THE BLACKOUT CLUB
Stranger things have happened.


REVIEW
By JAY TEE
09/08/19

The controls feel comfortable, but player movement / animation isn’t very smooth, particularly when climbing or vaulting.

Definitely a highlight. The subtle use of music, ambient and directional audio, and voice acting are all brilliant.

You’re going to want to play this with people you know. Open matchmaking is an option, but you’ll want to make sure chat is on.  

Performance wise, there’s nothing too pressing to worry about. Texture detail is fairly bland, although enemy designs are interesting.

THE LAST WORD

The Blackout Club feels too light on content, and lacking in polish, to recommend as a must buy title.  

THE FINAL SCORE

2/5

REVIEW POLICY

We use a simple “out of 5” rating criteria for all reviews.

2 out of 5 is OK.

It might have some half decent ideas, but the execution misses the mark and falls short.

*Reviewed on PS4, with a copy provided by Question*


The BOOGEYMAN TWO badge is for a game with a collection of strong, varied enemies to face.

The EMILIO ESTEVEZ badge is for a game with random and / or procedurally generated content.


The GRUMPY SPONGES badge is for a game where certain characters aren’t pleased to see you.

The DAMP SQUID badge is for a game with excellent context sensitive audio.

The SLIM PICKINGS badge is for a game that is lacking in content.

The BEST WITH FRIENDS badge is earned if a game is significantly more fun playing with people you know, either in campaign or online.

The CONGLOMERATE badge is for a game where characters frequently clip through surfaces.


IS IT FUN?

*Sometimes, but certain mechanics don’t feel right*

There’s no shortage of ideas here. A “down, but not out” state, where players are being dragged away, but can make a last second escape if they manage to scrounge a nearby item. A “Nemesis” style antagonist, who can only be seen when you shut your eyes (which, incidentally, is a player controlled action behind many of The Blackout Club’s better executed concepts). There’s even an optional mic recording mode (dubbed the “Enhanced Horror System”) that uses your own spoken audio as part of the sound design. These are all lovely flourishes, but for every moment of ingenuity, you’re faced with an equally baffling design choice that sucks you out of the moment. For example, the pining system, where you jump onto a foes back and knock them down, feels awkward, as sometimes difficult to read enemy movement leads them to suddenly see you without warning. So much feels underdeveloped.

The Blackout Club is an ambitious title, one that at times can be at odds with the scale of an indie budget. This multiplayer only, co-op horror ode to Stranger Things and Bioshock is packed to the brim with clever ideas, but the execution doesn’t always hit the mark. Animations can often appear stilted, with regular clipping issues, and the visuals are definitely lacking. But at its core, there’s something undeniably intriguing about a four player co-operative mystery, and the hook (a group of kids exposing the truth behind adults nefarious deeds) is refreshingly original. The sound design is top notch, and the tutorial, which serves as a prologue of sorts, does a good job establishing the tone. There’s plenty of unique threats to consider, and it absolutely nails its creepy aesthetic, but ultimately, it falls short in several key areas.

MEMORABLE MOMENTS?

*Sure. But often when playing alone.*

It’s quite telling that my fondest memories of playing The Blackout Club were solo and more narrative focused. The 30 minute prologue / tutorial showcases the single player pedigree of this development team, with some superb voice acting and genuinely creepy moments. I’m a huge fan of co-operative multiplayer experiences, and I will often spend time within open chat whilst playing stuff like Apex Legends. However, The Blackout Club absolutely hinges on having a good squad by your side, and unfortunately a game like this will live and die by the state of its playerbase. Playing with friends is definitely the way to go here, especially as there’s no real ping or emote system that can be used in place of voice chat. I had one mission where all four players took it in turns antagonising The Shape (the “Nemesis” style villain”), which was great fun. The next lobby had nobody talking.

Your phone is a useful tool, and your primary method for capturing the antics of the adults in your town.

ANNOYING STUFF?

*Yes, but it could so easily be fixed.*  

The visual palette on the whole is pretty bland, and while the enemy types in the game are quite distinct, their behaviour feels far too repetitive. Their threat dissipates pretty quickly due to the limited variation in their movement pattern. There’s also a huge lack of mission deviation, with only four or five different objective modifiers. You’ll find yourself wanting more to do, and although additional environments have been added since its origins as an Early Access title, there’s an unshakeable feeling that the whole thing feels a bit thin. I’m fully aware that this is a budget title made by a small team, but when the character design, gameplay mechanics, and horror elements have been given such focus, it shines an unfortunate light on the lack of content made available in this final release.  

NEXT STEPS?

*Double down on narrative elements.*

The Blackout Club feels like a perpetual early access game, and the kind of ill advised multiplayer spin off you sometimes see after a successful single player series decides to “broaden its appeal”. The difference here, is that initial campaign experience doesn’t exist! I’d love to see them retain the premise and enemy design, and reshape a theoretical sequel into a more narrative driven title. The DNA of this first game could absolutely be preserved, with co-operative play, randomised elements, and player customisation. Ultimately, there’s a solid premise here, and many aspects of it do work. I’m speaking in much broader terms, as the game seems more preoccupied with repetitive grinding than allowing players to really dig deep into the world and spend time piecing together the mystery’s that surround it.

THE BASICS - First person multiplayer horror, from developers who helped produce the BioShock series.

PLATFORMS - PS4, Xbox One, and PC

MAX PLAYERS - Offline - 1, Online - 4

CO-OP? MULTIPLAYER? - The game is primarily co-op focused, with an optional PvP component called “The Stalker”.

DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT - None announced.

TARPS? - At the bottom of all our reviews, you’ll see a series of absurd looking images (with equally stupid, in joke laden names). These are the TARP badges, which represent our ‘Totally Accurate Rating Platform’. They allow us to identify specific things, recognise positive or negative aspects of a games design, and generally indulge our consistent silliness with some visual tomfoolery.

Don’t get in the way of ol’ Captain Grabbyhands here…

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