The Black­out Club

A co-op hor­ror game from some im­mer­sive sim fa­vorites

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - Sa­muel Roberts

you’ve got to doc­u­ment what’s go­ing on in this sub­ur­ban town

In The Black­out Club, teenagers have been wak­ing up in dif­fer­ent parts of their home­town cov­ered in dirt, or with blood un­der their fin­ger­nails and no mem­ory what­so­ever of what led them there. Some­thing nasty lurks be­neath the sur­face of this place, and the adults don’t want to know, so it’s up to the teens to get to the bot­tom of it. They’ll band to­gether and un­cover a vast net­work of tun­nels un­der their town, and a sin­is­ter con­spir­acy in­volv­ing the adults they in­ter­act with ev­ery day—but they don’t even know they’re a part of it.

In this co-op hor­ror game for up to four play­ers, you’ve got to doc­u­ment what’s go­ing on in this sub­ur­ban town, but ob­jec­tives are pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated, thrust­ing your char­ac­ters into new and tricky sit­u­a­tions ev­ery night. It’s partly a stealth game, but it’ll also en­cour­age you to create di­ver­sions and com­bine dif­fer­ent abil­i­ties to sur­vive. You have to film ev­i­dence of this con­spir­acy, and get it out of town.

Caught on cam­era

You em­bark on what’s de­scribed as ‘sur­veil­lance mis­sions’. I ask Ques­tion de­vel­oper Jor­dan Thomas how the game is struc­tured, and how a typ­i­cal mis­sion might play out. The team’s still fig­ur­ing out the specifics, but the bones of it are in place. “You see the kids stand­ing around in­side their lit­tle hide­out, and you have a map of the town. All you get to choose is where you spawn in—what part of town. And as your char­ac­ter lev­els up, you gain ac­cess to new start points, more dif­fi­cult chal­lenges and nar­ra­tive as­sets that are closer and closer to the heart of the con­spir­acy. It’s not re­ally a thing that ends. It’s more Love­craftian, where you’re strug­gling end­lessly against the un­known, but it gets juicier, I guess, as you go fur­ther into the neigh­bor­hood and deeper into the un­der­ground maze.”

Thomas then de­scribes what a typ­i­cal ob­jec­tive will look like. “The Black­out Club con­tacts you us­ing a se­ries of emo­jis that is es­sen­tially a code to pre­vent de­tec­tion by the adults in town, and you can trans­late those into text. It says some­thing like ‘cap­ture footage of a lu­cid drag­ging some­one to­wards the red door’, so a par­tic­u­lar en­emy type and a par­tic­u­lar me­chanic. One of the play­ers has to al­low them­selves to be grabbed, so the other player can get that footage on film.”

Cinema Scope

If you man­age to cap­ture footage of a lu­cid—one of the game’s en­emy types— drag­ging a friend to­wards a red door, though, the mis­sion doesn’t end there. “That’s just the first ob­jec­tive,” Thomas ex­plains. “Af­ter com­plet­ing that, an­other one is sent to you, and the hope is it feels a lit­tle bit like a flash mob, where they’re con­stantly try­ing to stay ahead of the en­emy, and you’re only told what you need to know at the time. Those are deeply ran­dom­ized. They could take you across town, they could take you deep into the maze, and the chal­lenges along the way dif­fer each time.” You’re cap­tur­ing what Thomas calls the “grotesque be­hav­ior” of the en­e­mies on cam­era, and the more com­pli­cated the be­hav­ior is, the more ex­pe­ri­ence points you’ll get for record­ing it.

There’s also a ‘boogey­man’ of sorts to con­tend with, a larger en­emy that can only be seen when one player ‘blacks out’ to re­veal its lo­ca­tion. The idea is to create hor­ror mo­ments that are usu­ally scripted, only with sys­tems and player be­hav­ior. Ques­tion is mak­ing TheBlack­outClub for co-op partly be­cause hor­ror is a so­cial ac­tiv­ity—watch­ing scary films or playing scary games with oth­ers usu­ally en­hances the ex­pe­ri­ence. I can’t wait to give it a go with my cow­ardly PC Gamer team­mates.

Team­ing up is the best way to sur­vive.

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