It's hardly surprising to hear Project Gotham Racing referred to during a demo of The Club. After all, both are Bizarre Creations games. What's more surprising is to hear mention of Tekken, Street Fighter and Tony Hawk. There are references to other shooters, but not in the context you might expect. At one point we're told, "The Club isn't about hiding behind cover and waiting for guys to come to you. It's not about stealth. It's sort of... Anti-Gears of War."
So says Nick Davis, design manager at Bizarre. The Club is the studio's first attempt at a fully-fledged, fast-paced third-person shooter. Rather than focus on what makes other shooters fun, Bizarre looked at how its other games work and went outside the genre for new ideas.
One of the results, Davis explains, is that The Club is "more akin to a beat-'em-up" than a traditional shooter. For example, as you'd expect in a traditional fighting game, there are eight characters to choose from. Each has unique levels of strength, speed and stamina. Each has a unique back-story and motivations for taking part in The Club's underground shooting competitions, and their own intro and outro movies explaining it all.
In another nod to classic beat-'em-up there's a range of different arenas located around the globe. There are eight in total, including a German steel mill, an old English manor house, an abandoned ocean liner and a disused prison. But for today's demo, we're being taken to the back streets of Venice.
It's darker and grittier than your typical picture postcard. Less gondoliers and Cornettos and more burning oil drums and rocket launchers. Everywhere there are doorways to hide in and windows to pop up from. It's the perfect place to hold an underground shooting competition, but Davis says environment construction always comes before level layout.
"We build our levels in much the same way we build Project Gotham cities; we build an entire location then build routes through it. So instead of designing specific levels from start to finish, we construct huge environments then chop them up as we see fit."
They're chopped up to suit the different game modes, too. Sprint sees you legging it to the end of the level before the clock runs out. In Time Attack you earn precious seconds for each kill, in Siege you must hold a location for a set period of time, and in Survival you face wave after wave of enemies. Whichever you choose and however you perform, it's all over fast.
"The idea is that rather than play a level for half an hour, you can say, 'I really like that level, I'll just jump in and play for five minutes,'" says Davis.
"It's a lifestyle choice for us at Bizarre. We haven't got time to play games for six hours a night after playing them eight hours a day. We like to just jump into the best part of the game then jump back out again."
So The Club isn't about 45-minute-long missions. It's about short, sharp arcade blasts. It's about simple objectives and scoring points to progress to the next level. Extra points are awarded for headshots, multiple kills, distance kills and weapon pickups. Plus there are "skillshots", where you're rewarded for shooting all the metal signs of a particular design, for example.