Jericho (PS3, Xbox 360, PC) is an intense First Person Shooter from the occult mind of horror writer Clive Barker. In it you take charge of the Jericho squad, an elite seven man team dedicated to supernatural as well as conventional firepower, and when God’s first abandoned creation threatens to break its bonds and destroy the world, it is your task to stop the impending destruction. Each member of the team boasts unique powers and armaments necessary to quell the rising tide of demons and puzzles to get to the firstborn and lock away this abomination once and for all.
Justin: Jericho is trying very hard to be many different things. Is it an FPS? A tactical squad game? Maybe it’s survival horror? Had Jericho really focused on any one of those genres it could have been a success, but it just ends up doing multiple things poorly instead of one thing well. Weapons feel severely underpowered; unarmored cultists take multiple headshots to kill, and melee attacks are worthless because enemies aren’t programmed to feel pain. It doesn’t matter if you just hit that cultist in the head with the butt of your rifle, he’s going to keep slashing you with his weirdo tentacle thing, and then you will be dead.
Bishop: First off you have to be aiming at the head in order to get a head shot dude, so I don’t know what you’re talking about. I found one-shotting cultists in the head a perverse satisfaction, just to see them pop. I unlocked that achievement quite early, so I don’t know what you were doing wrong.
Justin: Maybe it’s because I’m not playing on easy? Moving on, squad actions feel like an afterthought. When your teammates spot an enemy they will stand rooted in their position, empty their clip, fire off their occult power, and then die. Rawlings will then run over to heal them and die. You will then run over to heal Rawlings and die. Then you’ll restart from the last checkpoint and repeat the process until you tire of the game and play something else. Ross’s command is made up of six people, and his commands are restricted to “Everybody follw me, Everybody stop, Alpha team take point, and Omega team take point.” That’s right. In the off chance that you hadn’t picked up on the game’s ties to religion your teams are Alpha and Omega instead of Alpha and Bravo. So. Very. Subtle. I get it Jericho squad; you’re God warriors. Can we move on now? It would be nice to be able to tell Alpha team to run around the right side of a building and flank the enemy while Omega runs up the left side and lays down suppressive fire. The levels are designed for it, and the game’s control scheme prevents you from taking advantage of it. Other sections just feel like they were designed for a single soldier, a team of two at most. There are lots of corridors in Jericho, and you will get stuck in them, and then die. And then you will restart from the last checkpoint. It’s just not fun. Scared and frustrated are not the same thing, Clive Barker. Guess which of those two things I am.
Bishop: I agree with you, mostly. While admittedly the developers bit off more than they could chew with all the enhancements, I think it makes the game more robust giving more people a chance to shine rather than focusing on a set gameplay.
Justin: Does robust mean overcrowded and not fun? Because that’s what CodeMasters’ “enhancements” add to what could have been a decent single-player experience.
Bishop: Just the fact that each squad member boasts different playing styles allows for several ways to approach the game, and arguably builds up the replay value. You can’t not pick a favorite; mine was Black, with her ability to snipe enemies long before they reach you, and her ghost bullet telekinetic specialty, she just plain rocked. I do agree that the squad commanding capabilities seem futile though–many times I would order alpha or omega forward and immediately the AI would overrule my decision 20 feet down the linear level. AI in general seemed hit or miss, both with foes and friendlies; many times my guys would take good offensive positions only to have the next bend being a complete 180 while my squad blatantly stood in the line of fire, but even the God of War inspired button sync cut scenes broke up the monotony of the FPS and blended almost seamlessly into the game.
Justin: I think my favorite was Rawlings. We seemed to think the same way. We’d fight yet another group of the same cultists (I swear, Jericho only has six or so enemy types), he’d mutter “Jesus H. Christ,” I know it’s quoting the guy, but make sure that comment is okay with Snowcone. and I’d finish his thought with “aren’t we done yet?” We really had a connection. I could tell he was having just as much fun in Al-Khali as I was. And he died a lot.
Bishop: Being a huge fan of Clive Barker I was thrilled to hear of his involvement with the title. While not the most involved plot, (gee, we have to save the world again?) it still manages to capture his signature style and feel with the devil really being in the details. Despite his prevalent Lovecraft-esque plotlines, the script and plot flow with small twists and turns to keep the tension mounting. The plot never reaches any sort of grand epic, but it kept me interested enough to keep playing. The real nuance, though, is presented in throw away comments during the game and unlockable additional material that fleshes out the characters. I even found the humor level dead-on with the caricatures of the squad (“Praise God and pass the ammunition”).
Justin: Plot is certainly the strongest part of the package here, but it really falls apart at the end. Setting up for a sequel and not finishing the story are different things. If anybody should know that it’s an established author like Barker. And as much as I wanted to know what happens next and learn about the firstborn I couldn’t bring myself to really care about any of members of Jericho squad. Characters aren’t developed well, they’re not fleshed out at all, and the game does little to encourage you actually switch between members of the team or actively remember each person’s talent. The only exception to this is Rawlings, Jericho squad’s second healer (the player character, Ross, is the first). So when you’re choosing a squad member to inhabit, don’t ever pick Rawlings; you’ll be down to one healer. Past that, members of Jericho squad may as well all be copies of the same guy holding a different gun.
Bishop: Yeah, the worst one being Jones, who seemed placed only in the game to manipulate puzzle levers with his astral projection. That and die a lot.
Bishop: Graphics were decent on the PS3, not quite to the level of Resistance: Fall of Man, but they are nothing to balk at either. It really helps support the ambiance. Necessary flashlight use and the constant haze it pushes it closer to the Silent Hill level of feel, but not quite all the way to scary.
Justin: Gross out is not the same as scary. Jericho‘s environments are designed to make the player throw up a little. Sure, it looks nasty, but so does baby puke. And I’m not scared that baby puke is going to take over the world. I’m scared that it won’t wash out of my shirt. After playing Bioshock, it’s glaringly obvious that Jericho doesn’t create an appropriate atmosphere. I wanted to be scared; not amazed at how much red, gray, and brown could be jammed into one game. One bit of atmosphere that CodeMasters managed to pin down was sound. Weapons sound appropriate, and the characters overact in a way consistent with the prose found on the loading screens.
bishop – My nit pick would be around the linear level design and general bland nature of each zone. Each time era is a welcome change from the previous only because the previous eras become visually monotonous after so long.
Bishop: Slightly adding to the replay value of Jericho is the unlockable material that is really more for completionists rather than casual gamers. Extra biographies, art and information are rewarded for certain feats. While the bonuses don’t really amount to a lot, they do bring nuance to the background material.
Justin: I played on the 360, and for those of you used to achievements, Jericho certainly doesn’t raise the bar. Melee 25 enemies, complete level X on hard, etc. The bonuses are nice, but they can’t save a lackluster game.
Bishop: I really wish I could give it more than a 3 out of 5, but it just doesn’t fully exploit the plethora of game mechanics it gives us, and truly become everything it should have been. I did enjoy this game though and am not sorry that I picked it up, though I wonder how long it will be in my collection.
Justin: 3/5 is pretty generous. From my perspective Jericho is a 2/5. Every concept in the game is a failure. Sure, Black’s occult power is fun to use, but you’ve got to remember that the game still features a useless Jones (why can’t I completely control my target?) and an always-dead-or-dying Rawlings. Environments are too cramped for seven people, and the story doesn’t end; it just stops. Assuming he could add an ending I’d much rather read Clive Barker’s Jericho: The Novel or watch Clive Barker’s Jericho: The Movie than play the game. Games, even horror games, are supposed to be fun, and fun is something that Jericho just doesn’t bring to the audience.