Most modern shooters go out of their way to provide a narrative justification for their eight hours of explosions and headshots. In 2008, Bizarre Creation's The Club barely even bothered.
It's pretty pathetic seeing the best and brightest UK games journalists after they've just played The Club. These are the people that play games for a living. They shouldn't have any trouble with a shooter that's been stripped to the bare bones of running and gunning, especially not one with levels the length of a pop song. But it was like being in an old people's home after a daily ten minute session of callisthenics. Word for word, here are a couple of things I overheard:
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."
During the latest presentation of The Club, SEGA refers to it as 'gladiators with guns', which is a pretty reasonable description. So is 'a third-person shooter with a mature theme and a pick-up-and-play sensibility', which is used later in the presentation. Neither description does justice to the range and diversity of influences on the game though. The key influence is, of course, Project Gotham (as you'll know if you read Eurogamer's E3 preview). Specifically, the game's creator, Bizarre Creations, wants to do for the shoot-'em-up what its Gotham series did for the racing genre. The Club is an attempt to impose a unique scoring system and innovative game modes upon the shoot-'em-up genre to produce something fresh and novel. But still, that's selling the game short. There's a whole load of other unlikely influences, ranging from TimeSplitters to Tony Hawk's by way of the odd beat-'em-up, a bit of Manhunt and back to SEGA's own OutTrigger.
When Bizarre Creations said it wanted to do for the shooter genre what Project Gotham had done for the racing genre, I wanted to do for their soundbite department what blisters are currently doing to my feet. The lack of detail in its original announcement didn't really help much, prompting some to imagine a sort of Fight Club shooter, sounding worryingly close to the awful second half of Manhunt.