by MARTY DEMAREST & r & & r & The Club & r & Rated Mature; Xbox 360, PS3, PC & r & 2 Stars & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he Club begins where most videogames do: on the back of the box. "Shoot your way through 48 single-player levels," it promises. These levels are staged by the titular "club," which is a secret fraternity whose members -- rich, elite men who resemble each other and aim poorly -- hunt a brutal killer (me) who has been set loose in a cordoned-off corner of the world. In the course of the club's events I must run for the area's exit while shooting club members who get in my way, or I must stay in a central arena firing back at members who attempt to pick me off from the sidelines. But I quickly learned that if I ran past my opponents, they would innocently stop following me by the time I turned the corner. And as long as I didn't kill any of them, reinforcements wouldn't arrive.
A "unique combo score kill system" is claimed on the back of the box in a tiny screenshot littered with numbers. ("843 x10" "2391 x11") Those numbers are scores. Shooting an opponent in the head gives me more points than a comparably simple through-the-shoulder kill. The game also accounts for distance from the target, movements made before firing, and whether the kill is claimed by my last bullet. Bonuses are awarded if I shoot opponents during a countdown that happens after every successful kill. The timer and the points quickly shift the game from a gruesome survival match to an arcade shoot-'em-up and the excitement gives way to killing by rote on deadline.
The back of the game box also advises me to "earn respect online in eight-person multiplayer battles." As a multiplayer shooter, The Club is in dangerous territory. Hundreds of online shooters are available in stores, and dozens of them are excellent. Call of Duty 4 offers intricate gunplay that demolishes The Club's "everything aims the same" selection of firearms. Halo 3 is a masterpiece of sophisticated level design and enemy intelligence that shames The Club's rabbit warrens and stationary bozos. Even good old Doom is a riotous run-and-gun game by comparison. If The Club wants to promote itself as worth playing, it needs to shoot better than the competition.
THE GOOD: I like the premise of The Club. An exclusive killing fraternity in which the wealthy elite are allowed to hunt hot-blooded killers has the gory tang of Hostel. Once the action starts, however, The Club devolves from this good grim idea into a repetitive race against the clock, which is disappointing, because otherwise it has graphics capable of setting a creepy mood and the technological precision required to simulate a vicious killing sport.
THE BAD: For no apparent reason, The Club puts me in third-person perspective, standing behind my character and looking over his shoulder. I can understand this perspective if I'm going to be swinging a katana at a horde of foes all around me, or if I'm supposed to be acutely aware of my perilous environment. But in The Club, the behind-the-back view only adds an element of unwieldiness to what should otherwise be the simple, fundamental act of aiming.
THE BOTTOM LINE: As a car security system, The Club is an ingenious idea; as a videogame, it's somewhat less entertaining.
The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.