Review by dwashbur

"The Idea: Great. The Reality: Not So Much"

I went into this with good hopes, because somebody of the caliber of Clive Barker was willing to put his name on it. I figured it would be good and scary, and lots of fun to play. It failed miserably on both counts.

The story should be scary enough: a creature that God made before he made man, known as the Firstborn, is basically the embodiment of everything evil. Worse yet, it's trying to break into our reality and make a mess of things. Apparently, God either wasn't powerful enough to destroy it after he saw what it was, couldn't bring himself to kill his baby, or was too stupid to realize what he was creating in the first place, so now it falls to a group of seven guardians to keep it from breaking into our reality every few thousand years or so. Where they got this concept of God is anybody's guess, but the premise about the Firstborn is supposedly based on some Gnostic writings. If you've ever checked out historical Gnosticism, those guys could come up with some pretty weird stuff. So based on that, the screwed-up view of the biblical God isn't surprising.

Anyway, the current seven guardians are a team called Jericho. Each member has certain weapons as well as certain paranormal abilities. At various times you have to use each one's abilities, even though you're only one of the characters. A couple of minutes into the game, that's no longer a problem, because your character gets killed. You're now a ghost/spirit, leaping willy-nilly from one team member to another as you need to use their weapons or abilities, or if you decide you want to be a big hunky guy as opposed to a hot chick in leather.

As you work your way through the ancient city that has suddenly appeared in the Middle East, you find that there are layers of time there and you're going to have to fight your way through all of them to reach the "breach" where the Firstborn is trying to make its entrance, so you can close it and leave him outside in the wherever-he-is. The odd thing is, each time layer seems to have enemies that look remarkably alike, whether it's a World War II setting or ancient Sumeria. Apparently, when it comes to choosing minions, the Firstborn doesn't have much imagination.

The weapons are a mixed bag. One guy, a priest, has a couple of big pistols that do a fair job. One of the gals actually has frag grenades, which could come in handy when you're being swarmed by monsters. The weird thing is, she can only throw one about 4 feet in front of her. I tried everything to get them to go further, and they just don't. So she ends up blowing herself up as often as not, which is incredibly stupid. Other team members like nothing more than to run in front of you while you're shooting, then call you socially unacceptable names for shooting them. In other words, you AI teammates are blithering idiots. You'll spend more time healing them than you will fighting the bad guys, because they don't have the brains to duck, either. They stand out in the open, blasting away, while the bad guys come at them with superior protection and firepower, then they whine when one of them goes down. And you have to get to them and heal them, but just about the time you do, all the explosives and bullets in the known universe come pouring at you and you're down, too. Not a problem; if the character you're inhabiting goes down, you automatically jump to somebody else. That somebody else may or may not be facing the right way, getting blown up themselves, or scratching their butt. It's not just whimsical, it's idiotic. It ruins the game.

With seven characters to keep track of, it's virtually impossible to remember who has what ability and what it actually does. You might jump into a teammate expecting to be able to throw fire, and when you hit the button you find that you're stepping out of your body. Or you might expect to slow time so you can pour some serious hurt into an enemy, only to find that you just cut yourself and made a big red blob in the middle of the screen that does who-knows-what. It's confusing. And the AI's don't use these abilities themselves, they only activate their special powers at your bidding. All you have to do is remember who does what. I couldn't.

The idea had real possibilities, but the way the game is constructed is as bad as anything I've ever seen. It's supposed to be squad-based, but you can give your team two orders: follow me, or hold still. And they won't actually do either one. How this game made it to market is beyond me, and why Clive Barker put his imprimatur on it is even more beyond me. If you want a really good FPS game with supernatural elements, try F.E.A.R. Leave this one on the shelf; better yet, find somebody you don't like and sell it to them.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 11/03/09

Game Release: Clive Barker's Jericho (US, 10/23/07)


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