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The Club

Review: You are not a free man. You are a number

This isn't something you'd use to defend gaming. Imagine an authority figure asking you about The Club: a nun, say. "What, pray tell, is the purpose of this game?" she'd ask, furrowing her saintly brow.

"Well," you'd reply, after a pause, "it's about shooting lots and lots of men. Lots of men."

"But why?" she'd inquire. "To save the world, rescue the girl, banish unbelievers to infinite torture in Satan's fiery pits?"

"Er, no," you'd respond.

"It's for points. For a high score table."

"That's all?" asks the nun, her kindly face wrinkled with revulsion.

Zoom

"Yes, Sister. That's all." Then she'd demand you turn in your wimple and leave the convent forever.

The Club would make a great bonus mode in another game. It's a much harder sell on its own. It's an FPS with the values of a racing game - entirely focused on self-improvement and efficiency. Each successive kill increases a score multiplier, which drains away rapidly if you don't quickly top up the body count.

Despite a token backstory - man vs man as a bloodsport to entertain sinister elites - it's really only about firing bullets and scoring points. There's an admirable purity to it: the age-old challenge of ever-bettering your own high score and topping those of others.

Even aside from its references to A buttons and a clunky third-person camera, it's undeniably an Xbox 360 game, aimed squarely at the Gamerpoint mentality.

It is, however, a game that's worth forming an opinion about. It's the FPS stripped of all pseudo-intellectual trappings, to reveal a lean creature of sustained action beneath. There's definite satisfaction to be had from mastering the flow, scoring headshot after headshot without missing a beat.

With half an eye forever on the score, your heart leaps into your mouth when you realise you're about to trump your best effort, if only you can nail this next identi-goon with a single shot. For some, this FPS-as-maths is a constant thrill; for others, it'll wear thin in an hour.

Being one-note is the deliberate nature of The Club, not some oversight, and as such it's not its key problem. Rather, it's that the game's not outrageous enough to justify its thinness. Such a knowingly stupid concept needs a really over-the-top look. It needs laughter to balance out the number-watching.

Think TimeSplitters, the cheerfully empty-headed console shooter this owes something of a debt to, in which you could play as a monkey, a dinosaur, an Elvis impersonator.

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That made its silliness into a virtue, but this labours under an unconvincing pretence of grit. Its men should explode like water balloons, not crumple silently to the ground. It shouldn't stamp 'crack shot' on the screen when you make a tricky kill, but 'MONSTER MEGA-DEATH WOOOOOO!' It's such a plain game.

Though it's hung up on online leaderboards, oddly The Club's primarily a singleplayer game. Its nine multiplayer modes are workmanlike deathmatch variations devoid of the frantic intensity of singleplayer. There's no facility to have multiple players taking on AI infini-waves at once, whether in co-op or to out-score each other.

It's such a glaringly obvious omission - instead of simply dropping more players into the solo experience, it bolts on a pedestrian secondary game. Oh, and it's all bound up in that filthy Games For Windows Live business, too.

A divisive curio then. The endless pursuit of perfection will appeal to some; others will gripe about the lack of purpose. Were this a £10 game that cropped up on Steam, we'd probably go briefly nuts for it, but The Club's full-price membership fee is too much for the few facilities inside.

The verdict

Lots of great fun, pointless shooting

6.6
Format
PC
Developer
Bizarre Creations
Publisher
Sega
Genre
Action

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