The Blackout Club is a one-four player horror first-person stealth game, with drop-in drop-out sessions. The title was currently in Early Access, but now as of this article, it is officially released. You play as one of four teenagers who begin to investigate a monstrous secret beneath the surface of their small town Redacre. Everyone has been experiencing blackouts at night and sleepwalking, waking up covered in dirt and blood or on train tracks, and nobody knows why.
The missions are all procedurally generated, and they vary according to player level and progress. They also differ depending on the number of players you have in the game, playing solo will be less burdensome, albeit only in some ways.
First off, as you start to play, a pop up will appear about the Enhanced Horror System. If you accept the terms and say yes, the game will capture your voice and breath reactions to offer all players a more immersive experience, you can still interact online as usual, but the Blackout Club will be listening in-between. Of course, if you say no, the game will not capture your voice, but it will prevent you from using certain online-specific features which are voice-activated, but you can still chat with people online without issue. If you happen to change your mind when playing, you can turn it on/off in the options menu.
The gameplay is like a non-lethal Left for Dead mixed with a little bit of Thief; you accomplish specific objectives by following the on-screen marker, work together as a team or play solo, and escape the level once everything is complete. As you finish missions, you get snacks as a reward for which you can use to purchase aesthetic items for your character, as well as earning experience points for levelling up. In words, it sounds quite easy, but playing it is a whole different kettle of scary.
The entire premise of this title is to capture evidence of what is going on around the town. To do this, you and your team must utilise stealth and sneak around the town, avoiding enemies and fulfilling your objectives. You can temporarily disable these enemies, but you cannot kill them, this is one of the scarier things about The Blackout Club, you cannot solve your problems with mindless death. These enemies also speak to you, saying they will tell the Watcher of your deeds, along with other things, it’s pretty creepy. An enemy you incapacitate after a short while will get back to its feet and may report your sin to something far greater…
These acts of ‘Sin’ happen when you break the rules, aka do anything against the game; however, if too many sins report back, a new enemy will come for you, one that you cannot see with the naked eye, called The Shape. Perhaps it is in your best interests if you avoided all inhabits of Redacre all together if you can, as enemies don’t want to hurt you but they will.
The most prominent mechanic of The Blackout Club is that you can close your eyes. When you do so a cloudy, bloody red mist descends instead of the natural darkness, and you can see things that you cannot see with the naked eye, such as hidden messages or the terrifying being known as The Shape. Footsteps also appear, if you have managed to get yourself lost, and these lead back towards your objective, handy if you went off to explore. As well as this you have a feature that I like to call the Elder Scrolls eye, this eye, tells you when you are in the light, how loud you are being, if you are crouched and if you have become discovered.
Before you start your mission, you have a selection of three Hero gadgets you can choose from, a grappling hook, a stun gun and a crossbow. You also get to decide what Powers you want, both major and minor. There are four major powers to choose from, which grant you special abilities which some are on a cooldown system, one of these major powers is called Takedown – this allows you takedown an enemy from behind dazing them for ten seconds. Minor powers grant you permanent perks, or item unlocks, e.g., you can sprint while carrying a body with zero movement penalty or you can bring with you a lockpick at the start of your mission. As you level up from completing missions, you will get Power Points to spend; these points then go into your power skill-trees to upgrade them however you wish, but as you begin to level them up, the more points you’ll need to level them up further.
Combat, if you can call it that, is quite simple, your main aspect is paying attention to the stamina gauge. This gauge decreases up when running, climbing and dealing with enemies. You can grab enemies from behind and pin them to the ground if you are playing with people, this gives your friends time to explore houses etc., with less of a threat of being attacked. If you are playing solo, pinning an enemy will cause them to become stunned for at least ten seconds, ample enough time for you to flee.
Howbeit, If you are not so lucky and become grabbed, if you do not have anything equipped that can save you, such as field items you can find around the level such as a foam grenade, you can push them away, but at the cost of your maximum stamina decreasing, you can heal yourself if you have access to a bandage. If you have no stamina left, they will drag you to a place where you do not want to go. If The Shape finds you, you will be instantly be put to sleep and be under his control. You can awake from this nightmare, but your friends are now your enemies, so if they are not stealthy about it, you might end up even betraying your friends.
The atmosphere is creepy, it is tense and stressful, and this exists even before the monstrous being The Shape has been unleased upon you all, I crapped myself numerous times, repeatedly. Some enemies can only find you by their keen sense of hearing, some only by sight, and as you level up, more enemies become added in to heighten horror, and the deeper your objectives will take you. The deeper you go, you will not only be up against enemies, but also environmental hazards, such as cameras, motion detectors and the like. Can you avoid all these while enemies are nearby, and the Shape could have heard of your many sins?
The game is pretty scary, and I will admit I am not a horror fan, even simple ones such as this, but I enjoyed what I played. As you start to level up, the game difficultly moulds around you, so the difficulty rises with your level, yes you get stronger by unlocking more powers but so does the game, it is an excellent system. How you play is basically up to you, your objective is in the house, but the door is however locked, you can bust it open, but that would attract sleepwalkers. Alternatively, you could find another route and get in more sneakily, but the longer you wait, the higher the chance of you getting caught.
The only issue I have with The Blackout Club is that it can get repetitive; you could end up getting the same few objectives time and time again. Moreover, the levelling up is somewhat of a grind; it can take four to five missions to level up after the initial few levels. It is faster if you find the bonus evidence on every level, howbeit, if you all fail, you don’t get the full experience, so it takes even longer. Overall, I have enjoyed my time with The Blackout Club, and I recommend it, especially playing with four friends, that is where the real terrifying fun begins.