The makers of Project Gotham Racing had enough of it for a while. Enough of cars and burning rubber, enough of bombastic shooters filled with Nazis and other sci-fi scum, enough of blown-up FPS stories about alien invasions and endless running in circles. That’s why they made The Club, a game that makes a racing game into a shooter, and a shooter into a racing game.
As you may know, everything in PGR 4 and its predecessors is about scoring points. Both in the career mode as well as in multiplayer you’ll have to do two things: put down the best time and score the highest “kudos”, and that on a couple of tracks that can be adjusted flexibly. Bizarre Creations now put that concept nicely in a first person shooter form and the result is a lot more refreshing and addictive than you might think.
You’ll do things quite differently than usual after a couple of warmup rounds; no longer will you need to look for cover or carefully look around the corner. The idea is to keep your combo-meter going by killing enemies or destroy so-called combo-signs (called “skullshots”) and do it as spectacular as possible. A headshot after a roll will give you a lot more points than a carefully placed bullet in the chest and The Club is all about the points. Keeping an eye on your ammo (your health is something you quickly won’t care about anymore) and using your enemies when necessary to keep your combo from bleeding to death: it are all things you normally don’t pay attention for in a first person shooter and that’s exactly what makes this game stand out of the crowd.
Don’t buy The Club for the graphics, the originality of the weapons, the single player or the AI. Respectively these can be described as decent, non-existing, short and stupid, and are of little importance. The graphics are nicely done and sharp enough to immerse you in the game, but they’re also a bit boring. However, they’re perfectly made to let you concentrate on your run or record attempt. The level design won’t surprise you, but the playing areas have clear icons and structures what allows you to run through them quickly and unhindered if you’ve got some skill: exactly what we want!
Like in a car race, knowledge of the track or map is of life importance. How can you finish the level as quickly as possible, where are the enemies, where are the combo signs, the ammo or the hidden locations? All that you’ll need to learn by heart if you want to take in a top position on one of the countless Xbox Live leaderboards (there are present for all levels, assignments and difficulty degrees). Those that are only a bit sensitive to “get the most points”-contests will have a field day with this game. There are also enough different maps present, all with their unique look and feel, but the variation does mostly come from the types of missions.
The latter are quite varied; from getting to the exit as fast as possible with the highest score to “time attacks” where you only need to reach the finish by collecting seconds with kills, giving “time skullshots” a bullethole or just picking seconds from the ground. Another group of missions require you to stay within a certain area while opponents come rushing towards you like a swarm of bees. Survival is the message and I can assure you that you’ll feel the adrenalin rushing through your vains and you’ll spontaneously go sit closer to the screen! Play this online with other people and you immediately know you can expect sweaty hands.
Therefore it’s too bad that also a bunch of downpoints are present. The shooting, running and aiming is a bit too slow (you can zoom in with the trigger like in Call of Duty), jumping is not possible and hardcore gamers will probably find too little possibilities to really show off their überskills to the fullest.
That The Club will never achieve sales figures like Call of Duty 4 or Halo 3 is a no-brainer. Nonetheless this attempt by Bizarre Creations is quite good, despite the somewhat boring graphics and a feeling that could be a bit more tight. What you get in return is oldskool shooting, an unusual craving to play the levels over and over again just to get higher on those scoreboards, and the feeling of a fresh breeze through your dusty shooter collection. This club deserves a tryout!