Remember the days when a high score was actually important? When the ultimate in gaming one-upmanship would be a crushingly supreme points tally that saw your name - abbreviated to three letters - sitting atop a high score table in your local arcade? If so, this is definitely the game for you. On a personal level, one of the highlights of my games-fuelled youth was seeing my colossal Ranarama score beat off Jaz Rignall's in the Scorelord section of Zzap!64. So as far as I'm concerned, Bizarre Creations deserves 'kudos' (ouch) for a cool new game where flamboyant skill is more important than merely 'completing' it.
The core genius of The Club resides in its combo multiplier - a beautiful piece of gaming engineering that makes the game difficult to put down. Classy killing racks up the points while death-dealing in quick succession multiplies your score massively. Staying on the run and finding new targets to dispatch in order to fuel the combo meter is the key to success. The pace is electrifying and the rewards unspeakably satisfying, but conversely, the gaming heart-ache when a combo comes to an end is devastating.
Chalk me up as a fan of this game, despite its initially unappealing look and feel. The best coin-operated shooting titles tend to follow an established pattern: bright and brash graphics, plenty of character, over-the-top pyrotechnics and 60 frames-per-second gameplay. The Club has none of these things and their omission is telling. Graphically it's accomplished; however it's rather drab; a bit like Gears of War but without the architectural magnificence or insane levels of detail. The characters on offer do the job, but none of them really engage the player, and while the core blasting really is superb, hand-to-hand melee combat is distinctly lacklustre.
There's nothing between the PS3 and 360 versions of this title in terms of content aside from the inclusion of Achievements in the 360 code. In an arcade-style, score-attack game like this, objective bonuses like this do make a difference, but overall, without the lure of gamerscore or worthwhile unlockable goodies (see: Uncharted), they would probably feel rather empty and meaningless on PS3, so perhaps it's best that they're not included.
While general gameplay is also pretty much the same on both consoles, it's an undeniable fact that the Xbox 360 version is the one to have if you're in a position to choose between them. While both run at the requisite 720p, the 360 game looks tangibly superior thanks to a better colour balance, superior lighting effects, and much smoother, full-on anti-aliasing. Additionally, while both games run at 30 frames-per-second, the PS3 version can struggle a touch on the rare occasion when all hell is breaking loose. Also noticeable is that the game's special effects look a touch rougher on PS3, with shader effects that aren't quite as attractive as the Xbox 360's.
Technical issues aside though, The Club is still an exciting arcade shooter on both consoles, and one where the online leaderboards make competition between friends extremely compelling. It's definitely one of the more pleasurable games I had to work through for this feature, but you can't escape the nagging feeling that it's just a couple of creative decisions away from being something really special.