Blog 448: The Club

It’s not often that life gives you free games.

Digital download games, sure, but… Well, if it’s free… Okay, I’ve turned down free things before — let’s add the caveat and you’re actually interested in the item on offer

PC World launched a new digital download service t’other day. Because one of my colleagues is a master of scamming free stuff, he alerted me to the fact that the first 10,000 people to register accounts got four free games. Four free games?

Yeah. Four free games, at least two of which I actually had some interest in playing! Sounds like a deal. Digital download only, but hell, they’re free (not counting the money we’ll have to fork over for breaching our monthly data allowance, mind you).

First up: The Club

I Liked Bulletstorm

So it was suggested to me that I might like The Club. Stuff about Unreal Tournament with Bulletstorm-style combos… Or presumably, Bullestorm has The Club-style combos, because this predates Bulletstorm by… some period of time.

Unlike Bulletstorm, it’s a third-person shooter tournament with no story. Apparently the playable characters have stories, but I’ve so far seen no plot exposition at all — even after lowering the difficulty and actually winning a couple of tournaments.

I’ve been pretty shit at this game so far, though. I’m not sure if my abilities have atrophied again (I haven’t played a shooter for ages) or whether it’s because the mouselook for this game is awkward and floppy. It could be smoothing or the fact that you’re pivoting around a strange offset because it’s third- and not first-person, but regardless of where I put the sensitivity meter all mouselooking just feels wrong.

Then again, this is a blatant console port and, oh yes, it’s by Sega. They don’t exactly have a history of good control schemes, at least from my experience of modern Sonic — Sonic Adventure DX  only becomes slightly less unplayable with a controller.

I almost didn't notice this bus exploding beside me. Gameplay is, by modern standards, relatively fast paced.

Round and Round We Go

There are eight tournaments in eight different locations. Each tournament is a series of rounds, and you get points for where you come in the leaderboard against the characters you are not playing.

There seems to be a very large disparity between difficulty levels — on “Casual” mode, the others have easily-beaten scores tending to sit in the tens of thousands, whereas on “Reckless”, the normal mode that is one step up from beginner, they stray into the hundreds of thousands. Not to mention the general difficulty of the maps going up on top of that.

Some of the tournament locales are quite nice.

Combo Combo Combo Combo Combo

The game is driven by a kill-combo system. You get more points for killing in quick succession — but unlike UTs system where there is a limit at Monster Kill (and the combos are just for fun), the combo just keeps on growing and growing forever… Assuming you can keep killing people. Even if the timer runs out, your combo level just drains down, so you can still rescue some of it. It’s more about sustaining the combo than catching every other player in a Redeemer blast.

Additional points can also be gained by the usual head-shots (and even more for headshotting at a long distance), plus fun stuff like rolling and then killing. And shooting little signs with skulls on them. So far nothing for tearing people up by the medium of explosive barrel, mind you.

Though raw time-limits are only present for about half of the missions, you want to keep moving to avoid your combo ticking down.

Overall

I don’t have much to say about this game because I don’t really feel compelled to play it. The concept of tournament games based around points-whoring is one close to my heart — it was in the RDZArena, I put a scoreboard in This Wreckage and there will be one in Project Y4. The concept of seemingly plotless tournament games still works — I play through Unreal Tournament and still get that burning urge to keep playing (then again, UT is slathered in lore and micro-character-plots, and UT3 has… a… story…).

I don’t feel any of that compulsion with The Club. Each character claims to have a back-story. The blurb claims that these back-stories are explored somehow. But as noted above, I have seen absolutely zero evidence of it — and without any particularly compelling gameplay to take up the story-slack, we are left with a rather lacklustre offering.

The concept is there. Points, points for style and combos, tournament format — yes, these are excellent base elements.

But honestly? Just get Bullestorm. The Club doesn’t quite cut the mustard.

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