With The Blackout Club having been developed by former BioShock and Dishonored devs at Question, it's hard to fault anyone from putting it on their list of most anticipated horror games of 2019. The premise of a group of teenagers banding together to solve a dark mystery plaguing their town is unique for a video game and letting players team up with friends in 4-player co-op made The Blackout Club seem even more promising. Unfortunately, while there is clear potential here for The Blackout Club to be something great, it ultimately falls far short of expectations.
It's a shame, too, because The Blackout Club actually starts off fairly strong. The character creation tools are barebones and characters will look ugly pretty much no matter what, but it's serviceable. Players are able to skip the tutorial if they desire and get right into the actual game, which is a nice touch as many co-op games like to force players to play alone for a chunk of time before letting them actually join up with friends.
The first few missions The Blackout Club players play will actually be quite entertaining. The idea of the game is that players choose their loadout, which can include defensive items like a taser or tranquilizer darts that are shot at enemies using a crossbow, and then head out on a mission to find clues about what exactly is going on in their town. Players break into suburban homes to search for clues, all the while avoiding the grasping hands of the mindless adults that are attempting to capture them.
Players record some evidence using their smartphone, and other evidence is physically collected. Sometimes players are given a mission to collect an item in one location and then place it another. These missions are fun enough at first, and give off a serious Stranger Things or The Goonies vibe, but within an hour players will have seen pretty much all the game has to offer in terms of mission variety. Map variety is also lacking, with the locations in the game all looking similar to each other, and players have to play missions in the same area over and over again.
The Blackout Club has a progression system where players earn XP, level up, spend points on upgrades, and unlock new locations. At the start of the game, only one area is available, with the next location not unlocked until level 4 and the one after that not unlocked until level 13. Even if players find all the bonus evidence and complete the mission perfectly, they will find themselves barely earning XP, meaning that it takes hours to grind to level 4 and unlock the second area. Exploring the same area and redoing the same missions over and over again gets old quick, and soon the game becomes a repetitive bore.
Before the repetitious grind sets in, The Blackout Club is a somewhat competent stealth horror game, and there are times when it's a blast playing with friends. There was one instance where we broke into a house and hid in a bathroom, thinking that the mindless woman patrolling that home, decked out in pajamas, hadn't seen us yet. We opened the door only to have her charge us in a terrifying mad dash, but our teammate quickly shot a tranquilizer dart into her chest. The woman collapsed into the bathtub, her legs sticking out at odd angles.
Moments like these are hilarious and horrifying, but like everything else in The Blackout Club, the magic is gone after the first hour or so. The game stops being scary once it becomes obvious that the best course of action is usually just running past everything, and scary things like The Shape - an enemy that can only be seen when players close their eyes in-game - become progressively less scary and more just annoying.
Later missions require players to complete more objectives before being able to return to the safehouse, and these are when things like The Shape become more annoying than anything else. The objectives are still the same ones that players will complete a million times throughout the game, but there's just more of them, meaning players have to expend more resources to complete the missions. The end of missions often sees a bunch of enemies and The Shape pursuing the player, sometimes successfully brainwashing the player character and turning them into a mindless drone as well.
The Blackout Club's co-op play makes this almost a nonissue, though. If one player is brainwashed, the others can just hide, wait for the enemies to disperse, and then pretty easily catch up to their friend and revive them. This sometimes devolves into a back and forth where one player goes down, the other revives, that player goes down because they were hurt trying to revive their friend, rinse and repeat until the players finally both lose or more likely, eventually complete their objectives and make it to the end.
So while it's fun at first, The Blackout Club just doesn't have enough going for it to keep players engaged for longer than a couple of hours. The game becomes a boring, repetitive slog that gets less scary and more annoying the longer it's played. We once considered it one of our most anticipated horror games of 2019, but it fails to live up to expectations, to say the least.
The Blackout Club is out now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Game Rant reviewed the game on Xbox One.