Gaming Today Impressions of The Club Demo (Xbox 360)

theclublogo1-12.jpgI’ve been curious about The Club ever since I heard about it’s interesting “kill combo” concept. With many recent shooters combining top-notch story elements with inventive and fast-paced gameplay, it seems a little strange to have a shooter come out that just has you blast things as quickly and stylishly as possible. But if there’s one developer that could pull it off, it’d probably be Bizarre Creations, of Project Gotham Racing fame. Luckily, this week a demo for the game finally made its way stateside so I could see what the game was all about.

theclubdemo1-1.jpgThe Club feels like an interesting mish-mash of other popular action titles. It’s got a combo system reminiscent of Tony Hawk, with the dank, undergound tournament feel of Twisted Metal, and the shooting action of, well, almost any third-person shooter. Your objective isn’t to just make it to the end of a level, but to also rack up a certain amount of points in the process. To do this, you have to kill all the people that stand in your way as quickly as possible to keep your “combo meter” charged for as long as possible. You can also gain bonus points for a particularly difficult or stylish kill, such as killing someone right after diving on the ground, blowing up a gas tank, or nailing a headshot. The demo only provides one character, Renwick, and one level, Prison Cells, for you to try out. You also get two modes: a “Time Attack” mode, where you try and get through a set course and rack up a certain score as quickly as possible, and a “Sprint” mode, where your goal is to hit a certain score before you reach the level’s exit. As you progress through the levels, you can acquire more weapons, health packs, and grenades.

I have to admit, the emphasis on scoring points certainly puts a spin on the whole shooter genre. After awhile, you focus less on actually killing your enemies and more on running through the levels as quickly and stylishly as possible. If you’ve ever tried to complete all the objectives in a Tony Hawk level in one run, you know what I mean. I was a little put off at first when I realized there was no cover system, but that wore off quickly when I realized there was no need for it. The best way to take out a room full of enemies is to just run in there and shoot everything that shoots at you. Racking up some high points can prove difficult at first, but after a few run throughs on a level, you become so familiar with the arena that you can figure out the best way to approach it and get the most points (again, like Tony Hawk).

theclubdemo3-1.jpgMy only gripes with the gameplay are that the melee action feels a little off — too many times me and my AI opponent were swinging our guns through the air in some odd dance — and that the targeting reticle can be really hard to see during a firefight, as it seems to blend in with the action a little too well. Also, as expected, there’s just not that much substance behind all the shooting. I’m expecting the full game will have backstories for each character — much like Twisted Metal Black — but we shall have to wait and see whether this provides anything beyond just being plopped in an intricate Hogan’s Alley to shoot everything in sight.

Based on this demo, The Club seems like a decent game; not great, but not bad either. Right now, I’m on the fence as to whether the full game will be a “rent” or a “buy” for me. It seems like even running through all the levels and unlocking each character’s ending wouldn’t take too terribly long — maybe a week if I wasn’t trying too hard — but the online multiplayer could provide a little more longevity. Still, for a change, this is one of the rare times where playing through a demo actually makes me want to play more of the final game.

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