Game: Clive Barker’s Jericho [PC]
Year: October 2007
Reviewed: 26th May 2008
Genre: Single Player FPS Horror
Clive Barker’s Jericho is not the first game to bear the name of the popular horror writer, with the first, Undying, carrying his name some several years earlier. Jericho is no sequel to that, but a separate story following the battles of a supernatural squad called Jericho. The Jericho team is called in to an ancient place called Al-Khali; a place of evil, depravity, and corruption throughout its history, to find another one of their squads, but soon find the team has been killed with the bodies mutilated. As you soon find out, Al-Khali is a focal point for an evil plan to bring back to earth what is known as the firstborn – a creature neither male nor female or with any particular traits and the first to be created by god. The creature was banished to the Abyss by god, and it has since been trying to break free. These attempts happen in a timescale of many years, each time causing a breach that it used to travel through and each time a previous Jericho team has sent it back, but the events are getting closer and closer together, with the firstborn getting stronger each time until eventually they wouldn’t be able to send it back.
The game starts off in the present day, and you take control of the lead character called Devin Ross, and at this point you don’t get access to any supernatural abilities, so the first part of the game is just a plain shooter, attacking various monsters, and wasn’t anything special. It isn’t long, though, before you gain the ability to move between other squad members and basically control them and their abilities; how this event happens I will not say for now. After this event, you soon go through the first breach and travel back to World War 2, with Al-Khali still pretty much in ruins, but now with a WW2 theme to it – during this section you have to find a psychic Nazi woman who is there to open the breach for the firstborn. Once you get through the next breach you head back to Crusade times, and the starting levels here are truly gruesome with rivers of blood and rotting flesh. Heading further back you also visit the final days of the Roman Empire, and encounter a corrupt governor – I enjoyed this section of levels the most I would say. The final time-slice you go back to is around 3000BC where the original buildings of Al-Khali are in pristine condition, and there you will see out the conclusion of the game. The ending was okay in my personal opinion, although it doesn’t feel quite right as things are left open for a sequel, and it would have been nice to see something a little more spectacular, but it served its purpose and was adequate.
Moving onto the characters abilities now, I will tell you that each Jericho member has a different set of abilities (there is a primary one and also a secondary one) and at some point throughout the game, you will have to use a unique ability/power at least once. For the rest of the time, though, you are able to move freely between the Jericho squad members and use their weapons and supernatural powers to progress as you please. Overall, I tended to use one character in particular, called Billie Church, who is able to cast blood wards, which basically stop most of the standard enemies in their tracks (leaving them paralysed) while you and the team dispatch them easily. I liked also using her Katana to chop through the enemies too, when I was able to. The second favourite of mine was Frank Delgado, who controls a flame spirit, and also carries a hefty fully-automatic monster of a gun which is fun to use and very adept at cutting through numbers of monsters at a time. Later in the game, I found myself able to use the other characters more, and there is one stretch where you can only use a couple of the Jericho members, and these just happen to be the ones I didn’t use the most in normal play, so it felt like a different game-play during these bits. Each character will only take so much damage, no matter which one you prefer, you will always find yourself swapping between all the characters during a heavy battle, as once the member you control is on the verge of death, you have to go to another body (and if there are none left, Jericho team dies). Your player, as well as one other called Father Paul Rawlings, are the only two who can revive other members of the team, so once he is down, it makes things a bit tougher to get everyone revived in a hectic battle.
Most of the game is spent using the team combat, and using each members powers to compliment each other and help get you through the game, but there are a couple of times when you go separately with one character. During these parts of the game you have to be extra careful, as you cannot be revived or switch bodies with no other team members near by. The game is fairly linear and mostly involves the said battling with hellish monsters, which may sound a bit dull and repetitive, but the supernatural powers really make the game interesting and fun to play, and it is this fun game-play that kept me going forward through the game. I like it so much that after completing it, I actually miss it. Occasionally the game breaks slightly from the non-stop action all the way formula and involves a bit of puzzle-solving using the members powers to defeat a certain enemy or progress through another part of the level. These situations are generally fairly easy to get through, although if you’re a bit clueless like me, it may not always be completely obvious what you have to do straight away. There was one section of the game I got stuck on for a bit, but once I tried a different strategy and starting hitting the right enemy in the right order it ended up being a pretty easy section of the game to get through.
The game controls are your basic FPS keyboard and mouse options, with a few extra keys assigned to powers. You can move everywhere that is a smooth step away, but have an inability to jump, so you can’t just climb over any rock or wall you feel like. You also can’t jump off the vast majority of ledges, so that’s handy if you like acting like a lemming and standing too close to them anyway. I must mention at this point that there are a couple of occasions where I found that the nice ‘eye-candy’ in the level ended up being an annoying clutter as the player couldn’t get around poorly placed ‘clutter’ in the level – luckily this was only in a few small sections of the game so It wasn’t that big a deal.
Occasionally, the game presents you with an interactive cut-scene (I first came across this when playing Tomb Raider: Legend, and in that game I hated it). In this, certain arrow keys appear on the screen and you have to press them quickly within a certain amount of time or you’ll fail – luckily, unlike some other games (TRL ahem) you don’t usually go through a lengthy part of the scene before it, so if you do fail, you are quickly back in trying again, and to be honest, it is pretty easy to get through anyway, with the keys being very clearly set out on the screen (unlike….. TRL). This actually leads me on to a major aspect of the game that may affect how well you progress through the game, and that is….. checkpoint saves. Now, I am a person who absolutely hates most games that use this save system as most of the time the save points are placed too far apart (TRL, Prince of Persia??), and the only game that seems to have it working well was Call of Duty 2. Now, I can add Jericho to that list, although it isn’t quite as good as CoD2’s system. If you do die at any point, you still may have to play for a couple of minutes to get to the next checkpoint again, and that can be a little annoying on occasion, but I mostly found that it worked pretty well mainly due to the fact that it takes a lot of bad circumstances to get the whole team killed, so even in a pretty heavy battle, there will usually always be at least a couple of members around you can use to revive the others, and continue. My progression through the game was relatively unhindered using the easy mode of the game, and I’d say I am a fairly average player.
Now I’ve finished talking about a lot of the game-play, I’ll tell you about the look and feel of the game. When the first cut-scene loaded I was very impressed with the quality of the character models and animations, the faces looked very good, and hair was moving realistically too for example. The texturing is generally of high quality, and the levels do look very well done, to the point of being gorgeous in places. The only downside is a lot of the levels, especially at first, either involved areas looking too similar as you went through them, or generally suffering from the brown lighting syndrome that some games seem to be using as of late (Gears of War anyone?). Fortunately, the levels looked better as the game progressed, with the Crusader and Roman parts of the game looking positively gory with vivid reds and oranges, mixed in with cooler greys and blues of stone. While the lighting can be a bit bland in some parts, in other areas it can occasionally look absolutely fantastic, so it can be a bit of a mixture. Overall I was impressed with the visuals, but a slightly bland level design in some sections of the game (particularly the starting section) let it down a bit. Moving on to sound quality, I can say that all sounds were of good quality and that the voice acting sounded decently done – I wouldn’t say it’s anything special though, but just well done for what it is. Performance wise, my single core CPU coped very well and my 7900GS also did well running the game smoothly for 99% of the time on high settings, with only the slightest hint of a slowdown in intense battles. I was also happy to see the game auto-configure the settings and for once put me on my LCD’s native resolution by default, so I didn’t have anything to change in the graphics department. The menu itself looks pretty gory, and well done, and seemed easy to navigate. It actually helped having checkpoint saves in one sense, as that eliminated any need to visit the menus at all during standard game-play.
While the game has been heavily criticised elsewhere on other review sites, I have to say I don’t agree with them. While it is true that it is essentially repetitive stuff you are doing, the supernatural powers do make the action very enjoyable and fun, so it doesn’t make it bad. Also, the ending, while not being impressive, certainly wasn’t as bad as some sites have made out, and while it does finish in an odd way, not quite feeling completely satisfying like some games, it is adequate and does leave things open for a sequel. Overall, once I got over the “samey” feel of the earlier environments, and got into the use of the powers that each Jericho team member possesses, I found the game to be a very enjoyable and very nice looking game.
It certainly has its flaws and could have been better done; it would even be nice if it had been a little longer than the 8 hours it took me, as I definitely would have liked to have played it a little bit more. Also some bland level design and repetitive layout in places does crop up, but mostly the levels do look very good. If I had one wish regarding the graphics, it would be that a little more colour was used in the game. The checkpoint system did its job ok, although I will always prefer being able to save whenever I want to, not when the game decides to. On the other hand, the weapons felt solid throughout, as did the powers, and the constant non-stop action helped me flow through the game quickly so that I wasn’t in any area for too long.
As a summary, I’m left with mixed feelings, as It wasn’t a true great, but one recurring thing in other reviews, and I feel in my thoughts too, is that it had the potential to be even better, and this is a shame in that sense. While the flaws are still there, and it is essentially an average game, the good game-play and visuals in general make me want to rate it higher, and so I have broken down the scoring as follows:
General Quality: Very good quality
Art Direction: I found the earlier stuff a bit "samey" in that the environments didn’t vary much and weren't that interesting, but they got better throughout the game. Not great, but a nice art direction overall with all the gory content too.
Models: Excellent models; they look fantastic, and well animated - I was impressed
Level design: While they looked good, some areas looked a bit too similar especially in the earlier levels with a slightly bland use of browns like Gears of War seems to have used - it got better though and they had more interesting layouts and a nicer look to them as the game progressed.
Voice acting: Overall was good quality sound - some lines get re-used but that's just general team talk
General: Overall very good too but nothing out of the ordinary
Game-play: Although it's essentially lots of monsters and sounds repetitive, the powers of each member of the Jericho team and the fact you can swap between each member make it quite enjoyable game-play. It's not perfect, but was quite good and included some mild puzzle solving (or just a bit of thinking) on some occasions.
Story: The background story behind the whole game is an interesting concept, and everything fits in well. If it were a book, it'd be worth a read, but lets not get carried away, it isn’t RPG stuff!
Save System: Checkpoint based - it worked ok really as there were few occasions I had to reload overall - seems fairly well spaced too.
Replay Value: Not much replay value as it's a linear game, decent game on first play-through.
Performance: Ran fantastic - I don't have the worlds fastest PC but this ran very well, only the slightest hint of slowing in some bits but I was on virtually max settings anyway, and I only have a single core CPU, so was very good.
Bugs: Could sometimes catch on the odd thing in some earlier levels, was mildly annoying on those occasions.
Arbitrary Final Score:
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Is Clive barking mad to put his name to this game? Let us know in the forum!