Gaming Today Impressions of The Club (Xbox 360)

theclubbox1-2.jpgThe Club
Developer: Bizarre Creations
Publisher: Sega
Price: $59.99
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Category: Action
ESRB Rating: M for Mature (Blood, Strong Language, Violence)
Release Date: February 19, 2008

When I first heard about The Club and it’s concept of combo-fueled killing, I was actually a little refreshed. In these times where video games are seemingly under constant scrutiny by the public for their violent content, here was a game that decided to ignore all that and make the gameplay about nothing but the killing. It sounded like a great way to take the third-person shooter genre back to basics and focus on nothing but the action. Unfortunately, I soon realized just why few games these days take such a simple approach. My full impressions after the break.

For a game like The Club — where I hear mixed reviews and am not overly excited about it — I generally rent before deciding whether to buy; so that’s what I did. Within two days, I was happy with that decision, because I’d already grown quite bored with the game. Granted, when I first began playing, I sat down for hours and was completely enthralled. But unfortunately, it doesn’t take too terribly long before the repetitiveness starts to set in.

theclubscreen1-11.jpgThe game was developed by Bizarre Creations, who are best known for their Project Gotham Racing series, so it should come as no surprise that The Club feels oddly similar to a racing title. Picking a character to play with feels just like selecting a car. Do I want the guy that’s super-fast, but generally weak? Do I want the guy who strong, but slow? Or do I want the guy that just looks cool? After this, you’re off to the tournament, where you run through different modes — which are essentially tracks — while trying to score as many points as possible. Getting a higher score requires killing all sorts of thugs as quickly as possible, while trying to pull of some stylish moves for bonus points. The combo system of the game requires you to continually kill people, lest your score starts to diminish.

On paper, it sounds like a great, no, make that awesome idea. So why isn’t the gameplay as fun in practice? For starters, there is barely a story to speak of; and i never realized how much a missed a cheesy storyline until it was gone. For various reasons that aren’t elaborated upon, eight different cars…er, characters are competing for an organization called simply “The Club,” which carries enough clout to hold a bloodsport in different exotic locales. And that’s pretty much it. Each character has short little back stories, but you won’t get to find them out unless you complete the full tournament with each character. Even then though, you won’t find much to make you push on from the story side of things.

theclubscreen4-11.jpgBesides that, it just becomes routine after a few rounds. Enemies pop up, you shoot them, move on to the next batch of enemies, and repeat. It’s like an elaborate version of Hogan’s Alley. This can certainly hold your interest for awhile, but the thrill wears off once you realize there’s nothing new to encounter in the next round. You’ll still face the same punks while following a bunch of arrows to the exit. I suppose your motivation is to boost your skills in the game to a higher level, but getting good at the game becomes more about remembering where enemies pop out than anything else. It really feels like a third-person shooter at its very core.

I read a few reviews for the game before it came out that praised the multiplayer, but I don’t really see anything special about it. It’s basically your standard run-around-and-shoot-anything-that-moves gameplay. The only difference from time to time is whether you’re trying to get a certain amount of kills or a certain score to win. Like the single-player, this too can be entertaining for a short time until you realize there’s really no strategy except to just find another player to shoot at until one of you dies.

The Club would be more than a rental at a reduced price, but it’s definitely not worth $60. You might want to pick it up if it drops down to around $30-$40 or simply rent it. It’s certainly a great concept, but the game pretty much exhausts its creativity within a couple hours. Personally, I’m returning The Club today, and I doubt I’ll ever pick it up again. There’s just not enough substance to make me want more.

You can also check out 1Up’s official review here.

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