Hang out with your closest friends as you rescue your loved ones from an enigmatic and terrifying threat that subdues the will of its victims.
Genre: Horror, Action
Release date: 30 July, 2019
At first glance, I’d thought The Blackout Club was going to be more or less another typical asymmetrical multiplayer horror game that was attempting to further refine the template. After only a few short moments in the prologue, I realized that the game was far more unique than I had initially given it credit for. From top to bottom, this title is one that uses its parts together to great effect and stands out on its own as an excellent experience that combines several ideas that differentiate it from others in its genre.
Release Your Inner Child
The prologue acts as a tutorial to both The Black Club’s game mechanics and its setting and I’d recommend playing through it unless you’re showing up with a healthy amount of prior knowledge of the gameplay systems and story. Once you’ve completed it (or not), you’ll be given the chance to create your own rebellious teenager who’s fighting against the odds. You start with a small selection of customization options though you’ll be unlocking more by spending candy (the in-game currency). Unfortunately, a significant portion of the items that you can use to personalize your appearance seem to be packaged into DLCs; there’s a good amount to choose from to bulk up your wardrobe, but it’s a little disheartening to see in a game that’s charging thirty bucks just to get in the door. Either way, I ended up playing a strapping young lad with a dapper haircut, army jacket, and jeans, so I was content.
On the gameplay side, you’ll be levelling up as you complete missions and these milestones grant you the ability to purchase powers, both minor and major. The former offer some conveniences such as starting missions with free bandages or lockpicks, but the latter are the real game-changers. Major powers are a skill line of sorts and are divided into four paths: takedown, prank caller, unstoppable, and drone. Takedown specialists excel at physically dealing with adults and are far more capable of resisting and fighting back than their peers who can only successfully subdue them if they catch them by surprise and even then there’s a time-consuming struggle. The prank caller ability line allows you to activate a rather vocal advertisement on an adult’s phone that completely distracts them for a time, though more advanced skills allow you to disable traps and security cameras. Unstoppable focused characters are more durable than their allies and have the stamina to match, even allowing their allies to regenerate their own more quickly. Last but not least, a drone specialist can fly a drone around to scout the area, record evidence, and even incapacitate adults with tranquilizer darts.
The Right Tools For The Job
In addition to power customization, you’ll have plenty of items at your disposal. Your arsenal at the train car hideout has three key hero items that you may choose between before each mission: the crossbow, the grappling hook, and the stun gun. The crossbow allows for shooting tranquillizer darts at range, a very useful technique for incapacitating adults but one that can only be used sparingly due to the scarcity of darts. The grappling hook is useful for reaching areas that are otherwise a challenge or impossible to get to, allowing for new and creative ways to get from A to B. The stun gun quickly knocks out anyone that you tase with it and can be used as an “oh shit!” button should you find yourself in the grasp of an adult, though it takes time to recharge and can only be used at close range. These are balanced well and I found whatever I brought with me useful on nearly every mission and often even wished I’d had another one or two due to the plethora of opportunities that they provide.
Outside of the three hero items are the other pieces of equipment that come in a surprisingly large variety for an entry into this genre. To name a few examples, there are foam bottles that can be used to cancel fall damage in an area and disable electronics, firecrackers that are loud and attract the attention of your foes, and lockpicks which are particularly useful here due to the neighbourhood keeping their houses locked up tight at night. All of the items that I found were fun to use and offered serious benefits to the strategies taking place.
Things That Go Bump
Missions are undertaken by selecting a region from the map in the hideout and I was once again impressed with the variety here, this time relating to the objectives. You’ll see some of the same ones popping up on occasion but I found that there were enough that I wouldn’t get tired of any of them. The maps in each area remain the same but all of the moving parts change with each mission and keep it from getting stale.
Stealth is your friend and your survival depends on it more than anything else. Enemies will detect you through both sight and sound so you’ll want to avoid well-lit areas and walk on the quietest ground that you can find. Look out for traps though, as they can alert the adults to your presence or even shock and stun you; you want none of this.
There are four enemies that you’ll be facing: sleepwalkers, lucids, the shape, and stalkers. Sleepwalkers are the most numerous and they’re the unwilling adults who can hear you but can’t see you. Lucids are the evil and willing adults who will be looking for you with flashlights; keep to the dark while they’re around as they’re capable of seeing you from quite some distance. The shape is the most terrifying as it is invisible and can only be detected when you’re closing your eyes (yes, there’s a key for this, no, not in real life). You can’t fight it like an adult, and if it gets a hold of you, you’ll become a sleepwalker yourself until one of your allies wakes you up. The standout enemy here is the stalker though, as they are a player-controlled teen themselves that spies on you and reports your actions to the adults like a little tattle-tale, raising your sin and bringing the shape into the game more quickly.
The Blackout Club was a pleasant surprise for me as I was expecting an interesting game that treads familiar ground but ended up playing one that stands on its own as a unique experience. The setting is fantastic all the way from the narrative to the art style to the sound design and they end up being a complete package that leads to a level of immersion that’s hard to find in multiplayer gaming. Add to this that there always seems to be at least a few people to play with and that the vast majority are welcoming and friendly, and I struggle to find any real cons for the title other than the cosmetic DLC, which is hardly even a real complaint. If you like the concept, pick it up and I’m sure you’ll enjoy your time with it. If $30 is more than you want to spend on it, I’d still recommend wishlisting it and grabbing it when it’s on a good sale. I know that I’ll be playing it plenty going forward and I’ve already begun recruiting my friends to join me.