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System: PS3, 360, PC
ESRB Rating: Mature
Developer: Mercury Steam
The second half of 2007 was a great time for gamers. So great, in fact, that when Alex and I talked about putting together a Game of the Year list he told me “It’s impossible. Who can play enough games to put together a competent list?” After reflection, he was right. While I could ramble on and on about how much I loved Portal and Bioshock, there were a ton of great games that I didn’t even get a chance to experience in 2007. But that’s what the usual post-holiday drought is for, I guess.
But forget about the critical darlings of 2007, what about the titles that lost out in the back-alley brawl that was Q4 of 2007? Would they ever be noticed? One game lost in the shuffle was Clive Barker’s Jericho. Released in late October, the game was sandwiched between releases of The Orange Box, Guitar Hero III and Call of Duty 4. Not much time to gain traction.
However, seeing as I was caught up on most of my 2007 titles and hoping to find an overlooked gem, I fired up the old (seemingly indestructible) PS3 to venture into Clive Barker’s video game abyss.
You know what, I’ll let Clive explain the game:
The concept of Jericho is that there’s this evil fuck that lives in the Sahara… [the plot involves] an assassination attempt upon a creature that gives the devil the shivers.
It would make a fucking terrible novel. It really would, it doesn’t work! It screams out to be something other. Maybe if games hadn’t existed, I would’ve made it a movie. But I much prefer the idea of having twenty hours to play this world, to enter this labyrinth than the two hours or the way movies are going now. I don’t know what it is with people, my bum gets sore! I like pirates and all, but jeez!
Here’s the thing, Clive, Jericho doesn’t work as a game either. Literally.
I made my first attempt to play Jericho about a month ago. About an hour in, my PS3 overheated. What makes this very weird is that my PS3 resides in a open-space in the coldest place in my house. Not even my 360 overheats down there. Undeterred, I waited a few hours and tried again. This time, I got about 15 minutes out of the PS3 before overheating.
So I tried out some my other PS3 titles and they worked swimmingly. A day later, I made the decision to try a new copy of Jericho. About 30 minutes into the game, it overheats like Excitebike. After debating picking up a 360 copy of the game (and then realizing if the game is breaking down my PS3, it probably melt my delicate 360) I convinced a friend to let me borrow his PS3 to finish the game. And in true Clive Barker fashion, this game is anal rape.
The game begins with you in control of Cpt. Devin Ross, leader of the seven member Jericho squad. In addition to your trusty machine gun (with shotgun attachment), Cpt. Ross, like the rest of the Jericho squad, has mystical powers. Cpt. Ross’ magical power, healing your fallen squadmates, which is something you will use over and over (and over). As you control Cpt. Ross, and soon after, the other members of the Jericho Squad, you will have to rely on AI to assist in much of the fighting, which is where the game begins its real descent to Hell.
One of the most glaring failures of Jericho is the hideous AI. The AI is so putrid I’m forced to resurrect the term “atrolescent” from my Wii Play review. I guess there is a balancing factor as both the enemy and Jericho squad’s AI apparently allows for three moves, run forward, shoot straight, die. Most of the game’s countless fire-fights involve running around the squad members, who seem to be doing their best to get in your way, while the monsters are doing their best to get annihilated.
What exasperates the horrible AI issues is that the level design is about as tight as my prom date. It’s suffocating and infuriating that I cannot get around these six meatbags, because they can’t shoot the giant fucking yellow target on the exploding demon. Instead, the demon explodes in a “crowded” open-space taking out the entire team. After the fiftieth time my squad was decimated, because the four-hundred exploding monsters previous did not teach them to get out of the way, I realized this was the Hell that Clive was describing.
I cannot imagine how this got through quality testing. It’d make sense if they just said they didn’t test it, but I doubt that will be coming across the wire anytime soon. But I do know that the quality control people involved with Jericho need to pick up four more credits and return to being full-time DeVry students.
As a further indictment of the AI, the game allows you to control the movements Jericho squad by having an Alpha team and an Omega team. The problem is that there is no need for the separate teams. Not only is the game more linear than a NES RPG, the teams take zero direction anyway. Yes, there is a puzzle here and there, but unless you found last months Highlights Magazine’s Soduku puzzle to be difficult, this game isn’t the most mind-taxing.
As a positive, controlling the actual player is done very well. The target control was very responsive, allowing for some accurate shooting. It is, by far, the game’s best feature. The overuse of button-cutscenes became annoying, but if there was something to add color to the monotony of shooting down a corridor, the game may have been a worthwhile endeavor.
What would make up for all of thehorrible game mechanics would be a great, or at least interesting, story. Instead, as Clive referenced above, the story doesn’t work. And when I say, “doesn’t work” I mean “is mind-numbingly dull.” Shooting monsters in tight spaces is fun for about ten minutes, but throw in all the AI problems, the linear level design, sheer lack of difficulty and unexciting storyline, the eight to ten hours it takes to complete the game feels like an Anything but Love marathon.
Adding to the problems of the story are the characters. You hated the Cloverfield kids? Get ready to hate the philandering priest, the stereotypical bitchy lesbian, the misunderstood nerd and the rest of the cast that no one cares about. Maybe I’m being unfair, I imagine I’d hate Ghandi if he blocked my gunfire for 3 straight hours, to only say “pussies” after a gun battle.
To top this mess off is one of the most mind–bogglingly dreadful endings I have ever experienced. Not to spoil it, but after slogging through this cumstorm I expected a decent or at least unintentionally funny conclusion. Instead, I received a delightful kick in the balls. Game over.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
One of the most praised features of the game is the graphics and sound. I guess “dark and bloody” now qualifies as great graphics. Did these people see Heavenly Sword? I guess when one of the main buttons of the game is reserved for turning on and off the flashlight, people felt there was some dedication to the look of the game.
As for the sound, the gunfire is done real well. After hours upon hours of “Rawlings is down, Rawlings is down” I zoned out the rest of the sounds.
Jericho is a major disappointment. The player control is top-quality, but the rest of the game is a miserable and utter failure. Jericho not only chose the wrong year, but wrong time period to come out. After Bioshock, the suspenseful first person shooter bar has been raised to levels Jericho doesn’t come near. Actually, scratch that, Jericho prior to Bioshock would have gotten raked over the coals, but in the post Bioshock world, a suspense FPS is going to have to put all the pieces together if its going to survive.
If I had to explain Jericho to my non-game playing friends* I’d describe it as the that girl from college you weren’t attracted to, but hooked up with hoping she’d be awesome in the sack. The girl that had decent looks and lacked an interesting personality, but talked such a big game it convinced you that this confidence had to translate in the bedroom. So despite your friends’ best warnings, you drove back to her place. And when you finally make you way into her room, you spent the next hour wondering if this girl had even been with a guy. Hoping for it just to end, you thought of something sexual, even Charlotte Rae’s cleave just to get off and out of there, but right before you finished, the girl started puking all over the place. Live and learn, live and learn.
*And my best attempt to shatter Chud’s misogyny meter.