Clive Barker's Jericho
|a game by||Mercury Steam Entertainment S.L.|
|Platforms:||XBox 360, PC, Playstation 3|
|User Rating:||7.3/10 - 9 votes|
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|See also:||Horror Games, Halloween Games|
A Strange Thing happened to me today. I caught myself actually getting a bit bored by disembowelling a dripping, leather-clad corpse. Who, honestly, could ever tire of disembowelling dripping, leather-clad corpses? One of my few joys in life had become muted - suddenly rendered uncomfortably numb. The culprit (as you may have guessed) was Jericho - its novel setting and gameplay sadly overcast by the oft-bemoaned sins of the 'not quite there' first-person shooter.
At its base the game is undeniable fun to play - entering the torrid plains of the Pyxis and navigating its time slices with your team of seven gun-toting spectral specialists is pretty engaging. Each character is markedly different, and when you turn into a departed spirit with the ability to skip into willing brains (like Patrick Swayze does with Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost), running the gamut of their various abilities is like running free in a Woolworths pick n' mix counter of carnage. Billie the sexy witch self-harms for example (all of the female cast are seemingly plucked from SuicideGirls.com) and can trap enemies in a tangly blood clot, and later a fiery blood clot meanwhile, Abigail Black the sexy sniper can steer bullets through enemies and knock her way through rickety things with telekinesis.
Tabulate into this the dual-fire on each character and there's a lot of blood that can be spilt in many and varied different ways. There's bullet-time in there, an overpowered cobra fire-demon... all the fun of the fair.
This, though, is where the variety fun bus grinds towards a halt. Jericho is built a little like the Crystal Maze - four time zones linked to each other containing a smattering of friendly characters and various moments of frustration in which you can't work out how you're supposed to get out of an enclosed space. Barker's effort has an intriguing, and slightly more shocking, build-up to its sudden close than everyone being awarded a corporate ballooning weekend - but the simile still stands. Problem is, whereas a game like Painkiller showed how traversing hellish timezones can provide various artistic avenues for a developer, Jericho's World War II, Roman, Medieval and Sumerian zones are so similar, so linear and so repetitive you just want to scream. What's more the same creatures crop up throughout the game again and again - and, bosses aside, new villains conjured up by the era create so similar to what has gone before that you barely notice the change. As for the squad commands -they're essentially window dressing. After a while forgot they were even there.
Barker fans too will be disappointed to hear that the game isn't scary in the least and despite the fleshy, goo-ey visuals it doesn't contain a considerable amount of material that genuinely shocks. There are a lot of references to shit blood, piss and death (and I suppose you are re-massacring medieval children for a little while) but that skin-crawling feeling you get when watching a good horror movie is notable in its absence. Playing Manhunt genuinely unsettled me, watching the Stroggification process in Quake IV made me wince - Jericho didn't cause me to blink. To be fair, the game tries very, very hard to be grown-up - one character is a lesbian, while the Catholic priest dabbles in sexual relations every now and then for fl example. Unfortunately a lot of this is lost in sweary dialogue that lovingly rolls in cliche in the way that my dad's old sheepdog would with horse shit. Still, it can't be denied that the Jericho gang are an intriguing bunch.
Best In Small Doses
In the run-up to Jericho's release I really enjoyed playing the odd levels drip-fed from Codemasters' mothership - because in limited doses the action is quite a laugh and oddly refreshing. But it repeats and repeats and repeats: the same action is stretched out over the entire eight-odd hours and it doesn't take long for you to realise exactly why everyone you meet in the Pyxis is so grumpy about being trapped there for eternity. It's a shame because the game does a lot of things right - for one not automatically feeling like the console port you originally suspect it to be. On top of this an engaging health regeneration system, a rollicking musical score, decent voice-acting and an excellent range of weapons. All highly commendable, but simply lost in the ever undulating rolls of your eyes as familiar pustule-ridden explosive cultists rise from knee-deep blood for what seems like the hundredth time. Which is a huge, huge shame.
Download Clive Barker's Jericho
There's No I ill team. Well, there used to be - but you died. It was really quite sad. You were there one moment, standing in a lost city packed with demons and screaming at the top of your lungs, and then you were dead. Just another rugged action hero vastly experienced in supernatural warfare popping his cork at the hands of something horrible: Devin Ross, gone but not forgotten.
But wait! Much like Patrick Swayze in Ghost, you've come back from the vei"y brink of death! Although there'll be no clay-sex tomfoolery for you, oh no. In Jericho, it's all about leaping between the minds of your military cohorts, combining their prodigious paranormal powers and turning the poor denizens of Al-Khali into a bloody pulp.
Al-Khali itself seems OK on the surface -just another everyday Middle-Eastern city really - but its town planners seemingly had even less sense than the fools behind Welwyn Garden City. I mean, they've only gone and bloody built it on the exact spot that every few thousand years pure evil forces itself through a temporal rift and sits upon the face of the earth. Dolts.
City Of The Damned
Triggered by blackspots of history -the gluttony of the Roman Empire, the mass-killings of The Crusades and the warfare and genocide enacted by Germany's National Socialist party -every time this terrifying temporal sandstorm whips up around the city, a different version of it has been taken back into the dimension from whence it came, occupants and all.
Left there for aeons, the swallowed-up soldiers have had a lot of time to reconstruct their fleshy bits and brain chemistry, and it's their layers of history you must traverse as your team makes its way to the heart of its evil.
From an Al-Khali bombed and battered by the ravages of WW2, through to the 'Arabian Nights' confines known by the medieval knights you see displayed here and the heady days of Roman occupation, Jericho is as much an adventure in archaeology as it is piles of dead bodies that have achieved consciousness. The first chaps to open the rift between dimensions through their nastiness, meanwhile, were the Sumerians - who sit at the centre of this bloody maze and who, Wikipedia informs me were brought fully formed to the city of Eridu by their god Enki or by Abgallu the Oannes of Berossus'. What they probably didn't believe was that it's all their fault that The Box, or more specifically 'The Pyxsis' - the undying corrupted dimension inhabited by the source of all evil, got opened in the first place. Bloody Sumerians... Typical.
Bark At The Moon
Jericho is being developed by Mercury Steam, the Spaniards who last brought the 'couldn't be more different if it tried American McGee's Scrapland to our screens. A quick swap from a goatee-ed ex-Doom developer as muse to a man with a mind of absolute darkness, and they and their self-developed engine are niewhere a little more menacing than clieery robot land.
Come Fly With Me
Yom team aren't exactly everyday joes either - each with their own supernatural forte and armaments that you can use as you leap between them (see Meet The Team', right). Abigail Black, for example, was born with the ability to steer bullets with her telekinesis, and Billie Church can create a mist of her own blood that freezes anything that wanders through it.
Exactly how these super-soldiers discovered their powers is up for guestion, but they certainly come in handy when trapped in the bowels of a hell dimension. What's more, seeing as you're more than a little spectral, you can link brains together - meaning that you'll he sniping with the bullettelekinesis lady, but can tap into her squad-mates 'seer' powers, letting you see through walls. So, a nasty fleshy skeleton man with all his guts hanging out may well be hiding behind a wall in the crafty belief that he's safe - but you'll still be able to direct a bullet or two around corners to get him...
Six Is A Crowd
With six living characters engaged in the brawl, you'd think that such pairings would be hard to come by in the chaos - but the game isn't quite structured like that. True, it'll work so that when you're in wider areas you'll often have the full complement of the Jericho squad, but it'll also conveniently separate the team through various cataclysms as you move throuqh the game. With three or so characters, levels will become tighter and more specialised - playing to the various abilities of your cohorts.
Squad combat will work with you delivering context-sensitive orders, or with the gang just following your lead - while Rawlings the exorcist preacherman will be able to heal those brought down by the evil if they're lying within his line of sight.
Don't worry about a particular lack of bullets though - as one of your cohorts has a fire-demon living in a containment chamber on his arm, it's fair to say that the firepower you're going in with is relatively mighty.
Suicide Is Dangerous
But what evil lurks? What horrors await? What residue is bobbing in the U-bend of the damned? You'll regularly come across cultists who are essentially the Al-Khali People's Front Crack Suicide Squad, and who can't wait to kill themselves in horrible ways when you get near. All is not lost for them, however, since they're invariably reborn as hideous creatures far more inclined to rip your limbs apart.
Others, meanwhile, have used their time away from the world to infect themselves with thousands of different diseases simultaneously - and thanks to a handy glistening hook instead of a right hand, then run up to your squad, rip themselves open and let their pus and diseased gases do their dirty work. Solely in the crusader areas of Al-Khali, meanwhile, will be child knights -originally used as a weapon in the Middle Ages since it was thought that their purity and innocence would prove undefeatablc on the battlefield. These days, however, they fly around in spectral form - through walls and ceilings - floating around at close range before becoming corporeal and lashing out with the unnaturally large veins they have instead of arms, pumped with corrupted blood.
With a cinematic edge, interactive cut-scenes and enough disturbing imagery to cause an entire collective noun of nuns to collapse and die, there's much to get excited about with Jericho. Whether the gameplay manages to match the concept remains to be seen, hut in a year where squad combat is in the minority shooter-wise, it's a leading light in horror gaming and the most disgusting thing we've ever covered. Ever. Over to you Mr Barker...