The Blackout Club begins with a prologue that feels like it is ripped out of every classic horror flick from the 80s and 90s. After being grounded by her parents, Isabella (voiced by the incredibly talented Ashly Burch) finds herself stuck home alone one night when things take a turn for the spooky. After an unexplained blackout, Isabella realizes that she is being stalked by a mysterious figure – The Shape – and she can only see it when her eyes are closed. Her neighbors, pajama clad with their eyes covered by sleeping masks, are roaming the neighborhood in a semi conscious state.
These “sleepers” are blind, but they can hear extremely well. Avoiding sleepers is only a small part of the challenge, however, as there is a second type of roaming enemy known as “Lucids”. While sleepers can only hear, Lucids can hear and see, forcing players to up their stealth game as they explore without the ability to fight back. In her effort to escape from the Shape and his army of sleepwalkers, Isabella finds herself slinking into a hidden door in the basement of her house. Inside, she finds a labyrinthine system of tunnels and cavernous rooms carved into the earth below her sleepy little neighborhood. The sleepers and the lucids lurk below just as above.
Following Isabella’s disappearance, a group of teenagers from her neighborhood create The Blackout Club in order to investigate the mysterious events that occur every night. Players will create their own custom character to play as in this first person stealth horror experience, choosing not just their character’s gender and clothing preferences but also building a load out of special abilities. These abilities are unlocked with skill points earned by leveling up and include useful items like a drone that can disable cameras, or a character that can subdue sleepers for longer.
Between missions, an abandoned train car serves as the hub where players can party up with a squad, upgrade their character abilities, and swap between useful items such as a stun gun, grappling hook, or crossbow that fires tranq darts. From this area you will also choose which area of the neighborhood you’ll be exploring that night, though only one location is available initially and the other two must be unlocked with level progression. The Blackout Club allows for four player online co-op in either public or private matches, but the game has launched with a plethora of multiplayer problems that the developers have been working on. Despite a steady stream of post launch patches, the game does still suffer from matchmaking issues, including full on dashboard crashes on the Xbox One S.
If you manage to avoid the crashes to the dashboard and get to enjoy a mission, you’re greeted with a procedurally generated task to accomplish. There are no time limits, and you can freely explore the neighborhood and the sprawling maze underground at your leisure so long as you don’t instigate the sleepers, lucids, or get spotted by the cameras. However, you do have to be mindful that certain tasks carried out throughout the night – such as kicking in locked doors or being spotted – are labeled as ‘sins’. Rack up your sin count, and you risk activating the Shape to hunt you down, thus dramatically ramping up the difficulty and risk to completing your mission. After reaching level 5, there’s a risk of an additional player – a random stranger – being able to join your game as The Stalker. The Stalker lurks around your game and attempts to capture evidence of you committing sins with hopes of speeding up the arrival of the Shape. Additionally, you can join a stranger’s game as The Stalker and help complicate their experience if you so like.
As promising as procedurally generated tasks sounds, The Blackout Club does suffer at times for its mission algorithm. There well of potential mission objectives is relatively small, which could be forgivable if you weren’t force to spend hours on top of hours grinding in hopes of leveling up even the tiniest bit. What objectives are there initially seem creative, such as when your character has to carry an extremely loud music box into the maze below, instantly drawing the ire of every sleeper and lucid within earshot to chase after you. Even with its repetitiveness, The Blackout Club manages to be well crafted and, to be perfectly honest, there’s nothing more harrowing than crouching in a dark corner and holding your breath as a sleeper shambles by whispering about its host’s most horrific memories.
A copy of the game was provided for this review by the developer/publisher