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Critical Reception: Sega's/Bizarre Creations' The Club

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to The Club, an arcade-style third-person shooter that reviewers describe as "a nice change of pace, and hopefully the beginning of a new genre."
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to The Club, an arcade-style third-person shooter that reviewers describe as "a nice change of pace, and hopefully the beginning of a new genre." Developed by the Project Gotham Racing franchise creators Bizarre Creations, The Club is a time-based shooter in the vein of Sega's OutTrigger on the Dreamcast and Midway's 2001 arcade effort The Grid. Despite its unconventional focus and less serious take on the genre, however, some wondered if the title could stand out among the glut of shooters currently competing for attention on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Critics have responded to The Club's recent release with a review score average of 78 out of 100. Game Informer's Andrew Reiner scores The Club at 8.75 out of 10. "The Club, created by the racing savvy Bizarre Creations, is the most hyperactive, audacious, adrenaline-charged shooter I’ve come across," he claims. "The speed-first mentality of the racing genre is cleverly infused into the framework of a run-and-gun shooter." Reiner explains that The Club's focus on speed makes for an exciting experience. "With microscopic explosives implanted under your skin, bullets are the least of your worries," he says. "The thing you end up fearing the most is the second hand on the clock." "This time-is-of-the-essence approach leads to gameplay that doesn’t give you a second to think or breathe," Reiner continues. "This action is intense, heart pounding, and often a blur, but it always proves to be entertaining." According to Reiner, The Club's score and combo system also work in its favor. "The thrill of running into a hailstorm of lead is only part of the picture," he writes. "The game also puts your targeting skills to the test with a combo system that works much like that in Stuntman. If you can string together kills (bonuses are thrown out for headshots and last bullet takedowns), you’ll tally a higher score, which at the end of the level will be held up against seven other CPU opponents." "A nice change of pace, and hopefully the beginning of a new genre, The Club can best be summarized as a hardcore gamer’s type of game," Reiner concludes. "If you enjoy a good challenge and arcade-like games that empower you with bragging rights, you’re going to love this game’s nerve-shattering pressure." Casey Lynch at Official Xbox Magazine contributes a rating of 8 out of 10, warning that there is little narrative to be found in The Club. "When we first heard about The Club, the backstory had us hooked — a super-elite bloodsport where only the most exclusive, wealthy, and sadistic participants face off in a gauntlet of killing trials," he begins. "Once we started the game and clicked past its gone-in-the-blink-of-an-eye intro, we realized there’s no such story to be had — it’s all gunplay, all the time, which seems fitting (sort of) for this kind of no-nonsense, high-score–centric shooter." "The Club is all about fast-paced, arcade-style, third-person twitch shooting, and it works really well," Lynch praises. "You have unlimited sprint, you can do Marcus Fenix–style roll/dodge moves, and all kinds of little details make each game type feel varied." Lynch assures that the game's key multiplayer component is up to standards as well. "The multiplayer, which is where we suspect most of you will spend the majority of your Club time," he writes, "offers the normal deathmatch modes, as well as some VIP modes and team Siege — one of our favorites." Even with its multiplayer component and levels that are "well designed and varied," Lynch claims that The Club rings hollow in certain aspects. "We can’t help feeling like there’s something missing," he says, "like a narrative, especially while you grind through the same five or six events over and over in tourney mode. How did we get inducted into the Club? Aren’t some people supposed to be gambling on us? And who the heck injected these explosives into us?" "Without knowing about the world in which we’re playing," Lynch continues, "all of it seems totally disjointed." Lynch describes no other major problems with The Club's gameplay, however, and issues a recommendation in spite of its lack of story. "If you can overlook the lack of any narrative cohesion," he concludes, "The Club looks great, controls well, and offers you tons of options for giving your trigger finger a good workout." IGN UK's Alec Meer awards The Club a score of 7.2 out of 10, likening the title to Bizarre Creations' Geometry Wars. "You play Geometry Wars to get better at Geometry Wars, and to let the world know about it via your Gamercard," he explains. "And so it is here. You play The Club not because it's a great action game, but because you want to become better at playing The Club. Running and shooting: that is all it is." Meer describes The Club's timed, lap-based gameplay as addictive. "For the onlooker, the player merely repeats himself with each run of the level," he says. "But as far as the player's concerned, he's improving himself. Each attempt burns a little more of the level layout into his mind, and a little more single-shot-kill reflex into his muscle memory. A half-second saved here, a long-range headshot from there means precious extra points on his final score. That score means everything – his sense of accomplishment, and his reason to try again." "It's a very easy game to grasp, but a hard one to master," Meer continues. "It's silly enough to suit a boozy post-pub half-hour, but to really take its pulse you'll need to play for several hours straight, day after day." This competitive focus may not be to everyone's liking, however. "If score-attack games aren't your thing, this just isn't going to tickle your death-fancy," Meer writes. "There are ending sequences to unlock, but the throwaway storyline about a secret society who like to watch folks kill each other might as well not exist. It's a single-player game purely for the competitive, not for those who want five to 15 hours of exploration and surprises." "In a climate where so many current games go gentle on their players, offering easy achievements in the name of entertainment, one that requires hours of concentrated practice is a relative one-off," Meer notes in conclusion. "It’s a one-off that mostly succeeds, but by concentrating only on function and never on form, it denies itself greatness." Some critics feel that The Club emulates its arcade predecessors to a fault, sacrificing expected console features like a fleshed-out storyline in favor of non-stop action. Few note major issues with its core mechanics, however. Players expecting depth on par with recent competing shooters may be disappointed, but The Club's gameplay appears to be mostly solid regardless.

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