Despite a truly amazing prologue/introduction, Question’s The Blackout Club isn’t all that scary and unfortunately isn’t too fun, either.
Like everyone else, there are certain things in games that get me excited. Whether its a unique spin on gameplay, an interesting genre, or a gripping story, games need to have something that allows it to stand out amongst the crowd. When I first heard of The Blackout Club I was surprised that it checked off multiple boxes for me. Horror game? Love ’em. Co-op? Cool, I can play with friends. Procedurally generated? Yup, count me in. Of course, mashing together this many features is risky, but nonetheless, I was intrigued to see what Question could come up with. Low and behold, I, unfortunately, found myself very disappointed by what The Blackout Club has to offer, but I still want more.
As stated, The Blackout Club is a procedurally generated, first-person, PVE, co-op horror game. Players complete missions either by themselves or with the help of up to three friends in order to uncover the mystery of what’s going on in their town. You play as a child and face a variety of enemies in each mission. But let’s circle back and unpack the description of the game for a bit.
First off, when the game was described as being procedurally generated, I assumed this meant the design of the levels themselves. While this is true to a certain extent, it seems to only apply to the way that enemies, traps, and AI are placed around each level. For example, while in one mission you may have a trap placed in a certain area the first time, it might not be in the same area the next time you do that type of mission. Maybe it’s my fault for thinking that each level would be almost completely different in every way to the last.
Another problem I have with The Blackout Club is the co-op element. While the game in-and-of-itself is not very scary, the inclusion of co-op in The Blackout Club really brings the scare-factor down even lower than it was already at, mostly because you can laugh with other players and joke about some of the wonky physics in the game. Now granted, I understand that suspense and horror are very difficult concepts to nail down, and co-op horror games are even harder to execute, so I do want to genuinely commend Question for trying something like this. However, it just didn’t land for me.
Of course, given the fact that this is a horror game, the “scares” all come down to the enemies you face. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any of them scary. A lot of the enemies don’t have sight, meaning they rely entirely on sound to find out where you are. Of course, this means you have to be crouched a lot, which reduces the sounds of your footsteps. In a normal horror situation, this would make for some incredibly intense moments, but, frankly, it was rare that I felt any nerves. The few times I did though, it was because I was surprised to find out an enemy was in a place I didn’t think they were in.
Now, there was something in The Blackout Club that was not only scary but also contained some of the best horror I’ve seen in a game in a while: the prologue. Holy hell, is the opening sequence good. It feels like it’s the complete opposite of what the actual game is. It’s intense, it’s scary, it focuses on one enemy (the Shape) and most notably, it’s single-player only. The Blackout Club should be more of the what made the prologue so damn good. If I had to review the game based solely on the prologue, I would be giving it a much higher score. Because it’s single-player only, not only does it make for a much more intense experience, but it also allows the game to run smoother.
I found the framerate and visual fidelity of The Blackout Club fine in most aspects. In fact, in some scenarios, I was actually quite impressed with what the game had to offer in this department. It was visually detailed and aside from some motion blur, it was running smoothly for most of my time with the game. However, every single time I had four players in the lobby it would start to get choppy. At first I thought I was imagining the stutter, but sure enough, it seems like the frame rate definitely drops when there are four people in a lobby and especially when they are all on the screen at the same time.
On top of the frame rate problems, there were a number of times that the AI enemies would be choppy, spin in circles, and would just generally be more annoying than scary. That’s not to say that they never worked properly, because, in fact, they did in most scenarios. However, these issues are most notable when you’re in a tight space with one of the enemies (a door frame, cramped room, etc.), which is where the enemies should be at their scariest.
I don’t want to come off as if I hate everything about The Blackout Club, I’m just disappointed by it. When everything works right, it can definitely be an enjoyable experience. I was certainly never at a point that I absolutely dreaded playing this game. I constantly wanted to find out more about what it had to offer.
The problem is that I can see the potential The Blackout Club had. The concept is great, but it’s not executed properly. The prologue is fantastic, but it’s not the representative of the whole game. The multiplayer is present, but it’s not great. Because of this potential and given the fact that it’s an only-online game, right now, I view it as a disappointment. I really hope that Question updates the game and improves it as time goes on.