The Club is a fast paced, gallery-like, third person shooter from Sega and Bizarre Creations. The single player Tournament mode is shallow, but quite fun especially for the first several hours. Sadly, the multiplayer battles both on and offline do leave something to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, the execution of the presentation, controls, and gameplay is all very solid, but most shooter fans will probably wish for a bit more. All in all, it’s a fun game with a winning concept that could evolve into a great franchise. As for right now, you’ll be better off waiting till you can find it used.
The Club is a secret organization funded and followed by the world’s twisted elite. The Club brings together eight gun savvy contestants from varied backgrounds and sends them individually through an arena full of gang bangers, chumps, and wannabes intent on killing the competitor. This is known as Tournament mode, where the participants are put through a kill or be killed gauntlet spanning eight international locations and 49 total levels. To advance from city to city you’ll have to survive a Sprint, Siege, Time Attack, Survivor, and Run the Gauntlet phase with some phases having to be replayed in a new zone of the arena. The objective in each of the five events is not only to stay alive, but also to accumulate serious points for your suave killing style, difficulty of the shot, shot placement, ammo efficiency, and total health. If you can link kills one right after another, then your point totals will be multiplied exponentially until your combo begins to fade because you’ve taken too long to find your next kill. If you accumulate enough points after every event to place, you will be awarded with a gold, silver, or bronze bullet to commemorate your achievement.
Outside of the need to survive and accumulate points, each event has its own distinct characteristic. For example, you’ll have to Sprint through death zones and make it to the exit without getting killed or even defend your ground while waves of enemies lay Siege to your position, etc. All of the tournament game types are fun and work well together to give the feeling that you’re stuck in a movie like Running Man, Hard Target or Surviving the Game, however, the lack of a real story does make it feel trivial. There is also a less formal single player mode called Gunplay. Gunplay lets you play individual levels after unlocking them in Tournament or even create a playlist of your favorite locations and event types.
Disappointingly, multiplayer modes are not very good. The game only supports maximum of eight players via Xbox LIVE, PlayStation Network or a system link. Moreover, it doesn’t let you get multiple people online from any one system. In other words, if you’ve got a friend over to your house, you’ll have to take turns switching the controller back and forth if you like to play online. That’s a terrible oversight that needs to be corrected in an update patch. Shooters are meant to be shared and not just over a headset. The game does support a four player split screen, but if you’re still doing that you might as well be playing Golden Eye. Besides, the levels are too big and they eat up just four players. Furthermore, the massive life meters and health kits make unskilled players annoyingly decent. It’s a handicapping feature that I thought was out of vogue.
Fortunately, there are a lot of multiplayer game types from which to choose. The list of eight distinct game styles really is quite impressive. These modes are divided between free for alls and team matches. Free for alls include Score Match, Kill Match, and Hunter/Hunted. Score Match has you rack up the points until you reach a pre-determined total; Kill Match simply has you rack up the kills; and Hunter/Hunted is a game of tag where one player earns points by seeing how long they can survive. Team matches include Team Siege, Team Skullshots, Team Capture, Team Kill Match, and Fox Hunt. These modes allow players to choose from capture the flag style games, to classic kill matches, and even the defense of strategic locations.
The visuals of the title are pretty good. HD is only supported up to 1080i, but the frame rate shows no sign of sluggishness so only true snobs will complain. I really didn’t like the silly camera interference that the developers put into the cutscenes. I absolutely hate that convention and hope that it dies soon. That technique was cool in 2002. Give us a clear image; interference is wholly played out effect. Before I totally digress, let me just say that I would have liked to have seen more gruesome kill animations. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The game has a clean arcade look, but it would have been great if they had employed ragdoll physics and melon popping head shots that fueled your desire to kill stylishly. Overall, the game is easy on the eyes, but a bit more stylized, over-the-top images would have made the game that much more enjoyable.
The music and sounds are mediocre. The weapons all sound real, but no time was spent on track selection. Luckily, music isn’t imperative to the simple gallery shooter style of The Club. It’s not as if there’s a story where the mood or tone needed to be set by a dark original score. Furthermore, I did like the voiceover work and occasional in-game comments. The guide of the game has a soothing English accent that just smacks of a pompous, elitist nature that fits in nicely with the overall feel. The quickly dropped comments of Great Shot, Head Shot, Crack Shot, and Last Bullet, etc. are really gratifying and add to the tournament feel.
Controls and perspective are big issues. Everything is done well, but if you’re used to games like Call of Duty and Halo, then you’ll find that the third person perspective does not lend itself to pinpoint control. In other words, shooting from the hip is something you’ll have to get used to. This is not really the game’s fault, however. The developers have tried to make a gun slinging romp that has you hopping over obstacles and rolling in and out of combo kills. It’s just that fans of the genre have become accustomed to a certain feel, and it is not replicated by this game. It makes single player very fun and unique, but at the same time it makes multiplayer controls feel clunky.
The Club is a fresh take on the shooter. It has a core concept that is truly engaging; it just feels as if it needs to be fleshed out a bit more. The single player Tournament mode is an absolute blast that will keep you occupied for a few hours. Unfortunately, the multiplayer features, though varied, are poorly executed. That means there isn’t a whole lot of replay-ability in the title. After the first few days with the game, you’ll soon grow tired of it. That’s why I suggest picking it up on the cheap and waiting for a sequel to do away with some of the less refined aspects.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.1 Graphics
The visuals are smooth and detailed, but are lacking some over-the-top death animations. 4.1 Control
The game controls very well, but the third person perspective leads to imprecision during multiplayer battles. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music didn’t play much of a role, however, I loved the commentary and shout outs to head shots and great shots. 3.5 Play Value
There is a lot of fun to be had in this title. The single player mode is a blast for the first few hours, but you’ll tire quickly of the multiplayer. 3.6 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.