• If The Club were a movie, it would be a mix of Hostel, Battle Royale and Fight Club. Fortunately for us it’s a game and not just any game at that. The Club sets a unique trend in rather than being story driven, it’s more about shooting and racking up hefty scores.

    The titular Club is a shady secret organisation that arranges death matches. They are so powerful that they can make people disappear, make their own laws and even take over sections of Venice. The organisation is top secret, filled with mobsters and millionaires, all of whom have paid a high price for admission. The game allows you to take over one of eight players, each with their own reasons for participating. Some have joined willingly, others have been press ganged and some forced but that really isn’t important. Whether you choose Nemo, Fynn or any of the six other fighters, they are all there and surviving means honour and glory as well as their personal reasons for competing.

    That’s where the storyline ends with just enough to whet your appetite. Each of the eight characters, themselves a mixed bunch including a cop, a gambler, an undercover agent and an adrenaline junkie, has their own stats. If you want speed, go for Kuro but if you want a more hardy character go for Dragov, by playing different characters the game suddenly becomes a lot more interesting, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Six of them are available at the start with Killen and the mysterious Nemo waiting to be unlocked, both of whom rank as the best all-round characters in-game.

    The Club

    The eight locations aren’t instantly unlocked either, starting in an abandoned steel mill there are a series of challenges before you move onto Venice. In this respect the game excels, pushing you to get high scores while changing the type of level. Some are simple: find the exit and get the highest score you can while others find you in a small fenced off area in which you must survive until the timer hits zero, wander too far and the explosive microchip (a la Battle Royale) will explode. The four skill levels also make it easier for beginners to learn the mechanics of the game (and unlock all the areas) before increasing the skill level to reckless and higher.

    The levels themselves are maze-like but it doesn’t take long for them to be familiar. The idea is you memorise where all the baddies are hiding to kill them quicker and rack up those bonus points, at the same time there are often several routes through each level and hidden bonus areas. Scattered through the levels are various Skullshots which will give you bonus points and unlock those higher Achievements. Often located in secret areas, they can often provide a much needed second to take a breather between slaughter. At its heart, The Club is all about the combos, shooting rivals in the head is a must but there are an impressive number of combos, all announced by a creepy unseen voice. Penetrator, for example, is a bullet which has passed through something else before hitting your target while the snappy-sounding Ric-o-slay can be achieved by bouncing a bullet off a barrel or wall or even fired from round a corner.

    Weapons-wise you start with a simple handgun but numerous weapons can be found around the level from grenade launchers the awesome Hydra MG minigun which manages to fire several dozen bullets per second. The choice is incredibly varied and allows you to easily customise your play style, either as an assassin from afar or up-close and personal. Although it is worth noting that the farther away you are from your target, the more points upon their death and ammo for the more powerful guns is often in short supply.

    Graphics and sound really work in tandem here with the soundtrack perfectly pitched to enhance the game play but not distract from the shooting. Each of the levels looks superb, particularly the English manor house which is based on a real stately home. The paths through them are quite logical but in the heat of battle you could easily get lost except for the arrow signs directing you to the exit.

    The high replay value is central to The Club’s game play mechanic, as is the ability to play online with other people. Perfectly suited to those late night, competitive sessions where you fight to achieve the highest score. The Club is the equivalent of TimeSplitters 2 for the 360 and by focusing more on the combos than the story it creates a unique game which genuinely appeals to hardcore shoot-‘em-up fans looking for a return to the classic genre where games focused more on the guns and gore than the reasons for the characters’ presence.

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