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Clive Barker's Jericho


You know, it's kind of surprising. Considering how popular the horror genre is with video games you would think that more masters of horror would partake in it, wouldn't you? Well, Clive Barker has given it another shot with his latest game, Jericho.

Coming from the mind of the guy behind Hellraiser, Jericho features a pretty intriguing and horrific plot. Basically before God created man he had a failed creation known as Firstborn and try as he may to sweep his mistake under the carpet it always comes back to haunt us. Throughout history the Firstborn have been put down by a team of warriors and the latest of which is Team Jericho. When a rip in time opens up in the middle of a desert Jericho must head back through various points since creation and attempt to destroy Firstborn. It's an interesting story and it gains a fair amount of intrigue as the plot unfurls.

I do have to say that as much as I appreciated the idea behind the story and as much as I was thrilled to see Barker working on another game; I was disappointed. Jericho is a game that remains immensely predictable at times and it's one that doesn't offer much in the way of authentic scares. Sure the atmosphere is creepy and the enemies are frightening as they are but when the character you're playing as doesn't break a sweat and it's too easy to spot the scary bits things break down. In the end Clive Barker's Jericho became less of a horror title and more of a straightforward first person shooter that has been splattered with guts and stuff.

Gameplay


Given the structure of the story and characters that come into play you'll be stepping into the shoes of each member of Jericho. The seven characters bring their own unique abilities and weaponry to the table though it's safe to say that some of them play better than others. The gimmick with Jericho is that you'll be able to swap between them on the fly in order to gain a tactical advantage. Don't like your present character's mystic skills? Trade places with that one over there and you might find yourself in a better position to kill some monsters or heal some allies.

As keen as the swapping characters element was in Jericho, I have to admit that it wasn't implemented as effectively as it could have been. The effect here is way too disorienting and chances are good you'll find yourself getting bludgeoned no matter how much you attempt to prepare. This is due to the fact that enemy forces tend to concentrate their attack primarily on you and they seem to be able to sense whenever you swap positions. Despite these flaws in design the character swapping thing is actually pretty cool and you'll undoubtedly have some fun with it once you get past the learning curve.

Apart from the character swapping and magical ability gimmick there is a limited amount of tactical squad play thrown into the mix. You'll be able to issue a small number of simplistic commands to your buddies though that kind of becomes a moot point since; a.) Enemies focus on you and b.) Your allies can't kill monsters to save their lives (literally). No matter what you instruct your people to do or where you tell them to go they will die. They may as well be a scarecrow fighting off a torch carrying mob because they always find a way to get cut down where they stand. This leaves you with the task of clearing out some space and resurrecting them with your magic. It's actually kind of cool being able to bring allies back from the dead but you put yourself at great risk in order to do it. As the game played on I felt like I was more of a caretaker of idiot AI rather than a butt-kicking-I'm-going-to-save-the-world kind of guy.

You may be thinking "this won't happen to me because I'm good"; well, guess again bucko. No matter how skilled you are with shooters you're going to run into this problem because it's a matter of design, not ability. You'll simply have to get over the fact you're working with a bunch of idiots. Seriously, would it have hurt someone to put an adept AI system into play here? With this in mind the tactical stuff seems entirely pointless and downright silly compared to the actual gameplay.

Behind the veil of tactical play, character swapping, and Clive Barker's bloody atmosphere lies the body of a first-person shooter. No amount of gussied up gimmicks can cover that fact and what's worse is the linearity of it all. You're basically ushered along from point A to point B within the confines of a corridor or small map. There is no room for exploration and no way to deviate from the mission at hand which really limits the game.

I do have to say that while there are many frustrating points that pop up the actual gameplay here is fairly decent; even if it's uninspired. The action moves at a decent clip (despite some slowdown in this version) and the variety of characters allow for some experimentation while you're playing. The selection of weaponry and powers is pretty cool and fun to play around with. The control is straightforward and easy to grow accustomed to and some timed button pressing elements make their way in as well. These button timing events are great when they're actually pulled off but when you botch them expect a break in the pacing.

In the end Clive Barker's Jericho is a flawed experience. For every step forward the game takes one or two back and you'll feel torn while you play through. I wanted to applaud the game's character swapping, unique abilities, fun boss battles, and challenging combat but there were too many rough patches to ignore. Resurrecting your teammates is tedious, some characters are pointless, the AI is terrible, the pacing can be downright painful, and the sense of fright that should have been all over this title just wasn't. Linearity and repetitiveness are probably the worst offenders here and when all is said and done they are the reason this game fails to uphold the standard.

Graphics


Grotesque, repulsive, and sickening are probably the best words to describe Clive Barker's Jericho. Ironically those are actually some of the good visual traits you'll find in this title. It's safe to say that the goriness of this game combined with some creative designs really bring it to life in horrific detail. Blood and guts will splatter all over the screen, you'll walk atop dead bodies and organs that are still pulsing, and enemies blow up in explosions of body parts and bile. To say that you shouldn't play the game if you have a weak stomach would be an understatement. Then again I suppose you wouldn't be coming to a title with Clive Barker's name on it if you did get easily grossed out.

Now, as gloriously disgusting as the graphics are there are a few nitpicky flaws that surface now and then. Some of the animation is stiff, character models feature some ridiculous designs, and the framerate can really dip at random intervals. If you can look past these flaws you'll find an attractive (well, attractive as one might imagine) game with some compelling moments. Sure there isn't much in the way of a sense of immersion but I suppose for some of these designs to be effective there doesn't have to be.

Sound


Once again I'm torn when it comes to talking about Jericho. The audio is a mixed bag in much the same way that the gameplay is. Let's cut right to the chase; most of the dialogue in this game is corny and it's delivered as such. Some of the voice acting is downright awful and in my opinion only Steven Blum (Spike from Cowboy Bebop fame) actually delivers. The music is sketchy at best and is made up of mostly atmospheric, mood setting tunes that do little to actually create an ambiance. Sound effects are another example of the "some good, some bad" theory as they sound fine overall but just don't seem to pack the punch that they should.

Conclusion


Clive Barker's Jericho should have been better than it turned out to be. All of the pieces were there to make a successful and compelling first-person shooter but somewhere along the line it fell apart. It's quite glaring exactly what components work for this title and what ones don't so in the end I suppose it was just a matter of developmental time. Whatever the case with other FPS titles on the PS3 like Resistance: Fall of Man and Call of Duty 4, Jericho just kind of sneaks onto store shelves. If you're looking for a twist on the genre it's worth a rental but it by no means pushes the idea of the FPS (or horror for that matter) into new directions.