"A vastly underrated game"

We all know Clive Barker from the great selection of horror movies he has given us throughout the years, from Hellraiser all the way to Hellraiser 2: Judgement Day. However, I had my reservations about a standalone game created by the horror giant, especially one that had so little fanfare coming in as Jericho.

What I found for the most part was a gruesomely detailed, action packed, and darker than hell bonanza. Although gory games are far from a rarity nowadays, Jericho does a good job of not relying on that alone to pack it's spooky punch. Atmosphere is overall intensely bleak in the world of the Box, in which Jericho takes place. Each level represents an era of time that must be traversed in order to reach the cause of all the mayhem, the Firstborn. These eras range from World War II to the time of the Roman Empire and beyond. Because these time-frames differ tremendously, each has its own separate look, feel, and cast of monsters that give them their own unique quality. Most notably amongst these was the otherwise immaculate Roman architecture, beautifully rendered and then caked in fountains of blood, giving players an idea of what kind of gruesome events had happened there in the past.

Only Jericho's seven-member team contrasts the otherwise grisly backdrop of the game. You begin the game playing the lead member of the group, and through a plot twist about a quarter into the game, you gain the ability to play as every member of the group. The characters are for the most part all interesting and distinct. They each possess their own weapons and special powers which they use to aid the group. For instance, the big gunner of the group, Frank Delgado, has a fire spirit attached to his arm. He can use this spirit to attack enemies, sending them up in a blaze, or he can allow it to remain attached to his arm, becoming impervious to fire based damage. Each member has two of these special powers which they can use at any time, for combat purposes or for getting into otherwise impossible areas.

The team speaks with one another fairly constantly throughout the game. This ranges from quips about fallen enemies to demands for new ammunition, which is then delivered automatically by team member and resident super-genius Simone Cole. Although at times corny and other times genuinely funny, these interactions provides a welcome break from what would otherwise be a painfully gloomy affair.

The enemies in Jericho vary wildly. A few generic enemies seem to populate every level, but each level also possesses it's own unique enemies. The World War II era has various gunners and artillery men, whereas the Roman times have gladiators. Regardless of what weapons and outfits they come equipped with though, each and every enemy in Jericho is a tough opponent. A good head shot takes down most enemies fairly quickly, but otherwise they are rugged, durable, and extremely tenacious. Very rarely will the group ever be attacked by a single enemy either. The monsters that populate the Box attack in droves, and through their numbers comes their real danger.

Luckily the game's AI works out pretty well in most cases. Although you are free to command the party to do various things whenever you wish, the team handles themselves fairly well without you. Indeed, in all but a few big encounters, the game moves along fairly easy due to your teammates mowing down targets and healing one another as needed. This can be considered either a blessing or a problem depending on how you look at it. More experienced players may roll through the games, even on hard setting, and wish for more challenge. However, I would much rather have my teammates pull their own weight, rather than have to be dragged around like dead weight on a constant basis. Their independence is refreshing.

Game-play in Jericho is flavorfully unique, while at the same time managing not to stray too far away from the norm. Jericho lacks any kind of numerical health indicators. Instead when a member is injured, the screen turns progressively redder until either the member has been given enough time to heal or they taking too much damage, and they pass out. Fellow members all have the ability to heal their fallen allies from close proximity through a curing magic, waking them back up and returning them to the fray. Jumping from character to character is also uniquely Jericho. Suffice to say, it's more than just the camera angle that makes the jump.

My big complaint with Jericho is that despite Clive Barker's history of movie making, Jericho seems to lack a sort of dramatic flair. At a few key points in the game after an important storyline point occurred, Jericho simply lets the moment suddenly fizzle out. While this is pretty much exactly what would happen in real life, dramatic music and cut scenes are what make a video game like this really fun. Although the lack of this dramatic tension doesn't dull the eeriness of Jericho, it still begs the question of just how good this game could have been with more proper theatrics.

All in all though, Jericho provides a few hours of sturdy entertainment. Don't expect anything too deep going into the Box and you should not be too disappointed. Go in looking for a vastly underrated shooter, and you just might have found what you were looking for.

Graphics ~Impressive, every new character and level is distinct and highly detailed, as should be expected from an Xbox 360 game. The team members individual styles are somewhat reminiscent of those from the Matrix, which fits well with their personalities. The only problem of note is that due to the high numbers of enemy monsters, they can become repetitive, especially the generic monsters.
Sound ~ The gunfire and voice work make up most of what you'll hear in the game, and likewise most of what you'll remember. Luckily the voice acting is pretty good. Led by the talented Steve Blum, the voices give personality to the characters and the game.
Gameplay ~ A 1st-person shooter with enough twists to set itself apart from the pack. Each character has their own abilities, and each has their time to shine, albeit occasionally contrived in Jones' case, making switching between characters a must.
Story ~ The journey through the Box in order to stop the mysterious Firstborn is an interesting premise, but the game left too many questions unanswered. A sequel is definitely in need to sort out the mysteries of Jericho. The back-story to the Jericho team and it's members is solid.
Replay Value ~ After beating the game for the first time, all that is left to do is play through again in an attempt to access the game's various unlockables. These range from Biographies to monster information, but may not be enough to warrant multiple playthroughs.
Overall ~ 8/10 Not the best game on the Xbox 360, and maybe not worth a spot on your shelf, but Jericho is definitely a game to be rented and played at least once. Very entertaining over the short-term.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/25/07

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

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