If you go down to the woods today, there's a chance you'll be spied on by creepy teenagers. Co-op stealth horror game The Blackout Club now has a splash of asymmetric multiplayer, with an early access update adding an invasion system that lets one child turn stalker. The "Enter The Stalker" update tasks one invader with recording the meddling kids, until an invisible monster drags them off into an extra-dimensional void. So much for Big Society.
You needn't fear stalkers too much - at least not yet. They're weak, for one thing, and can be easily taken out by any player group that spots them. You don't just immediately get the option to play as a stalker, either. First you need to go find a stalker dossier, which are "seeded into the world on conditions you will have to discover yourself and will be rare initially". That's a neat idea unto itself.
As a stalker, you skulks in through those red doors which were previously the sole abode of "the Shape", and can use them to teleport around the map. The club won't know you're in the game until you start recording them, which is the whole reason you're there:
"Every time you record them or their crimes their sins are logged, notifying the nearby AI and eventually calling out The Shape. Once the shape is out, every recording shows the shape where the kids are. You are victorious if every member of the club is put to sleep by the shape. THIS IS VERY HARD TO DO! The stalker is very weak relative to the club, so victory will be rare. Your score is stored however and you can be rewarded just for that."
I'm more than willing to turn traitor. It sounds like a spookier version of the surveillance invasions from Watch Dogs, which were far and away the best part of that game. There's a thrill to lurking at the edge of discovery, watching your prey become increasingly panicked as they scurry to and fro. And that was just when they running around a busy street - I'm keen to see how the idea plays out with added monsters.
The Blackout Club left a fond impression when I looked at it a few months back, though more as an arena for grappling hook hijinks than a source of horror. The four updates since probably won't have changed that, but they have added new missions and areas - and a system that promises to scare you more if you let it listen to you mic? Wild.
There are some new pyjamas, too. Here are the the patch notes for the latest update.
The Blackout Club is available on Steam Early Access for £15.49/€16.79/$19.99.