Horror games have occupied a sort of niche space in the gaming world, as of late. While there have been some recent gems like SOMA, Call of Cthulhu, and who can forget Doki Doki Literature Club (which I have a bit of personal experience with)? But, gone are the days of Amnesia or Slender dominating the gaming discussion. Gone are the days of Silent Hill or Dead Space. And dare I mention Five Nights At Freddy’s that dominated the discussions of audiences en-masse?

It’s no doubt that the horror genre in gaming has shrunk from what it once was, with very few AAA titles that are horror focused coming out. The future of horror as a genre lies in the indie community. And The Blackout Club  developed by Question aims to do just that. Pave the way for an everlasting horror experience in gaming. Does it live up to its mission? Find out in The Blackout Club review below.

A code was provided to Culture of Gaming for the purpose of this review. Currently, the title is in early access, but an additional code for the 1.0 build, launching July 30th, 2019, was provided for evaluation, and subsequently that build is what this review is based on.

The Setup

Launching into the game, I was immediately brought into the character creation and prompted to play the prologue. Opting out of playing the prologue, I was then brought into the mission hub for the game world. For a PC game, this is actually a significant annoyance; just immediately launching into the game that is. I say this because I like to at least be presented with a menu to be able to tweak my options. Usually turn the volume down a bit, set my resolution properly, etc. This is such a personal gripe, but enough PC games do this sort of thing that it’s become an issue over the years. 

Once getting my settings squared away, I found the prop in the hub area that interacting with would let me play the prologue, so I started that.

Spooky

Right from the get go in the prologue, the atmosphere is already off putting. The music eerie, the lighting off, etc. I must compliment the developers on setting the atmosphere so well right off the bat, I felt a legitimate sense of discomfort. I navigated my way through my house to watch TV until my parents got home, until things go…wrong to say the least. The classic horror static and flickers occur, and things go downhill from there. This sequence reveals a fascinating mechanic, where closing my eyes (holding down the ‘Z’ key’) can reveal messages or footprints, at least for now. 

I was slowly guided through the prologue by an unknown group sending texts on my phone called “Blackout Club”, and after the TV sequence, I’m guided to record photos of my family for evidence. After each photo, things get weirder and weirder, with party decorations appearing in the living room. Suddenly, the front door is busted open, and a paranormal being only referred to as “The Shape” is on the hunt for me. The catch is that I can only see it by closing my eyes, but it’s on a set path. He checks room to room, forcing you to navigate your house and hide in closets or behind furniture as it checks. ‘The Shape’ being on a set path sort of gave off a classic stealth game “dodge the guard” vibe which was cool. 

After escaping, I was guided to this massive underground tunnel system, known as ‘The Maze’, and was introduced to the two primary types of enemies, “Sleepers” who can’t see but hear really well, and “Lucids” who can see and hear, but are not nearly as sensitive to sound as Sleepers are. Experiencing everything for the first time, I must say, is legitimately horrifying and stressful, mostly coming from the fear of the unknown. The rest of the game’s mechanics are also introduced through this prologue sequence.

Right from the get-go, the atmosphere is set, and the world feels off

Clever Mechanics 

The most important piece of HUD given to the player is the gauge at the bottom of the screen, that shows you how visible you are, the amount of sound you’re making, and if enemies are suspicious of you or actively hunting you. One nice detail is that various materials in-game are calculated to have different noise levels. For example, me walking on carpet makes a lot less noise than walking on stone, and The Blackout Club likes to play with this concept.

The game offers the player plenty of gadgets, ranging from stun guns to subdue enemies to flashbangs used to escape enemies. One such gadget that I thought was really cool was the foam grenade, allowing the player to toss it at a location that will create a patch of soft foam that deadens sound and soften landings. Both effects are useful, considering the game’s mobility system.

The mobility system serves its function well, as you’re able to within reason climb up ledges just above your head height by jumping, and of course sprint, walk or sneak around (all of those of course have respective noise levels the player needs to pay attention to). One frustrating aspect I found was just how limiting the stamina meter was. Almost everything outside of general movement takes stamina, from trying to quickly navigate up a ladder to escaping enemies. Stamina management is important, but in the early levels it felt limiting. If you have to ever escape ‘The Shape’ having stamina is important, and that’s not always a guaranteed especially if you’re in the later portion of the level.

Gameplay Loop

Past the mechanics, is the loop. I.E, how and for how long do you exactly play the game? The Blackout Club is broken down into missions, contained within mission areas, with more areas being unlocked as you level up. I found the missions to be somewhat basic, mostly comprising of go here, sneak around, get something(s) and leave. Occasionally an additional objective gets tacked on just as you thought you finished the mission. I found the difficulty spike in some of these second objectives to be a bit steep, as every sequence before hand was significantly easier. 

One core mechanic of these missions comes from the game being co-op. And well, that experience is a really mixed bag. I can imagine playing with a group of coordinated individuals, like your friends, would make for a much easier time navigating through the missions, as opposed to matchmaking with 3 other random players, which was hit or miss. Getting players who legitimately communicate and take things seriously are nice, but there’s no guarantee. And more often than not, you’ll have one or two players that don’t communicate and choose to just rush in. Often times this results in a mission failure, so I subsequently spent most of my time soloing the missions, which is possible, just difficult. 

Progression And Minor Things

That’s more or less the loop. Play missions to progress the narrative, as well as progress the customization system. Some mild amount of character tweaking is available by spending “Power Points”, which offer some stat increases like increased stamina. These are ultimately all useful, so they don’t feel tacked on or a hindrance, they all feel important. 

And that’s about it. The game is somewhat simple but fun, and makes you curious about the world it has set up, and makes you want to solve the mystery as to what’s going on, but I would like to touch on a couple of minor points. 

The first of which, being the environmental interaction. It seems inconsistently limited. For example, I can interact with the light switches in the world, I.E turning on the lights in the bathroom of a house. But, lights that are setup by the enemies, I can’t interact with by turning off or damaging. One could argue that it’s to maintain a level of difficulty, but at the same time, I can argue that it adds another level of depth and strategy to the stealth mechanics. Another minor comment is regarding the chase mechanics. Where, if an enemy is drawn to your location for say making a sound, even moving away from that location on a silent surface, the enemy still tracks you, as if they magically know where you are. This is a bit of a mechanical inconsistency, I’m not certain if this is a bug or intended behavior, but either way it’d be nice to consistently be able to escape enemies past the first point of suspicion.

One final point is that the element of horror gets removed after the first time experiencing everything. For example, “The Shape” was scary at first but once figuring out the trick behind it, it just became another enemy. A lot of the shock factor gets removed after experiencing everything at least once.

Final Thoughts

The Blackout Club is a very well executed game, and it sets itself up well, from a creepy atmosphere to a curious narrative. I legitimately enjoyed playing through the game, and I believe it has a bright future with the 1.0 release, and any updates the developers have planned going forward. If you and your friends are looking for a co-op game to sink some time into, The Blackout Club should be a contender in your decision. Check out the game’s Steam store page here.

The PC port seems to be technically sound, as I experienced no absolutely game-breaking bugs, and it seemed to run great. I had no trouble maintaining 60 FPS at 3840×2160 (4K) resolution, with the settings cranked all the way up.

For more reviews, check out or full review section here.

THE GOOD
Creative Premise
Fun Gameplay
Technically Sound
Good Atmosphere
THE BAD
Not scary the second time around
Occasional questionable behavior
7.5
Good

Review Summary

The Blackout Club is a fun co-op experience, with elements of horror that diminish over time. Nonetheless, the setup is great and the navigation through levels is fun as well. If you or your friends are looking for a new co-op to sink some time into, The Blackout Club is worth your consideration.

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