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The Club: Preview

Each character has his own strengths and weaknesses, and it's in the combination of levels and characters that the game should get its longevity. Just as a single track in Project Gotham 4 will feel different depending on whether you're racing a Porsche or a heavy Dodge, so each level in The Club will feel different if you're playing Dragov to how it would if you were playing Seager - an extreme sports junkie looking for some violent new kicks.

From the small portion sampled, The Club immediately stands out for two reasons. First, the pace is relentless. You snooze, you lose, and you might very well die. Secondly, the quest for high-score perfection is ludicrously addictive. Different difficulty settings and achievements demand that you raise your game, and nothing is more likely to propel you to replay through a map you've already tackled five times than falling just short of the 1.2 million figure. Add online leaderboards to the mix, and the potential for time blown cracking a level only gets higher. Nor is the basic score mode the only option. Other modes have you running the gauntlet, getting involved in online team-based skull hunts and another online efforts where you have to achieve a high score first by taking down the other players while linking up combos - think a hyper-charged deathmatch and you should be along the right lines.

Potential weak points? Well, The Club has character and atmosphere, but will it have the depth of story-based single-player shooters or online favourites like Battlefield, Call of Duty 4, Halo 3 and Team Fortress 2? There's also a slight danger that the visuals - while perfectly lovely - don't have the cutting-edge appeal of a Crysis or a Gears of War. Don't get me wrong; the character design, the architecture and the lighting is all top-notch, but the ‘wow' factor is in the gameplay, not the graphics. Personally, I think that's a good thing, but not everyone will agree.

Still, there are a lot of people out there looking for a fast, thrill-ride of a shooter that offers a real change of direction, in which case you can think of The Club as the refreshing sorbet that follows last year's rich 3D shooter feast. Only hands-on time with the finished game can tell us whether Bizarre has created a new kind of action masterpiece, but one thing's for sure: the small taste I've had has definitely left me wanting more.

A demo of The Club is now available from Xbox Live Marketplace and the PlayStation Network. The full game will be released in February on Xbox 360 and PS3.

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