Sega’s new action game “The Club” dispenses with storyline, tactical depth, cinematic set pieces and colorful settings to deliver a kind of shut-up-and-shoot action game. This lack of pretense — or is it depth? — won’t be for everyone, but fans who want to boost their skills will find it refreshing and uniquely addictive.
The game is divided into a series of challenges, each in a section of one of “The Club’s” grungy locales, which range from a war-torn city to an abandoned steel mill to a rusting ocean liner. In typical games, players come to these places to rescue hostages, recover missile launch codes or shut down power generators. But here the challenges are simple and contrived. Race to the exit before a timer runs out, stay alive in a tightly contained area while bad guys rush in, or just shoot everyone. Every kill earns points based on effectiveness. Headshots are worth the most points, natch. Rack up kills quickly for a score multiplier. When it’s all over, usually in a matter of minutes, the total score is ranked online against everyone else who’s played. And that’s pretty much it.
It’s worth noting developer Bizarre Creations is best known for the “Project Gotham Racing” series, which emphasizes skill-based challenges to master tracks and shave a few seconds off one’s best time. Similarly, while it’s a simple matter to unlock all of “The Club’s” locations and characters, the heart of the game comes in practicing each challenge, learning where the enemies are, and lining up the perfect run. At which point the next higher skill level is waiting. It’s silly, shallow and immensely gratifying.
There’s a multiplayer mode with typical deathmatch options, but shooting other people online is entirely beside the point. It’s odd that the developers even bothered. “The Club” actually works better as training for other online shooters. There are four difficulty settings, with the easiest being almost impossible to fail and the hardest being almost impossible not to fail. In between is plenty of room for mere mortals to advance their skills and perhaps even ascend to action gaming godhood.