Title: The Blackout Club
Developer: Question Games
Publisher: Question Games
Genre: Action, Horror
Platform: PlayStation 4
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 30/07/19
Price: £19.99 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Originally released last October, first-person stealth horror ‘The Blackout Club’ has now found its way on to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Although single-player mode is available, Developer Question Games have primarily pitched it as a cooperative experience. After trying both approaches, I can confirm Question Games made the right call – The Blackout Club is far better when played with friends.
The game follows the actions of several teenagers in the town of Redacre, Virginia, who have found themselves suffering blackouts and waking up far from home. The adults of the town are also behaving strangely and a number of your peers have been reported missing. After an excellent prologue that serves the dual purpose of setting up the story and introducing gameplay mechanics, you learn that one of your friends, Isabelle, is among these missing teenagers. As a member of the Blackout Club, it is your job to save Isabelle and uncover the secrets of Redacre.
Before embarking on your first mission, you are greeted with one of the most limited character customisation screens I have seen on a PS4 game. I usually enjoy creating a character but the options were so poor that it felt like an unnecessary add-on. After making any changes, you are transported to an abandoned freight train that acts as your hub. From here you can upgrade skills, select mission regions and choose special equipment to take on your outings. Players can opt for a grappling hook, crossbow or a stun gun, each with their own unique function. Some items felt far more useful than others – the crossbow, for example, is combined with a tranquillizer dart and used to eliminate enemies from a distance.
The Blackout Club operates on a procedurally generated mission structure, with objectives that include locating a specific item, pickpocketing enemies or planting audio bugs. Additional tasks include using your smartphone to record evidence and this provides more experience points. Levelling up is painfully slow and the objectives quickly become repetitive. You have to reach a certain level to unlock additional areas on the map, so get used to scouting around the same locations until you reach your quota of XP. I felt this approach negatively impacted the story and after such a fantastic prologue it was a shame to see that it didn’t really go anywhere. This was definitely a missed opportunity.
During the grind of levelling up, you gain skill points and these can be used to unlock new abilities. There are four skill trees to choose from, all of which will improve your chances of survival during your missions. I focused on the Hacker power, which allowed me to distract enemies through prank calls or shut down nearby security cameras. My co-op partner used the Drone power to scout ahead and these two abilities complimented each other well. There are also a range of smaller items to help during your time in Redacre. Noisemakers are a useful distraction aid, foam grenades help to soften high landings and tranquiliser darts can be shot or stabbed if you find yourself in a tight situation.
Although enemy variety is limited, each forces you to take a new approach in avoiding detection, helping to break the repetitive nature of the mission structure. The first enemies you’ll encounter are ‘Sleepers’, adults of the town who wander through streets and houses in an induced sleepwalk. They have no sight but excellent hearing, and will come running if you get too close or walk on certain surfaces. ‘Lucids’, on the other hand, patrol the town with torches and will chase you down if you become illuminated. Once an enemy becomes aware of your presence, you will commit a sin.
Commit enough sins and the ‘Shape’ will appear and hunt you down with uncompromising tenacity. This supernatural enemy is concealed to the open eye and requires you to hold triangle for it to become visible. If caught, you’ll be under its control and require a friend to revive you, so best to stay undetected for as long as possible. Being chased by this enemy can be terrifying, especially if you’re nearing the end of a successful mission. Once you have reached level 5, ‘Stalkers’ can invade your co-op game. These enemies are controlled by other players and record evidence of your sins in order to draw out the ‘Shape’ and chase you down.
In terms of presentation, The Blackout Club looks pretty mediocre. The eerie town of Redacre and the teenagers’ hideout certainly gave me some ‘Stranger Things’ vibes but the character models were poor, particularly when it came to facial detail. The soundtrack is produced largely through environmental noises and ambient music that rings from beneath the houses. It is quiet, unsettling and provides a decent backdrop to the stealth gameplay.
Unfortunately, the game has a couple of bugs and I experienced some performance issues during my time with The Blackout Club. On several occasions, I became locked in a loading screen, once at the end of a mission meaning that my progress and experience was lost. When skulking around Redacre, enemy inhabitants would often stutter and glitch and environmental pop-in was common. Overall, there didn’t seem to be a great deal of polish in the finished article.
Despite its repetitive mission structure and rough performance, The Blackout Club was an enjoyable co-op horror experience. Sneaking around, avoiding detection and gathering evidence is fun but far more entertaining when playing with friends. The story starts out strong but quickly loses its momentum and I can’t help feeling the game would have been better played out across fixed missions. In the end, I did have fun with my time in Redacre, and if Question Games continues to support the title and improve the repetitive nature, I might just find my way back.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase the Blackout Club from the PlayStation Store on the following link, https://store.playstation.com/en-gb/product/EP2234-CUSA16714_00-BLACKOUTCLUB0001
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.