Reviews March 22, 2010

The Club

Kenneth Seward Jr

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The Club
Reviewed by: Kenneth Seward Jr.
System: Xbox 360
Genre: 3rd Person Shooter
Rated: M
Players: 1-4 (2-8 online)
Cost: $59.99
Release Date: 02/19/2008
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Bizarre Creations

Welcome to the Club…

It seems nowadays that if a developer is to be successful, it needs to create either a sequel of a successful game or regurgitate the same game over and over again with different titles. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good first person outing. However, do we really need so many FPS’s on one system (I am looking at you Microsoft)? This is why I am so happy that some developers are taking chances on new ideas. Even though The Club is a 3rd person shooter, it’s different from the normal run and gun we are used to. Bizarre Creations tried something new, and I’m not mad at them!

Bizarre Creations are known for their hit racing series Project Gotham Racing. Combining great graphics, a unique “style” rating system, and a slick online racing experience has made PGR one of the best racing franchises out there. The Club is Bizarre Creations first entry into the shooter genre and I am happy to say that not only have they proven that they can make games other than PGR (and Geometry Wars), they have also successfully made something unique.

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The Club is an organization where the rich and bored come to see modern day gladiators battle each other in arenas around the globe. Similar to the original gladiators in Rome, a lot of the contestants aren’t fighting of their own free will. The Secretary, the one running The Club, has to keep the wealthy club members happy by acquiring new talent for their bloody events. This means that sometimes he has to “talk” people into fighting for him. The price for winning a tournament is their freedom (if you can call it that). The problem is that once you are a member of The Club, you’re always a member of The Club. The tournaments are made up five different events, in which The Club members (or the combatants) have to compete for points. The combatants don’t fight each other in each event, but rather groups of soldiers paid to eliminate them. If the combatants survive they are scored in each event. The top three combatants are declared the winners, each receiving a bullet for their efforts (a gold, silver, or bronze one) as well as money and their “freedom”.

What makes this game so different is that it has more in common with games of old then the next-gen titles being released today. Like classic arcade games, The Club has to do less with completing the game and more with gaining the top score (or high score if you will). Each tournament, as I said before, is broken into level/events. After each event you are awarded points, which changes you position on a tournament ladder. The person with the most points in an event is placed at the top of the ladder and awarded ten tournament points (with the other combatants getting less and less points as you go down the ladder). After all the events the winners are declared based on how many tournament points they received. I know what you’re thinking. “That’s all well and good, but what are the events and how do you gain points?” Well, there are five events total. They are: Sprint, Siege, Time Attack, Survivor, and Run the Gauntlet. All the events allow you to gain points in the same ways, with the only differences being the rules of each event (I’ll come back to this in a moment). You see, the way to score a lot of points is by killing enemies in quick succession. As you kill bad guys, a meter (kill bar) fills up and adds to a combo counter. The combo number is used to multiply the points awarded for each kill (like if the counter says three than your points awarded for a kill are multiplied by three). If you take too long in-between kills, the meter will bleed away, ending your combo resulting in fewer points made for each kill. Similar to PGR, The Club has a style rating system. Let’s say you kick in a door and quickly kill two enemies. You will be awarded style points that are added to the points received from killing the enemies. Based on this system, you can imagine how many points you can make in a matter of seconds. First of all, you killed two people in quick succession, meaning that you have a combo of two. Second, you killed them in a stylish way, resulting in a higher score that is multiplied by two (from the combo). You can build a nice score this way. If you can’t find someone to kill in order to keep your combo going, you can shoot skullshots hidden in each area. They raise your kill bar back to a reasonable position, allowing you more time to find someone to shoot.

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Going back to the rules, you will find it more or less difficult to gain that precious high score depending on what event you’re on. In the Sprint event, you are tasked with finding the exit in a given area all while scoring as many points as possible. This could be challenging seeing as how there are a limited amount of enemies in this mode. This means that you have to kill them in the most stylish ways really quickly in order to score well. Run the Gauntlet is worse because it’s similar to Sprint, in terms of the enemies in the level, and it’s timed. Time Attack is one of my favorite events. In Time Attack, you have to run around a level, completing laps in a set time limit. Each kill adds more time on the clock. If you don’t complete all the laps before the timer runs down…well, let’s just say that the explosive collar around your neck isn’t for looks. The Siege and Survivor events have you stationed in a small area, defending yourself against swarms of enemies. You are not allowed to be outside the assigned location for more than a few seconds. What makes things worse is the fact that most of the best weapons and health packs are located outside of the assigned area.

I can’t talk about the arcade style gameplay with out mentioning the controls. The controls have to be the most responsive I have seen in a 3rd person shooter in a long time. Everything works the way it should. Seeing as how you have to keep your combo’s going as long as possible, Bizarre Creations made sure to include a Sprint button. By holding down the Right Bumper, your character can run for as long as they want (there is no stamina issues to worry about). The only time you need to stop running is to reload (the X button), switch weapons (D-pad), shooting enemies (Right Trigger), performing a quick 180 (Y) or to manually aim (Left Trigger). When your character is running, the camera moves in close (similar to Gears of War), pulling back when you stop for one of the afore mentioned activities. Moving at a smooth 60fps it’s really easy to run, shoot two baddies, roll under a rocket launched at your chest, and finish off the last enemy twenty yards away with a headshot. If you run low on ammo, you can opt to smack your opponent with your gun by hitting the Left Bumper.

So far I haven’t talked about whether or not The Club is a good game. It’s manly because it’s up to the player. If you like a game based on high scores, then the Club might be for you. If not, then stay way, as even the online component (which has some really fun modes of its own) won’t keep your attention. When it comes to the Club being a well thought out game, there are some parts that felt unfinished to me. One has to do with the characters you can choose from. They all have some sort of back-story explaining why they are in competing in the Club, but as you go along there isn’t much more brought up about their conditions. Some of the character’s endings are cool as they remind me of the characters in the Twisted Metal series (sometimes what the characters asked for ended up hurting them more than helping). Other than that, you’re pretty much left in the dark. I know that this game is all about gaining a high score, but it seems a waste to create these cool characters and give them a back-story if you’re not going to explore them fully.

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Another thing that bothered me about the characters was their stats. Each character has different stats in three categories-Speed, Strength, and Stamina to be exact. Stamina has to do with how many bullet rounds you can take before you’re killed while Strength has to do with how powerful your melee attacks are. Speed is pretty self-explanatory. The problem was that, outside of the extreme cases, all the characters felt identical. You can tell that the fastest character is indeed the fastest and the slowest one is very slow, however, everyone in-between feels the same. It would have been cool if they had other features that made them stand out more. As it stands, you are probably going to choose your favorite character based on their looks and not stats. Other than these things, I feel that the Club is a solid title from Bizarre Creations. For all those out there looking for something fun and a little different, welcome to The Club!

Gameplay: 9
The Club is downright fun. With great controls, online leader boards, and additive gameplay, the only thing that hurts it is how cool the characters are (I would love to know more about them)!

Graphics: 8
The graphics are pretty good and the character designs are well thought out.

Sound: 8
The sound quality is on par with most next-gen titles (it even features an announcer that makes Mortal Kombat’s Shao Kahn sound tame). The music isn’t anything to write home about though.

What’s New: 7
I feel that Bizarre Creations are on the right track with their new ideas. We might even have a new franchise on our hands.

Replay Value: 8
It depends on how much you like this sort of game. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be playing this game till the next one comes out.

Final Score:

8