IGN Review of Clive Barker's Jericho
Just so you don't get the wrong idea, Clive Barker's Jericho is a corridor shooter. It's got a few elements to distract you from its monster closets and entirely linear levels, such as the squad control, but ultimately it's a straight-ahead charge from beginning to end. You start out as Captain Ross, the leader of a magically gifted band of heavy-weapons wielding warriors known as Jericho. A disturbance has cropped up in the desert, a rip in time and space that traces back to the roots of creation. At it's core is some type of ancient evil, The Firstborn, and it's your quest to traipse through various twisted time periods to kill lots of slimy creatures pulsing with gore.
The entire Jericho squad consists, at least initially, of seven members, each with their own unique weaponry and magical attacks. Magic skills are unlocked as the game progresses, and you'll soon find some members to be far more useful than others. Lieutenant. Black and Corporal Cole, for instance, are useful throughout the entirety of the game thanks to time slowing, magic bullet, and grenade abilities. Captain Jones and Father Rawling, on the other hand, are for the most part useless, except in the sequences where you're forced to control them.
A little way into the game you're given the ability to switch control between squad members at will. It's a good idea, since it lets you try out the different "classes" rather easily, allowing you adjust to the different kind of demonic creatures that accost you. The merits of this idea crumble rather quickly, however, under the weight of the AI problems, archaic stage progression methods, and often frustrating, repetitive enemy encounters.
Regardless of which squad member you're controlling, you have access to a limited number of positional commands. The Jericho team is broken into two halves, Omega and Alpha. You can order both squads to hang back, move up, or direct the individual squads to specific parts of a map. As you move through the game, you'll realize how pointless these controls are. With the exception of a few pressure plate puzzles, there's basically no advantage to utilizing any of these commands. The stages are linear and consist of narrow corridors or circular arenas. Enemies run directly at you, completely bypassing whatever cover you squadmates may be taking, making any kind of tactical planning irrelevant.
We can accept that the squad commands are simply a poorly-implemented feature, but then there's the problem of teammates acting like morons anyway. They'll fire their guns inaccurately and use their skills fairly regularly, but you'll be surprised how often they won't back away from a charging enemy, or actually charge at exploding enemies. You'd think this would cease to be an issue when you finally get by the exploding enemy section, but the exploding enemies are all over the place. They pop up from the ground in any one of the numerous monster closet areas, and cause instant death to any within close proximity.
Luckily Ross and Rawlings can resurrect. The idea behind the mechanic is welcome, since it negates the necessity to reload your game when your squadmates die, which they almost constantly will. Yet it even further renders taking control of Rawlings useless, as doing so effectively halves your resurrection capabilities. Since the Jericho squad is so utterly incapable of staying alive, you'll spend nearly half a battle running around to try and bring everyone back to life. But this is a shooter, right? It could be argued that to keep your squad out of harm's way, you could use the positional commands to send your buddies back to safety. It's a tempting line of thinking, but stop for a second and consider what kind of game you're playing. Do you really want to play a first person shooter where the bulk of what you do is resurrect squadmates and order them backwards to safety?
If the Jericho members' intelligence level wasn't enough of a nuisance for you, there's the actual shooting itself. There's really nothing to it. The typical grunt enemy will run straight at you somewhat slowly, giving you ample opportunity to back up while firing and bring it down. If you're in a tight spot, Black's Ghost Bullet, Delgado's Ababinili flame spirit, and Cole's Infinite Loop time slow ability allow for practically anything to be taken out with little to no skill whatsoever.
Sometimes your squad gets separated, forcing you to complete puzzles tailored to their specific abilities. Jones' skill of possessing enemies to trigger hard-to-reach switches and such are particularly annoying, and if they weren't there we never would have switched to the guy anyway. You'll also encounter sections where you're forced into a God of War-style button tap matching sequence to fend of attackers, break apart an enemy's armor, or slink along a crumbling ledge. These aren't so bad, though admittedly come off as a little strange for a game like this. Thankfully the game lets you infinitely retry them if you fail without forcing you to play through any previous sections. But still, the combination of button-tap sequences, simplistic and generally useless tactical commands, and the decision to split a main protagonist carrying a bunch of weapons into six squad members with their own weapons feels like a patchwork tarp thrown over the meager gameplay and dated progression mechanics.
Some of this could be forgiven with an interesting storyline. Jericho's concept, descending through hellish periods in the Earth's history to stop an ancient evil from breaking free and consuming the Earth, is definitely workable. We didn't find anything to be particularly memorable, but it was enough to keep us pressing forward to uncover the specifics of how the evil was created, why it's so bent on human destruction, and how to defeat it. Whatever interest may have been drummed up in the premise is obliterated by the pacing. The game transitions much too frequently into non-interactive cut-scenes, forcing you to listen to the gruff Alien Resurrection-like dialogue, yet again preventing you from doing what you want to be doing in this game, namely shooting gross-looking demons. These dialogue sequences could have been helped by some semblance of character, but all you get are cookie-cutter personalities. Delgado's the aggressive guy with a big gun. Cole's the techie girl who people tell to "speak English" when she tries to explain something. Rawlings is the wizened veteran with something to hide. Sounds thrilling, right?
Jericho does manage to present some cool scenarios, particularly if you're the kind of gamer that appreciates an overabundance of gore. Heads explode, blood glitters and pulses nearly everywhere, and some of the boss fights, like the fat oaf of a demon that opens his stomach and spews guts all over the place, are without a doubt repulsive. Yet for all the filth, entrails, and hideously twisted figures, there's nothing to provide a genuine scare. This game can't even come close to the chills F.E.A.R. was able to elicit, or the uneasy feeling you have in Half-Life 2 when creeping around areas in which you know headcrab zombies to be present. It's such a disappointment, especially after playing the last game to bear Clive Barker's name, Undying, which had no shortage of thrills and scares.
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