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The Club - The Club
The main tournament mode has enough challenge to last you a good few hours. Play it on Casual just to learn the levels and the ropes, then start working your way through Reckless and beyond for a more satisfying long-term trial. I suspect, however, that the real meat of the game will turn out to be the single event mode, whereby you can tackle any unlocked event in any unlocked location at will, with different score barriers for the different difficulty settings. Not only is busting open an event on Reckless or Real difficulty level an achievement in itself; your score also goes on to the online leaderboard. This is where the addiction really sets in. At first, even the basic completion score will seem out of reach, but after a few goes you'll figure out how to work your way through the level and chain together the mightiest combo. Once you're on the board, you'll look at your position with horror and start working on little ways you can climb by racking up the bonus points a little further. It's a bit like the online time trials in a decent racing game. Just as you can spend hours whittling your time down on a single track, so you can do the same in The Club just building up a score on a single event.
This is good fun, and there's no question that The Club is a refreshing change from your usual third-person or first-person shooter. The relentless pace turns each event into a three minute thriller where every headshot counts, and there's a real sense of your skills improving. The biggest problem the game faces is that I suspect its demands won't suit everyone. It's a game for those with an insatiable love of the high score, an eye for the perfect head shot and an insatiable desire for perfection. You need not to mind repeating the same event over and over again if that's what mastering it takes. Not everyone can adopt that kind of mentality. Not everyone will love The Club.
And it doesn't help that The Club doesn't do all it could to drag players in. Bizarre has given it a wonderfully consistent and coherent aesthetic - think industrial, think rust, think scrawled concrete and decay - and gritty art style, but the result is worryingly short on spectacle. The levels aren't exactly beautiful, and even though the individual settings sound cool - an abandoned English mansion, a rusting cruise liner, the back streets of Venice - they're surprisingly samey once you actually start ploughing through them. Both the 360 and PS3 versions look fine - bar the occasional bit of slowdown - but neither really pushes the host machine that far. Even the sound feels a little subdued. The rather understated sound effects might match the visual style, but they can make the game sound less exciting than it actually is.