2007 Reviews

Clive Barker's Jericho

  • Review Date: 2011-06
  • Release Date: 2007-10
  • Developer: MercurySteam
  • Rating: 5.5

I initially started playing this game, got to episode 2 (out of 5) and hit a game-ending bug. Up until that point it had been a confusing, challenging mess. After a short break trying a couple of other games, both of which I quit even sooner than Jericho, I decided to return and give it another shot (having found a fix for the bug) because too many games lately i'm having to not finish due to major glitches. And i'm glad I did resume - it actually turned out to be a very refreshing and memorable game.

Now I remember Clive Barker's first game; Undying, fondly. Sure it's really only his name and story attached, he isn't actually directing any of the gameplay since he doesn't even play games. But it had a great, spooky setting and was a really chilling game. Not to mention under-rated by the critics. So Jericho comes along six years later, again with average reviews with a 61% aggregate. Great looking screenshots so perhaps this one is under-rated as well? No. What it does well, it does very well, but it falls flat in too many other areas, which i'll cover below.

Firstly what makes Jericho very unique is that you can play with any of six characters throughout the game whenever you want - all of which have their own weapons and abilities (powers). And it's even part of the story that you're playing through the soul of a dead soldier that is able to possess the other characters. So it's not just an explained part of the game. The problem here is that swapping between characters is very messy.

On top of that you have five attack keys (two for weapons, one melee and two for your supernatural abilities). Only the supernatural abilities are added as the game goes on. So every time you switch to a character you're having to remember what their attacks are. You'll get halfway through the game before you start to figure out who your preferred characters are. For me it was Delgado with the chaingun, Black with her sniper rifle and Church with her sword. Once you do, things start to get a bit easier. Nevertheless the characters are all worthy of some use throughout the game and are quite well-balanced. If I were to play through again I'd probably try to use some of the other characters more as well, as they all have interesting attacks.

And then there's the storyline, a very unique plot in which you travel through time to stop The FirstBorn, a creature God created prior to Adam and Eve that wants to escape from it's hell and destroy mankind. Fairly epic and well told throughout the game, only to abruptly end in one of the weakest game endings ever. Very odd considering Clive Barker is the writer. I can only assume it was left this way to leave room for a sequel, which will probably never happen now.

The atmosphere in Jericho is very unique because you get to play through some very unique settings such a Sumeria and the Tower of Babel, Rome 38AD, The Crusaders 1213AD. The other two episodes that start the game are Al-Khali, which appears to be some old middle eastern setting and WWII. And it's these first two episodes that let the game down slightly as they' look nowhere near as good as the last three episodes. The engine itself is standard 2007 with all the bells and whistles you'd expect. Playing on a 2011 spec gaming PC, everything was happy to be on full without any framerate drop. Now the problem with the level design is that it's very, very linear. You're on a tight path throughout the entire game, with no deviation, and this path itself just feels like one open outdoor corridor scattered with rocks and barricades after another. The outdoor areas get repetitive very quickly. The game also suffers a similar fate as Gears Of War; there's just not enough colour. Everything is very desaturated and drab. However there are some good set pieces every now and again, and despite the extreme linearity and drab colour palette, their is always plenty of detail on screen. You won't find bland cube rooms here like F.E.A.R. had. With the engines lighting abilities, the game does look quite good.

The difficulty level is the main issue. Too often you're madly running to each team-mate reviving them after they died for whatever stupid reason. Their AI is abysmal. In some situations you need to shoot enemies, usually mini-bosses, in certain places to kill them. Your team-mates just don't understand this concept, nor do they try to retreat to avoid explosions. I eventually threw on the 'fast health regeneration' cheat, which made the game much easier (too easy in fact as I only died 4-5 times after that), but replaying from checkpoints over and over again because of useless team-mates is not my idea of fun.

Furthermore, there's no easy way to reconfigure the mouse buttons without hacking the config file. Which in turn, for me, broke my movement keys in relation to these little mini-games, where you have to press one of the movement keys in a certain order to proceed. Without any keys responding, I had to skip past each and everyone of those mini-games. And most of them were terrible anyway.

So overall we have a memorable storyline and setting, great set of different characters you can play with and a decent looking game. The linearity is extreme, but the difficulty level and having to replay from checkpoints ruins the game. It's only saving grace is putting a cheat on, pumping up the difficulty slightly and we've got a much better game.