Clive Barker's Jericho Review - 15/11/2007

Get your Sci-fi survival-horror freak on with the Jericho team in our in-depth review. It's barking mental.

When you've just reviewed a game with Bungie's logo stamped all over it, it's hard to get excited for one that has Clive Barker's seal of approval, however acclaimed the horror writer may be. However, I've decided to bite the bullet for TGSN fans, and you know what, the bullet doesn't taste all that bad...

With possibly the single greatest November in gaming history coming our way, it hasn't been easy for old Jericho. Not only must it survive an onslaught from the highest selling shooter ever - Halo 3, it also has to Matrix-dodge its way out of a Call of Duty 4 gunning when they collide later this November. Sure, it's going to be tough, but ask yourself one question; do any of these blockbusting FPS's have eyeless zombies dressed in chainmail? Didn't think so.

Like the bastard child of Doom 3 and Full Spectrum Warrior, Jericho is without doubt the most disturbing game thus far on the 360. But what's a gory slice of horror without a good context? Nothing that's what. Luckily, Mr Barker's invented a pretty awesome back story for you to play against: in the beginning, before Adam and Eve, God created the firstborn. This turned out to be a bit of a disaster, and so God locked this being away in a parallel universe situated in Africa. Naturally, after a few million years it got bored and tried escape. This is where you come in. You'll play as Ross, the leader of a paranormal investigation squad who are called in by the American government (who else?) to quell the evil within. 'Within' being brooding corridors bathed in the sort of dread and impending doom only soft ambient lighting can provide. Needless to say, the thought: 'why don't people pack batteries that last more than 5 bloody seconds?' will run through your mind on more than one occasion.

Oh, and there's this thing with the leader, Ross. He's dead. But fear not as the game doesn't end there, (as it would be quite short). You see, he's a spirit, able to tap into the 6 other squad members' minds and take them around for a ghostly joyride. You'll find yourself constantly switching your character to utilise their abilities. Need a wee small girl to fit through a gap in the wall, but find your current man-bulk a burden? Than change to that wee small girl. Come out the other side in that gap in the wall and find your face within inches of getting ripped off? Switch to the guy with that beast of a shotgun. What's really cool about this feature is the ability to team-up your attacks, using Cole to slow down time while Delgado moves in with an arson-errific fire attack for instance. However, it soon becomes a chore cycling through your squad mates to find the one you need, and the levels are so confined that you'll often settle for the shotgun-wielding big boy.

As honest as the developer's intentions were in trying to scare you shirtless, some aspects of the game will piss the hell out of you. For one, the only thing Barker's talent seems to have touched is the character design, as the level layout is cramped, dark and confusing. 'But this lends itself to the horror!' I hear you cry stupidly. No, there are ways of making you wet yourself without using either repetitive level design or laxatives, and its name is imagination. Because each environment is as narrow as Peter Crouch's pencil, every gunfight becomes an exercise in frustration. Circle-strafing and any kind of dodging will lead you smack into a wall, so you'll always find yourself back peddling away from every encounter. When the enemies are as fast as they are vicious, this gets repetitive.

Jericho varies between being brilliant and a pile of old bones. Interactive cut scenes (a la Resident Evil 4) break up the intense shooting action and genuinely make your adrenaline sky rocket. That is, until you die for the 10th time, then the trial-and-error action starts to grate. Also, the squad AI is superb, with team members seldom getting in your line of fire, but all the 'duck and cover' programming in the world is nothing when the restrictive corridors don't permit them to do anything other than run in a straight line.

You see, Jericho is one big paradox. Where the gloomy, demonic architecture will give you the willies, seeing the same repeated corridors will make you go flaccid. Being a member of a paranormal investigation squad and linking up attacks is awesome until they all get stuck on a piece of scenery and die (seemingly, the abbreviation of Paranormal Investigation Squad being PIS isn't by accident). And finally, whereas the intro sets the player up for something truly cinematic, the finale will make you cry salty tears.

- Ben Griffin



Mercury Steam
PC - PS3 - 360