This week's Zero Punctuation takes a long, bloody look at Clive Barker's Jericho (by Clive Barker).
Over the last few weeks, most of the games I've reviewed have been either good or at least not bad enough to justify what we in the ghetto used to call "getting my knickers in a twist", and since I've just received my modest tax refund, my tension has been slowly rising from not having enough to be angry or miserable about. So thank you, Clive Barker; thank you for this opportunity to unwind by calling your game a spunk-flavored lollipop.
Clive Barker's Clive Barker's Jericho (by Clive Barker) follows the adventures of - and when I first read the plot synopsis, this is the point where my eyes almost rolled straight out of my skull - an elite military unit specializing in the paranormal and consisting of four tough, manly men and three hot, sassy chicks of various racial backgrounds with only a wheelchair-bound member required to complete the spectrum of political correctness. They're flown in to investigate some kind of disturbance in some ruins in the Middle East, and end up traveling through three different time periods and some kind of evil pocket dimension where some ultimate evil demon thing is trying to do...something or other; the plot's about as twisted and impenetrable as a granite octopus, and only serves to string together the endless identical gunfights and "I have no will to live so here is my weak spot; please shoot it" boss battles.
I'll tell you what this game reminds me of, and that's id Software's original Quake. This would probably have sounded like a compliment about ten years ago, but I'm sure with the benefit of hindsight, we can all agree that Quake wasn't exactly easy on the eye. Which was your favorite Quake level - the brown castle, the greenish-brown temple, or the other brown castle? Jericho shows us exactly how far we've come with the levels being, in order: brown ruins; more brown ruins; brown castle; more brown castle; and revenge of the brown castle. This might sound like a purely aesthetic quibble, but it makes the levels confusing to navigate since if you've seen one ruined brown castle corridor, you've seen them all. On three separate occasions, I found I was backtracking without even realizing, and that's usually the point where the level designer needs to be feeling ashamed of himself.
The combat is also very monotonous and repetitive, so at least you can't fault the game for being inconsistent. Jericho's approach to extending gameplay seems to be to make you fight every single monster encounter a minimum of five times. The moment you kill a given shambling grotesquerie, their identical twin immediately spawns in and takes up the exact same position as his late sibling, and at places this can happen something like ten times. At moments when monsters spawn in by rising up from the ground, it turns the action into a gory, protracted session of Whac-A-Mole. Even a slightly interesting boss battle with a giant masked dog-like creature in the middle of the medieval stage is immediately followed by three more identical creatures fought in exactly the same way.
The game is just littered with bad design choices, like Worthy Farm after the Glastonbury Festival. Just as an example, in the second level I was faced by a number of war-time pillboxes that diced the entire team to festive confetti the moment they came within fifty yards. Eventually, one of those helpful hints that games flash up when they feel sorry for you for being so obviously retarded appeared, and told me that one of the girls would run up behind the pillbox and drop a grenade in it if I pressed a certain button while in a certain position. Excuse me, Jericho for not possessing the kind of clairvoyant space brain necessary to instinctively know something that has never until this point been mentioned, and, indeed, will never be used again.
I could go on listing the stupid design decisions...so I will. The game occasionally breaks up the action with - all together now - God of War-style "Simon Says" button-matching sequences which I'm informed, I should probably be calling Shenmue-style button-matching sequences because they did it first, but frankly, who gives a shit, and considering how much practice the game industry in general has had with these ubiquitous fuckers, it's surprising that there are still games that can cock them up - in this case, making the indicator so small and neutrally-colored that they're very easy to overlook. But even if they were bright pink and six feet wide, it wouldn't remove the fact that the sequences are unnecessary, obnoxious, cliched, and some other mean words.
Maybe some of this could be forgiven if the seven main characters weren't all completely unlikable. There's so much black leather on display it's like someone took the goth clique from a small-town high school, pinned them down in front of a 24-hour Rambo marathon, then smacked them brutally around the head with a baseball bat made out of frozen stupid. What passes for characterization is an endless stream of macho self-congratulatory one-liners, which they gurgle every chance they get until you're longing for the opportunity to force their noses up their urethras and let them drown in their own piss. You, the protagonist, have the ability to bring your companions back to life, and it seems they have started taking this service for granted judging by the way they waddle mindlessly into combat like a pack of bellicose penguins who have become bored with life. It's tempting at this point to let all the cockwits die as punishment for their hubris, but this still leaves the cockwit you're controlling who will yell at you ceaselessly to go and fix up the fallen comrades like you're some kind of TV repairman, and regrettably there's no option to fellate your own gun barrel unless you count the quit button.
So in summary, Jericho can best be described as a hybrid of Gears of War, Hellraiser and Scooby-Doo, with the contents of an abattoir slop bucket thrown over it. This is normally the point where the reviewer would say that it's for hardcore Clive Barker fans only, but to be honest, I can't recommend it to them either. Maybe to someone who was really, really creepily into cranial intrusion, but if that's the case, you'd probably get more fun sticking a pickaxe up your nose.
In loving memory of Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
"Monster Mash" by Bobby Pickett
"Blood" by My Chemical Romance
Fair Use Notice: Also Jericho does get pretty awesome for a few minutes at the part when you have to fight a fat guy with a mangina
FullyRamblomatic.com: Fill the comments section with ignorance and bile
- The car Yahtzee is driving in with a chick is a red MG A.
- According to Fuse, thinking about this game is enough to nauseate Yahtzee.