Impressions: Clive Barker’s Jericho

I know I’m a week-and-a-half late on this one, but I finally got around to fiddling with the demo on PSN.

Now, Jericho isn’t Barker’s first foray into the realm of video games. That was Undying for the PC, which put you in the shoes of occult investigator Patrick Galloway, sent to investigate a series of hauntings at the estate owned by his dying friend, Jeremiah Covenant. At its roots, Jericho isn’t wholly different. Galloway’s been replaced by a whole team of paranormal jarheads contracted to uncover the secret behind the re-emergence of a lost city smack in the middle of a Middle-Eastern desert. Well, that’s what the blurb at the end of the demo indicates, anyway.

The part you actually play takes place in Al Kahli’s ancient culvert, a dank and nasty place infested with creatures that look something like mummified burn victims (or an overcooked plate of sausage). Some will try to bite or shoot at you, others carry shields. It really doesn’t matter as the AI doesn’t seem particularly responsive and all you need to do most of the time is rollick about and hold down the trigger. The lighting and environment, while suitably freaky, don’t leand themselves well to these encounters. Most of the time, you can’t even see or hear the enemies popping into existence or jumping down from some hole in ceiling. I’m not sure if they were going for the “OMG where did that thing come from?!” vibe or not, but it’s not set up in a clever enough way for you to experience that distinct feeling of fear. Instead, you suddenly notice something or other is pelting you in the back that you never heard or saw enter the room. It’s more frustrating than scary.


“I bet you didn’t see me coming!”

Combat itself feels “chunky,” a lot like Gears of War. Your character is kind of slow moving and the enemies are fleshy beasts that soak up more ammo than they should. Then again, these are freaky-deaky ghouls and demons, so maybe they’re just bullet sponges by nature? I don’t know. Just something about it felt unwieldy and wrong. Maybe this had something to do with my preference for using an inverted Y-axis for aiming, something I attempted to change in the options several times to no avail. Likewise, your character’s weapons are linked to the back triggers, a departure from most PS3 games which put them on them on L1 and R1. The only explanation I can think of for this kind of setup is that they basically copied and pasted the control scheme from the Xbox 360 version, where it makes more sense. It just feels awkward when using the Sixaxis.

So what did they stick on the front triggers, then? Each character (of six) has two special powers that can apparently evolve at certain points in the game. I couldn’t quite get a handle on them during the demo, but this is another thing Jericho shares in common with Undying. As far as I can tell, every member of the Jericho team has their own brand of occult power. Black, for instance, can use “ghost bullets,” or sniper rounds that can be redirected via telekinesis through up to three enemies. Church, on the other hand, uses her own blood to cast spells, which means that it’ll sap life every time she does so. It’s kind of cool that every squad member is representative of a different school of pagan belief and it’s a good indication of their varying ethno-cultural backgrounds.

Given that I’ve only played the demo, I don’t know how each character will grow over the course of the game, but Barker has laid the grounds for some interesting religious dialog and relationships to develop. I should hope so, because Jericho relies on the idea that you can control and switch between several of them at any given time. As everybody has their own special set of weapons and powers, it’ll be to your advantage to do so. Once again, it’s kind of like what Gears would’ve been if you weren’t always forced to play as Marcus.

Overall, I  admit I kind of dug it. The demo level wasn’t anything particularly compelling and the shooting action isn’t entirely up to par, but Barker’s cryptic imagination, which pays as much attention to the mythology as the horror, might be enough to pull me through all the rough spots. Well, all except the horrendous QTEs, even more frustrating here than they are in other games. Aren’t those faux pas yet?

~ by Cavin Smith on October 8, 2007.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: