Something weird is going on in the town of Redacre. People are waking up covered in dirt. The teenagers in town have realized people are sleepwalking at night, working on some weird contraption in the tunnels that run under town. After the bravest member of The Blackout Club goes missing, the rest of the club takes it upon themselves to record evidence so they can expose the cult underneath the town.
The Blackout Club has a decent amount of story for a multiplayer heavy title. The world itself is interesting, with new unlocked areas often creating more questions than answers. The lengthy tutorial does an excellent job setting the stage for the rest of the game. As players gain levels, short video clips, journal entries, dreams, and unlocked areas fill in the lore. The only issue is the pace of the lore. Between each match, players have the option of hearing a dream, which contains a previously recorded ritual conversation between a player and the voices. I am unsure if new lore is tied to experience gain or random chance, but it is a very slow trickle.
While listed as a horror game, The Blackout Club is more of a stealth title than true horror. Four players cooperate to complete a series of randomly generated goals. Actions like being spotted, attacking NPCs, and breaking in doors will cause NPCs to report the sin to the mysterious Shape. The Shape has an increasing chance to spawn as players generate sin. The Shape is a dangerous foe. The Shape is an invisible NPC that can only be seen if players close their eyes. Additionally, The Shape has better hearing and vision than other NPCs. If players are caught by The Shape, it will put them to sleep for the first two times. Players will lose control of their character and must rely on a teammate to wake them from their sleep. Get caught a third time and the character is dead for the rest of the match.
One of The Blackout Club’s most striking features is constant feeling of vulnerability. Since players take on the role of teenagers, they are smaller and weaker than the adults that roam around town. Without the help of specialized equipment, the best players can do is ambush the adult by jumping on their back and choking the adult out. This isn’t a permanent takedown, but it can buy players a few precious seconds to make a get away. Since the tranquilizer darts and sleep traps needed for permanent disable are so rare, The Blackout Club creates a tense atmosphere where players rightfully fear the enemy. The Shape spawning makes the game all the more intense, often forcing players to run for their lives.
There is a clear line of progression in the game. As players level up, they gain skill points that can be spent on minor and major skills. Minor skills will give small buffs like an extra set of lockpicks at the beginning of the game. Major skills are split into four different trees specializing in brawling, distraction, escaping, and reconnaissance. The skill trees cover every play style, and the abilities are well thought out. The only issue is the incredibly slow pace at which players level. The first few levels go by quick, but the levels start to feel like a real grind after level five. To make matter worse, players only get one skill point a level. Each skill requires a point more than the preceding skill.
The map design in The Blackout Club is excellent. Since players are supposed to be roaming around in their own neighbourhood, the map does not change night in and night out. Players don’t have a reference map on hand either. Instead, they are slowly taught the map as new sections are unlocked as players level. The map itself is an excellent mix of claustrophobic corridors and wide-open spaces. The objectives are randomly generated, providing the needed variety between missions. Each mission requires two to three steps and usually will have at a step above and below ground.
The game’s user experience is solid. The controls are simple and follow the traditional FPS layout. The UI is minimalistic and well organized. The only thing I would prefer to see is a better indication of what actions could be considered a sin and what is not. For the most part, red is used to represent actions that will generate sin, but noise alerts that generate sin are marked with yellow.
The Blackout Club is a lot of fun. It’s a tough game to play alone and is best enjoyed with at least a friend. It’s an intense game that offers plenty of heart stopping moments. The 1.0 release is still not perfect though. I’ve run into my fair share of bugs ranging from the benign to game stopping. The worst right now are the trees that are just the right height to get stuck in, which requires the match to be restarted to fix.
The Blackout Club is a solid looking game. The art style is on the cartoony side with a splash of realism. The Maze is probably the most memorable part of the game’s visuals. It looks so foreign and out of place compared to the town that stand above ground. The red and white colour scheme is particularly striking.
The audio experience in The Blackout Club is enjoyable. The sound effects are good. The audio engine and sound design creates the right atmosphere for a stealth game, allowing players precious seconds to prepare for incoming enemies. The voice acting is excellent, but the game could use a few extra lines.
The Blackout Club is an excellent cooperative stealth game that splashes in a little bit of horror to spice things up. While it is still plagued by some minor bugs, it’s a fantastically tense experience that fans of first person stealth games will enjoy.
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