I am a relativist in my critical methodology. I replace the idea of any inherent empirical value in a game with the idea that games can only be judged relative to their direct peers, which is why I can still think of games that were released two decades ago as being among the all-time greats. I mention great games at the start of this review for two reasons, 1) I like irony and 2) I like to remember that most games are not as bad as Clive Barker's Jericho. No matter how you cut it Jericho just doesn't measure up. When compared against Clive Barker's Undying, a moody and often frightening shooter, Jericho is consistently inferior, and when compared with games currently swarming gaming retailers, Jericho breaches some heretofore unknown barrier of inadequacy. Despite playing the game for "free" on Gametap for, I admit, a paltry sum of four or five irretrievable hours, I find myself daydreaming of bringing litigation against Codemasters in small-claims court for pain and suffering and negligence.
I admit, it's fun to write mean reviews about bad games, and if I were you, I'd brace for some hyperbole in the coming paragraphs, because frankly I just need to let some hate go. Not since Vanguard: Saga of Heroes have I so regretted an installation, which is partly a function of Jericho itself and equally a function of how many better games I could've spent those five hours playing.
Jericho's engine is often impressive and appealing, while its art direction and level design are the exact opposite. Jericho is less like being frightened and vulnerable as it is having your least favorite person walk into your office and dump a bucket of pig's blood over your head. Presumably someone at Codemasters, or judging by some of his previous efforts maybe even Clive Barker himself, decided that blood is scary, and metric tons of blood is therefore really really scary. Even the main menu, which offers a dirty knife as a cursor and a background of rotting flesh with flies coming out of it, sets a tone for the game not unlike the feeling one might have after hunting for a rotting bag of diseased biomass in a septic tank. The fact that the visual engine is so impressive is, in this rare case, unfortunate. It is, one could say, gore-geous.
What precisely makes Jericho such a disappointment? Let me count the ways. Begin with terrible level design composed of little more than a series of bleak corridors painted from the scatological end of the brown pallet through which you proceed, encounter waves of respawning bullet-sponges, and then are rewarded with a saved game and an inexplicable supply of ammo and health. Wash, rinse, repeat. The game doesn't become predictable, it starts as predictable and degrades into relentless redundancy. You may also give your AI controlled squad very basic orders such as, hold in a tight formation so that you may all be blown to bits as one or move forward in a tight formation so that you may all be blown to bits as one. Fortunately friendly fire is an option, so you can save everyone some trouble and just shoot your entire squad right before the monster closets open hastening the sweet release of death.
And, let us not be quick to forget the inclusion of ever fun-dwindling quicktime events. These nuggets of entertainment awkwardness have become a staple of creatively bankrupt gameplay devices, and Jericho is obviously prime real estate for such a loathsome concept. Awkwardly implemented, the idea of quicktime events on a PC game seem as out of place as trying to manage a spreadsheet file on a PS2, though I suppose it might be difficult to otherwise implement genius moments such as dodging vomit from an undead zombie nazi dominatrix. Oh, how I wish I were joking.
Perhaps I might have been more forgiving had I played on a console instead of my PC, because this game is built from the ground up as a title to be played with controller in hand and vomit bag by your side. Auto-saving at checkpoints, botched mouse and keyboard controls, tedious menus, confined and painfully small levels, there's nothing about Jericho that fits the PC FPS model. Even the primary weapon fire is inexplicably mapped by default to the right mouse button, while grenades or sniper shots are mapped to the left. Sure, you can change it, but it serves as some kind of weird metaphor for the game's odd ability to botch even the fundamentals of modern gameplay.
I suppose I should say something about the admittedly interesting gameplay concept of switching from character to character, each with different powers of varying usefulness from "˜always play this character' to "˜why does this guy even have a job'? In a better game, such a feature might have been desirable or at least described as a saving grace, but in Jericho an otherwise viable gameplay conceit is already eclipsed and hamstrung by the rest of the game. While each character that you can jump to and from tends to be well matched against certain enemies or environments, you'll find, should you be forced at gunpoint to play Jericho, that one or two adequately handle most situations and probably invest the majority of your time in them. Overall it's an interesting concept I look forward to seeing in a better game.
As a whole, if you like Clive Barker's overtly Gothic sensibilities wrapped in a layer of grime covered flesh, then piles of disemboweled bodies in dimly lit corridors might seem like a good décor through which to slog, but the game is so overloaded with constant disappointment I can't even will myself to half-heartedly recommend Jericho for Barker fans or the mentally disturbed. It's a trainwreck of a game, and you'd probably have more fun on a field trip to a slaughterhouse.