bitparade: The Club (XBox 360)

Bizarre Creations, famed developers of many a racing game, have decided to try their hand at something a little different, yet in theory, just the same. The Club is a third person action shooter based around arena combat and linking together kills in combo’s and trying to get the highest possible score. On paper, it sounds incredibly risky from a developer who have spent the best part of the past 8 years developing and evolving a similar idea within the racing genre. In reality, it is still incredibly risky as The Club has that feeling of a “Marmite game”.

This is never a good thing to label a game with, but The Club never escapes that feeling of it being enjoyable, but there being some majorly niggling problems that some people just can’t overlook. The game plays out as such, you choose one of six characters (with two others being unlockable), all with different strengths and weakness based upon stats of Strength, Speed and Stamina. You choose a venue and then have to go through a number of challenges within that venue, Sprint where you have to reach the exit with the highest score possible, Siege involves you defending yourself against wave upon wave of enemy until the timer counts down, Time Attack where you run around a pre-selected route, killing to increase your time until you’ve completed a set number of laps, Survivor has you stood in an are thats coned off, with your goal being to survive until the timer ticks down and Run The Gauntlet where you have to get to the level exit with as high a score as possible within the time limit. Which adds a little variety to the game, but the core concept of each is the same, kill the oncoming enemies and shoot the yellow skull signs to increase your combo and score until you reach the end of the area or the timer runs out (you don’t want that to happen on Time Attack or Run The Gauntlet however as it means instant death).

It’s whilst playing through these that the niggles begin to appear, as the initial presentation is pretty damn good. The aiming feels a little loose and inaccurate, resulting in the need for you to alter the sensitivity, and the game is reliant upon you learning the routes through the levels and where enemies and the signs are placed in order to get the maximum possible score. However, The Club is very similar to the old-skool shmup genre, but in modern day clothing, so all of this is unsurprising as learning attack patterns and the like are a large staple of that genre that people either love or hate. With this in mind, its difficult to criticise The Club for taking this approach as the whole experience feels very much like an updated arcade shooter. However, if I was to aim one criticsm at the game, it is that sometimes it feels a little random in how successful you are during each challenge, the only way to increase your score for each hit is to chain kills together and try and aim for the head (although killing with one bullet or with your last bullet also seems to increase your score for that kill a little too), there is no style to proceedings either, aside from hitting A to launch yourself over a pre-selected barrier or through a door and you can’t help but think that the game could of benefited from having some sort of diving mechanism that helped you build your score in a similar manner to how John Woo’s Stranglehold operates.

That isn’t to say that The Club isn’t fun, it has some flaws, but nothing game ruining, the graphics aren’t brilliant, but they do the job just fine and you’ll hardly have time to notice them anyhow, and the gun sound effects feel a little weak, this is especially disappointing after hearing the quality of the car engines in Project Gotham Racing 4, but again, its hardly a game destroying problem. I’ve really been enjoying my time with The Club and it pains me to pick any holes in the game, with this in mind, I’d highly recommend playing this, whether its via renting it first to see if its to your taste, or just jumping in head first, but please, bare in mind, its a very marmite game, so if you don’t enjoy titles such as Mercs back on the Mega Drive, and your not one for chaining together things within a game, similar to racking up Kudo’s on PGR, then The Club is definetly not for you.

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