DAZ. ACE. POO. Or if you were feeling particularly naughty, SEX. Oh, you little rascal, you! Those were the glory days of arcade gaming in the Eighties, when seeing your three initials proudly blazing through the stained cabinet glass and cigarette burns was the ultimate proof that you have the skills. Possibly even skillz, with the z signifying how your awesome gaming talents would render those around you unable to spell. In a time before five-minute long cutscenes, capture the flag and Hollywood voice actors, this is how gaming existed.
That got lost in gaming's great push for sweeping storylines and stealth sections. Introducing, stage left: The Club. It might not be bringing sexy back but it is bringing back arcade gaming with an old-skool flavour, where the goal isn't to wipe out a militaristic regime via the cleansing flames of gunfire or to close out the final chapter of an epic tale but to sit on top of the leaderboards, firing arrows from the top of your ivory tower at those lesser skilled peasants down below. Few Xbox 360 games have attempted to distil the leaderboard spirit quite as proactively as The Club and certainly, none have succeeded to this extent.
Some people have tried to describe it as Project Gotham Racing within a FPS arena, thanks to its multiple high-score bonuses. Really, it's more like a rhythm action game, as you're forced to chain enemy kills before your multiplier drains from inactivity. Learning the nuances such as holding off on kills until the very last second and pinging hidden skullshots around each level to extend your multiplier is where the beauty lies within this simple beast. It slowly sinks its hooks into you and once you get into the rhythm - shoot, reload, run, shoot, reload, shoot - it becomes strangely hypnotic as you curse the slightest imperfection in your high score run and the Restart option becomes your best friend.
That's all this is about. High scores. Split into various game modes that might see you mowing down waves of guards (Siege) or completing levels before the time runs out (Sprint) or simply piling on the points (Run The Gauntlet), those looking for variation of the high-score theme will be well catered for. You have to learn the enemy layout of each map, learn where the skull shots are and learn how to chain them all together so your multiplier is sent soaring for each kill.
The Club turns you from an impassive gamer who routinely pings off headshots and sets off chain reactions of exploding barrels into your own harshest critic, pushing yourself onto higher scores and the best of your ability. It's a drive commonly associated with hardcore gamers - the need for perfection and improvement. Even when you do get the perfect high score run down, you then need to start working in Ricochet shots, Headshots, Last Bullet bonuses, Snap Shots, Death Rolls... The Club manages to wrap this up in an accessible, user friendly game where you instinctively know what's required of you but the ultimate trick lies in actually pulling it off.
Bizarre Creations has run its hand through gaming subculture, scooped up the best bits and thrown it your way. Witness headshots announced by brooding voices, leaderboards that get updated every time you have a saved score, score bonuses that ping and fizz around the screen with old-skool Sega sass and enemies that predictably pop up in the same areas like light-gun games. So another way of describing The Club is that it's Unreal, Xbox Live Arcade, Crazy Taxi and Time Crisis all rolled into one. Figure that one out.
The Club has a confidence that few games possess. It knows what it likes and it likes what it knows and in this case, all it knows is a head down, charge forward shooter where you need to show off every FPS trick in the book you've honed over the years. It's a one-trick pony but does it matter when the trick is this damn good? Buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Old-skool gaming given new-skool makeover
- Easy to get into
- Ridiculously fun
- Addictive and focused
- Refreshingly old-skool
- Not for everyone