Let's face it, many of today's games try to do so many things at once that they're often their own worst enemy. Thankfully, the guys and gals at Bizarre Creations didn't let themselves get bogged down with superfluous storytelling or any of the other myriad of problems that plague many of today's games.
Instead, they traveled back in time to the Golden Age of gaming when points reigned king and everything else was a mere afterthought. Those were truly the good ol' days because gaming was all about skill then, and that's exactly what you'll need if you plan on being any good at The Club.
After each kill, your Kill Bar will be filled but will automatically begin draining. If you make another kill before your Kill Bar completely drains, you'll score a combo, which cumulatively adds up with each subsequent kill. However, as your combo multiplier goes higher and higher, it will drain faster, making it that much harder to keep your combo alive. If your Kill Bar runs out, you'll lose a number from your combo every second or so until you make your next kill or lose your combo altogether.
To make it a bit easier, though, Bizarre Creations was gracious enough to include Skullshots (tiny skull-shaped signs) hidden throughout the game. When you shoot one of these, it acts as if you've killed an enemy, refilling your Kill Bar and increasing your combo. Trust me, these will come in very handy when you can't find an enemy to pick off. But by now you're probably beginning to realize that The Club is a lot more deep than you might have first thought, eh?
However, you're not physically fighting your competitors here. Each tournament takes place on a singular level, which is broken down into six rounds with a different objective in each. After each round is completed, the scores are compiled and each participant is rewarded with a certain number of points depending on how they well they fared. These objectives range from Time Attack, where you must complete laps around a predefined course, earning extra time by killing enemies or shooting time markers to my personal favorite, Siege, which places you in a small area with waves of enemies continually coming at you from all directions. The catch here is that if you leave your area for more than a few seconds, explosives attached to your body will set off, and you'll lose the round.
After learning how the game ticks, there's one more piece to this puzzle - the characters. In total, there are eight playable characters, two of which are unlockable, each with different attributes that are best suited for different objectives. These attributes are based on speed, strength and stamina. At first, you may be like a particular character for how cool they look (Nemo is a complete badass), but you'll soon learn that their attributes are much more important, and you'll need to find the one that best matches your play style to ensure you maximize your points.
All these different aspects within the game help to ensure an otherwise straightforward shooter never becomes monotonous. That's especially important because playing through The Club's single-player mode won't take but more than a few hours, but if you're worrying about that, you're missing the point of the game. What makes The Club so enticing is that it will reawaken that competitive nature inside every gamer to get better and better. You'll need to replay levels over and over again to learn where enemies spawn from and where health and weapon pickups can be found.
Of course, a game based on scoring must control and play as near to perfection as possible, or it won't be much fun for long, right? Thankfully, Bizarre Creations has come through here. Shooting is controlled by R1 and sprinting with R2, while the L1 and L2 buttons perform melee attacks and enters aim mode, respectively. Admittedly, mapping the shooting and sprint buttons next to each other takes some getting used to and is a questionable choice, but once you get the hang of it, it begins to feel natural.
Another sacrifice that is made due to the game's fast-paced action is you never really get the chance to sit still and notice whether the graphics are really great or whether the music is any good. When playing, you are literally only worried about getting that next kill. I'm not sure if Bizarre Creations had to make some concessions in the visual department to ensure the game ran without a hitch or what, but The Club is most definitely not the prettiest game you'll find on the PS3, but it's certainly not bad by any stretch of the imagination.
Graphically, the game is good enough to get the job done, and in the end, that's all that really matters.
While The Club has so much going for it, there are a few slight problems that can be found here and there.
When playing in the tournament and coming to the end of a level, you must bust through a barricaded door by hitting X, the action button. However, you have to wait for an on-screen prompt when you're near the door to perform the action sequence. This is a problem because if you hit the button too soon, you'll perform a roll instead, which can waste valuable time and literally be the difference between completing the level or losing altogether.
Finally, the game supports online leaderboards, which is definitely a must for this type of game. But I think Bizarre Creations could have done something really cool here by allowing you to upload a video of your run through the level for extra bragging rights. Not only would it be cool for that reason, but it'd also let other gamers see how the experts are playing to help them get better themselves.
In the end, Bizarre Creations has succeeded remarkably well in what it set out to accomplish - a game that truly requires skill and rewards persistence, patience and training. The Club is the type of game that could easily be played in tournaments throughout the world for years to come, and I can honestly see myself keeping this game in my rotation for a long, long time. I suppose the biggest travesty in all this is that Activision recently purchased Bizarre Creations, and since Sega owns the rights, it's pretty much guaranteed that Bizarre will never have the opportunity to develop the game's sequel.
PS3 Fanboy score: 8.5