Horror writer Clive Barker has had more than a few projects under his belt that have made the toughest of men shiver in fright. Among the numerous books and films to his credit, he also has a previous video game entry, which many gamers will recall from a few years back, entitled The Undying. Much to the delight of horror game and Clive Barker fans in general, his first foray into the gaming world was a success and brought the chills he is known for to an interactive medium. Jericho, the latest offering from the horror master’s twisted mind could have been another action packed spookfest, but sadly it ends up as a shocking disappointment.
Jericho follows a paranormal squad of seven soldiers –-six of whom can be controlled spiritually–who each possess special abilities in various forms of the occult. The Jericho team is called out to the middle of the desert where a strange storm has appeared and it turns out to be the firstborn has returned once again to try and escape his prison within the Pyxis. The Firstborn is the original creation of God in man’s image, but deemed a failure and banished to the Pyxis for it to remain trapped forever. It seems every once in awhile throughout history, the Firstborn gets a little restless and a group of heroes are sent in to keep it at bay. This time around, it is up to you and the rest of the Jericho team to head into the Pyxis and close the breach that has been opened and keep the little bugger in his prison once again.
As the game starts, the team is sent to the Pyxis to investigate the disturbance and through an unfortunate incident, one squad member is taken down– but not out. His spirit hangs around and finds it has the ability to possess the bodies of his fellow squad mates. With the floating, body inhabiting spirit, you can switch to any other player at any time by simply choosing their name from a pop up menu or when the team member you are controlling falls, your control will switch to another teammate’s body allowing you to control them instead.
Along with the ability to possess teammates you can also bring those back to life who have died in battle. Thankfully you have this power because if not, the game would last all of five minutes. The AI controlled teammates have an uncanny ability to die repeatedly leaving you running around in a mad dash to bring them back to life before you get killed yourself.
The members of the Jericho team vary in both their abilities and the way they bring the pain; Abigail Black carries a sniper rifle as well as having the powers of telekinesis, while Frank Delgado is a brick house of a man with a mini-chaingun on one hand and the powers of a fire demon on the other. Each squad mate has two special abilities while also having two varieties of fire for their conventional weapons. Ranging from the run of the mill dual pistols to a katana, the team is not one to be unarmed at any given point, but some are more useful than others.
For example, Cole has the ability to toss grenades, but whenever she does, it is the lamest throw imaginable and they are pretty much useless in any situation. On the flip side, Church’s sniper rifle has an explosive round that is a deadly one hit one kill against almost anything it slams into. The weapons do cover a wide spectrum and have their own strengths and weakness, but for the most part, you are going to find one character that you especially like and will use them all the time.
The idiotic mentality of your squad is a major turn off, the environments you find yourself in are equally disappointing. You will find yourself trekking through many different stages of the game, and unfortunately they all look so much alike that getting lost even through the most linear maps is not unheard of. Aside from the occasional confusion, each level does portray death and gloom quite well with tortured souls and gore displayed everywhere, but after four or five levels, it all starts to look very familiar even though it’s your first time stepping foot in it.
Later on in the game, the Bath level brings a fresh, albeit disturbing, change of scenery since its not every day you trudge through a level that has pools of blood, vomit and feces. Not only do the levels look similar–minus the feces exception– so do all the enemies you face. There isn’t a wide range of enemies that you will come across and you will quickly grow tired of seeing the same faces over and over.
The ability to change squad members was a great idea on paper, but having players not controlled by you dropping like flies every two seconds, makes the game incredibly frustrating. Not to mention it absolutely boggles the mind when there are enemies that explode, killing you instantly, and your intellectually challenged squad mates will run right up to them without a care in the world and get blown to smithereens over and over.
With Jericho coming from the mind of one of the best known horror writers of the day, confusingly, the game is not scary at all and if a horror game doesn’t make you jump or get a nervous tingling in your belly, then there’s something’s wrong. Early preview builds of Jericho showed a lot of promise but unfortunately it seems it was far too ambitious for its own good. Everything it tries to do, it fails, from the beginning to the abrupt and anti-climactic ending.
Title: Clive Barker’s Jericho