31 Days Of Halloween: Day 12 – Clive Barker’s Jericho
I swear to you – we’re catching up. Slowly, but surely. My fingers have been reduced to nothing but blisters and raw meat as I hurriedly play through as many games as possible to please you, our dear readers. And what have you given me in return? You’ve been consistently mailing me awful games to play for the Gamepocalypse. You’re like a selfish husband who comes home to his hard-working wife slaving away at the kitchen and announces that you’ve brought her a surprise: see-through underwear. We all know it’s a gift for you. Stop pretending otherwise.
GAMES! And today, we do most definitely have something that qualifies as a game. Unfortunately, I can’t say much more for it than that. The winds of change are blowing, dear readers, and so too shall we blow. It’s DAY 12: CLIVE BARKER’S JERICHO!!!
ENOUGH OF THIS FOLLY
Jericho straps you into the ghostly boots of Devin Ross, leader of Team Jericho. Jericho’s mission, should they choose to accept it or not (and for some godawful reason, they do), is to shoot their way into the lair of “The Firstborn”. You see, before God made Adam and Eve, he fucked up royally, ending up with this horrid little creation. Knowing that even God makes mistakes makes me feel better about the time I accidentally yelled out “DAT ASS!” at Serena Williams while watching a tennis match with my mother. Regardless, you can’t just have this ugly little shit running around the Earth, so God banishes him to an abyss of some sorts and tries to pretend the whole mess never happened. Unfortunately, The Firstborn is rather resilient and keeps making attempts to break back into the mortal plane, and this time he just might do it. That’s where you step in. Until you die. Ross meets a rather untimely end about an hour and a half into the game, and is begrudgingly forced to embody the shells of his six compatriots whenever he pleases. A lot of Lovecraftian mischief ensues afterwards.
I have two general rules with horror stories – 1) If the central gimmick sounds like something out of a romantic comedy, it will not be scary, and 2) If the protagonists are not the least bit intimidated by what’s going on, why should I be? And really, that’s the sticking point here. Team Jericho is SO FUCKING PUMPED TO KICK SOME ASS that any suspense generated from the admittedly ghastly creatures on display here is rendered instantly moot. Imagine if, in Silent Hill, Harry Mason was played by Jason Statham and was never short on shotgun ammo. Not quite the same experience. With Clive Barker penning the tale, it’s certainly not a bad yarn per se – just not disturbing in the least. It’s more “Lord Of Shadows” than “Hellraiser” – an entertaining tale, but not one to be considered for too long after the credits roll.
I’M GONNA EAT YOUR SOUL
So, back to that “being dead” thing. It’s the main gameplay gimmick here, bouncing you around from cohort to cohort as needed to SERIOUSLY KICK SOME DEMON ASS. It doesn’t work. If I had played this on the PC, I might have felt differently (and if you have, please defend yourself in the comments), but awkwardly switching from soldier to solider with a gamepad just feels clumsy. And don’t let my claims of 6 playable soldiers fool you into thinking the game has been balanced for that sort of thing. Outside of a few instances where you’ll need to jack into someone (lulz) to accomplish a specific goal, you’ll really just lean on one or two troops whose arsenal you find the most pleasing (*cough* Abigail *cough*).
And speaking of those troops – my God, how did these man and women make it this far without me guiding them? I can’t leave someone uninhabited for more than 15 seconds before they walk aimlessly into the arms of a waiting hell-troll and get bludgeoned to death. You can resuscitate them as need be, but you end up ping-ponging between allies to resurrect your team, only to have someone else get jacked up as you’re reviving the first asshole that got killed. Repeat for 8 hours. I don’t have anything against squad management, but when I’m constantly told how my crew is the baddest, roughest bunch of SOB’s this side of the defensive line for the 2009 Giants, they should be able to go unattended for a minute without accidentally burning themselves to death with a cup of coffee.
Ah, but how is the shooting in this first-person shooter, you ask? Fine. It’s fine. Monsters pop up. You shoot them. After expending enough bullets into them, they will come around to your point of view and drop dead. Occasionally, a monster with more hit points than others will show up, requiring slightly more bullets than the others. Certain teammates feature special abilities that allow you to do this in a slightly different manner, but you’ll mostly be shooting first and asking questions rarely. Arenas are brief, and don’t require much more thought than “press the forward button”, or “take command of that chick who can reach that switch up there”. The game is also quite fond of telling you how to kill the boss within about 30 seconds of the fight starting. And yes, this even happened during the final “battle”.
It’s quite a shame that this game had to boil down to generic shooting with a gameplay gimmick that doesn’t work, as some of the creature design on display here is truly inspired. My personal favorite is an obese doughboy hanging from hooks who opens up his stomach to spew entrails at you. I can’t believe I just typed that. Still, it’s a pity that an imagination as bountiful as Barkers’ had to be wasted on such a bog-standard shooter. There are also random quicktime events, and if that just sealed a rental or purchase for you, I’d like you to never read Gamecrashers again.
WE WERE JUST LEAVING
After the asskicking good time I had once again with Undying, I held out a small glimmer of hope that Mr Barker’s involvement would endear some goodwill towards Jericho. Fail. I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Clive in gaming, as it would be a shame to end his career with this.
+ Anyone who absolutely MUST play anything Clive Barker is involved in
+ Someone who you would like to see suffer
+ People who don’t mind sitting through a broken shooter for some interesting creature design