So it's been a few days since I picked up Clive Barker's Jericho. I just reached 1000, and thought I'd share some of the good and bad of this game to help you guys make a decision on purchasing it.
As far as the gameplay is concerned, when it's good, it's amazing, and when it's bad, it's downright awful. I have very mixed feelings about it.
On one hand, the premise for the game's story is derived from Gnostic and apocryphal myths, which I really liked. The legend goes that before Adam and Eve, God created an androgynous demigod called the Firstborn. God was not pleased with how powerful the Firstborn was, and sealed it away in an abyss you will come to know as the Box, or the Pyxis. The Firstborn was forsaken and unloved, soon becoming the seed of all evil. Every so often, the Firstborn calls to a mortal from its realm and seduces him/her with promises of supernatural power, whence it breaks free and wreaks havoc on our world. It has breached into our world again, and your team, the Jericho team, is sent in to stop it.
The above makes for an intriguing story, which is regrettably cut short by one of the most horrid and abrupt endings I have ever seen in any game. So in essence, the story could have been great, and is enjoyable right up until the end, where you will likely have a reaction something to the tune of "What the fuck?!"
The characters are one of the best parts of this game. During the majority of the game, you will have access to the following characters, all of whom are mentally screwed up in some interesting way. They are basically goth-clad witches with guns (lot cooler than it sounds):
Lt. Abigail Black:
The sniper of the group, she has the ability to telekinetically push her enemies away from her and guide a bullet mid-flight with her Ghost Bullet skill. Her rifle is also equipped with a very handy grenade launcher. She is the best character by far for getting achievements. You can pop heads with Ghost Bullet and get disintegrations with the grenade launcher. To boot, she is probably the most effective character in combat. I used her almost exclusively. Her dialogue is usually aggressive and sarcastic. Definitely my favorite for combat.
Sgt. Wilhelmina Church:
The stealthy one, she is equipped with a machine pistol and a katana. She uses sanguimancy, a fancy term for blood magic. She basically uses an athame (witch's knife) to cut herself and create powerful sigils that can either light enemies on fire (Fire Ward) or tie them in place (Blood Ward). Using Blood Ward in conjunction with her katana is absolutely lethal, and very satisfying. When Lt. Black is unavailable, she makes for a good backup.
Sgt. Frank Delgado:
He's the bruiser of the group, typically brash and arrogant. He carries a three-barreled gatling gun called Hell's Keeper that is fun as hell to pop heads with, and a massive pistol he dubbed Pain. Interestingly, he is a shaman that earned the cooperation of a Chickasaw fire spirit named Ababinili. To do this, he sacrificed his right forearm, encasing it in a protective sheath from which he unleashes the dragon to light enemies on fire. He is also able to use the dragon to create a shield around himself that renders him invulnerable to fire-based attacks. I personally didn't like using him much, as he is very slow-moving.
Cpl. Simone Cole:
Cole is unique in that she is not a witch, but is termed what is called a "reality hacker". She uses numerology in conjunction with her understanding of chaos theory to run programs of her own creation from inside her computerized armor, allowing her to both slow down time and increase the damage of the squad's bullets. Cole uses a submachine gun and customizable grenades that can be set to Impact, Remote, Proximity, and 3-second detonations. She is more like something you'd find in the Matrix than a proper witch. Though she sounds cool, she was actually my least favorite character to use in combat.
Cpl. Xavier Jones:
The "bookish" one of the group, he is versed in nine known languages and five dead ones, including Latin and Aramaic. He doesn't have much personality, honestly, and is only good for the puzzle-based sections where you must project his soul into another body and telekinetically throw a switch from far away. He uses a G36C assault rifle fitted with a Masterkey shotgun attachment.
Father Paul Rawlings:
My favorite character in this game for sheer awesomeness of personality, he is the exorcist old-guy of the group, equipped with twin pistols that can shoot standard rounds, fragmentation rounds, and explosive rounds. Complete with a simultaneously badass and comical Southern drawl, he is able to remotely heal and drain the health of enemies while uttering such phrases as, "The Lawd commands yewww, riiiiiisssseee!" This guy was pure awesome. Didn't much like him for combat though.
So, yes, the character concepts are pretty cool. However, the problem is that your AI teammates are absolutely RETARDED. Seriously, they will stand and let themselves be blown away by suicide bombing cultists. They are also perfectly content to stand right in the path of a swooping gargoyle, or let themselves be riddled with machinegun fire. The teammate AI in this game is horrendous. They are basically programmed to stand in one place and fire clip after clip into an enemy, nothing more. Interestingly, they only seem to take cover when there are no enemies around. When there are enemies around, they stand right in the line of fire. Weird. Consequently, you will spend a good deal of your time running around like a gothic Florence Nightingale healing your idiot teammates after they get themselves blown away.
In this game, you will progress through five historical epochs, ranging from the present-day all the way back to Sumeria in 3000 BC, kind of like Timesplitters gone goth. The enemies will vary according to the time period somewhat, but they still aren't really varied enough. You will often find yourself fighting the same type of enemy throughout an entire level with no variation whatsoever.
My last gripe about the gameplay is that this game is almost painfully obviously linear. Jericho is basically a "corridor shooter". Think of that scene from Star Wars: A New Hope, the opening scene where the stormtroopers and Darth Vader bust into the Rebel ship (Tantive IV for you Star Wars nerds). Now try to recall how narrow those corridors in that ship were. Yeah, the ENTIRE game is like that. You are basically funneled through the entire thing. Honestly, this game was more linear than my high school geometry class.
The character models look pretty good. The enemies in particular are imaginatively gruesome, courtesy of Clive Barker's twisted mind. The environments, on the other hand, are, though detailed, extremely repetitive, at least throughout an individual time slice. For example, when you fight through World War II's time slice, you will pretty much see the same environments all the way through. It's so bad that you can almost get lost, even though the game is staunchly linear. I often found myself unwittingly backtracking after a heated encounter.
This game loves gore. It is literally everywhere. No matter where you look, there will be at least one impaled body or some form of entrails or blood. I'm not complaining; it does add a pretty disturbing element to the game. If you're weak of stomach or are easily grossed out, you may want to pass this one by.
This game is not scary in the sense that shit will jump out at you. In fact, I wasn't really scared through the majority of this game. What kept me on edge though was the horribly gory scenery that planted that seed of "What if some crazy shit jumps at me?" in my head. So interestingly, the game isn't scary when you're fighting; it's scary when there's nothing going on at all.
After fighting the same enemies for awhile, they begin to lose their psychological edge on you pretty quickly.
The thing about this game that will mess with your mind afterwards is just the unspeakably evil and inhumane things that are referenced and shown to you in the game. They are not terrifying or frightening. Horrifying is more the word I would use, if you know what I mean.
To be fair, different things scare different people, but I did not find myself jumping out of my seat or yelling "OH SHIT!" while playing this game. My reaction was more "My God, that is REALLY fucked up... how do you even come up with that?"
In terms of sheer fright, this game doesn't hold a candle to games like Silent Hill, FEAR, Dead Space, or Condemned. It goes more for the gross-out factor, kind of like the Saw movies. It gets its horror from pulling at your sense of empathy as you see so much fucked up shit going on around you, more than frightening you for your own safety.
So you're probably wondering, "Should I get it?"
Well, you can now pick up this game from Gamestop for about five bucks in the USA. It is well worth that in my opinion; at that price, I highly recommend it. If I had paid $50 for this game back in 2007 when it came out, I'd be mighty pissed at what I got. No replay value whatsoever, no multiplayer, no co-op.
In terms of achievements, this game can be easily completed in two or three nights. The Hard difficulty is actually quite easy if you use Abigail Black and make good use of Ghost Bullet with the grenade launcher.