Clive Barker's Jericho Review
PIV 2400, 1GB RAM, 6GB HDD, 128MB video card
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Oct 23, 07
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For the uninitiated, author Clive Barker is no stranger to video games. Many of us still recall fondly the phantasmagoric trip that was Clive Barker's Undying. The slaughter in that game was only rivaled by the corporate mayhem that EA unleashed on the franchise, killing it entirely. Now Clive is back with a new game, Jericho - a horror title as it were, published by UK-based Codemasters.
Jericho puts the player in the role of the leader of a paranormal task squad, sent in to investigate and stop an ancient evil at a location in the Middle-East.
Unlike Undying, Jericho is very much a squad-based shooter. The player is required to rely on the unique skills of each of the squad members. Numerous trailers and, of course, our own preview of the game have discussed this merry bunch of psychics in detail. The group is a mix of hot-looking latex-clad chicks and several rather colorful male characters. Each of them wields a unique power. The hot looking sniper, Black, can use telekinesis for instances, while another scantily clad vixen, Church, can make Blood Wards, to ward off enemies or to set them on fire.
Story-wise, Jericho is an original concept by Clive Barker. It deals with such high ideas as the First-born (the first being created and then banished by God) and even makes some parallels to Dante's hell with the introduction of the "box;" a hellish playground which spirals through historical periods keeping the First-born at bay. As the player makes his way through this horrific maze, creatures so typical for Clive's work make their appearance - bizarre monsters and bosses - cheeky jabs at conventional morals packaged in the form of piles of mutilated human flesh. All the while, the dialogue stays very brisk and often laden with swearing words.
Still, at many instances, I couldn't help but shake my head a little at the tackiness of it all. This is still just a video game, of course, but I expected a bit more from Clive Barker.
As for the gameplay, the game is definitely a mixed bag of blessings. Its strong points include the excellent implementation of squad-based combat. Though a bit awkward at first, cycling through different team members becomes rather straightforward, and you'll definitely want to use their different abilities depending on the situation. Sometimes the best option is to just duck and cover and periodically resurrect your fallen comrades (this is done on the fly). The unique abilities of each of the characters can play an important role in different situations (mostly coming down to how large the map is - unless the programmers designated a specific character to perform a specific action). This raises the tactical level of the combat quite considerably, while the very mechanics of using, say, a sword (Church) or a chain gun (by the heavy guy, Delgado) seem immersive and intense enough to hold your attention. Delgado has merged with a fire demon, so he can hurl balls of fire from his right hand.
On the other hand, the level design is very bad. Going through the different historical periods, it's as if all the textures in the background blend together into one seamless, continuous shade of "bleh;" as if they are recycled in each level so that you stop caring where you are. The surroundings (both indoor and outdoor) look terribly uninspiring and the very structure of the maps is as predictable as they get. You could argue that this goes in line with the rather old-school rinse and repeat type of arcade gameplay where waves upon waves of spawning enemies are triggered at certain intervals of each level; but then why not make the environments more diverse? Why not pay a little more attention to how you want to reshuffle the action in each new level to keep the pace high?
Sadly, Jericho doesn't excel in this, quite the contrary.
Even so, if you were to review Jericho as a Clive Barker fan and not a jaded professional (did I just call myself a professional?!), then the squad-based combat and the sheer intensity of some of the encounters should make the horror writer's latest game a (mostly) enjoyable experience.
The designers try to break up the repetitive level set-ups with a few scripted mini-games here and there (and bosses, naturally), but it's rather questionable whether many gamers will stick around just to experience some of the better moments that Jericho has to offer.
Overall, however, I would have to say that Jericho may be worth your time - if for no other reason than for some intense action moments that are derived from the increasingly hectic spawning of monsters and effective use of your squad members' skills (at later stages of the game).
Squad-based combat, action can get intense, some of the twisted shit by Clive Barker, musical score;
Repetitive and tedious level design, repetitiveness in the game design in general, bland environments, tacky story moments, a few path finding issues with your teammates.