of obvious and not-so-obvious hidden areas containing extra ammo and weapons. Players constantly feel under pressure while they play, so having a level design which is linear enough to funnel players onwards while still providing room for gunfights isn’t something that’s easy to do – but Bizarre has pulled it off spectacularly.
The plot of The Club may be a little predictable and run-of-the-mill, but what it does do is provide a perfect framework for this kind of game. The multi-billionaires behind The Club mean it’s perfectly reasonable to have tournament style violence set in the middle of a Venetian suburb or abandoned English Manor.
Likewise, the entire premise means that the goals of the game can be communicated quickly and clearly – each event ends in an adjustment to the scoreboards and once players have completed a set of rounds the winner is declared.