The Blackout Club Preview PAX West 2018
When I put the headphones for developer Question’s demo on, I went from sitting in a little curtained off corner of a hotel conference room at PAX West 2018 straight into the world of The Blackout Club. Its soundtrack—and just plain sound—are so atmospheric that I instantly knew I was in for something both compelling and absolutely terrifying, a combination all horror games should aim for. The music wasn’t the only immersive feature of the game—the graphics, designed by a former Bioshock artist, were stunning and kept me hooked right from the opening of the game on.
The story of The Blackout Club follows a group of teenagers who live in the Radio Quiet Zone, part of the U.S. where radio transmissions and internet signals are heavily restricted, who find themselves isolated as the adults in their lives turn against them and begin hunting them for reasons they must discover (I say this because I was not successful in discovering those reasons myself during my demo). The teenagers form their own secret hideout in the secret parts of their own neighborhood where they can survive against the adults that were once their parents and stage missions to take back their lives. This is where the co-op aspect of the game really shines through: I haven’t played the game with other people, but it’s so clearly designed to be with several players working together against a common and terrifying goal.
One of the more heart-stopping aspects of the game is the figure that is only seen when the characters close their eyes. Many of the club’s clues come in their dreams, and so sleeping is as important being awake, and the figure is as likely to find you as any of the hooded adults. And, you know, it’s super scary to be hunted by someone you can only see in the red outline of your eyelids. In the demo I played the game appeared close to finished, and I wanted to know what lay beyond the tall hedges and looming adults into the story beyond as the teens collected photographic evidence as they attempted to contact the outside world.
Playing through this visually breathtaking game is a daunting task to take on if you’re doing it with strangers, as the prospect of getting the heebie jeebies (Lemony Snicket voice: a word here used to mean “a synonym for a stronger swear word”) scared out of me in front of people I don’t know isn’t my idea of fun. However, with friends? That’s a different story. The Blackout Club is shaping up to be the video game version of curling up with blankets and clinging to your friends during the bloody bits, except this time, who lives and who dies is up to you.