Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 - Xbox 360 version reviewed.
When I previewed Clive Barker's Jericho back in August, my main concern wasn't that the game seemed like another ‘me too' shooter (it didn't) or that the game lacked promise (it had bags of it). No, my biggest worry was whether, in what was already looking like the best year we've had for 3D shooters in a long time, it had a chance of standing out. Could it live up to its potential, or would it fall short of the mark and flat on its face?
Having played the final product, the answer is less straightforward than I expected. In some respects, Jericho exceeds my first impressions. In others, it's a much worse game than I feared. There are real signs here of innovative thinking and artistic and technical skill, but there's also plenty of evidence of sloppy design, poor execution and clichéd or merely generic work. In a way, this actually makes me sadder than I'd be if Jericho was just your average damp squib.
If you read the preview, you'll already know that the game is a squad-based shooter, but with the usual military guff exchanged for a dark, gory horror theme. The seven-strong Jericho squad - a secret military unit made up of warriors with psychic powers - is sent on a mission to close a dimensional rift before a horrific elder entity can be unleashed upon humanity. The rift is enclosed in what the characters describe as ‘the box'; a sort of trans-dimensional prison that protects it. The rift has actually opened several times during the lifetime of humanity, and each time it has dragged a warped version of the local architecture and population into the box. Hence, the Jericho squad's journey falls into four themed acts, covering Barker-fied versions of World War II, the Crusades, Roman and Sumerian settings.
Funnily enough, the game's real USP turns out not to be Barker's story, which - frankly - doesn't seem a million miles away from the X-Files meets Doom meets Cthulu meets Aliens nonsense that we've already seen a million times before. Nor is it the characters, who similarly conform to well established sci-fi and horror stereotypes. Instead, the USP turns out to be what the characters can do. As mentioned in the preview, each member of Jericho squad has his or her own specific weapons and powers. Delgado, for example, is a hulking guy in the Gears of War mode, armed with a hulking chaingun and able to unleash a fire spirit who can seek out and destroy enemies within visual range. Black is a sniper, but she also comes blessed with telekinetic powers with which she can shift barriers and steer bullets in slow motion to their target. Cole can slow down time, while Church can perform blood rites which anchor enemies to the spot or cause them to burst into flame. You'll get to grips with all of them, as your initial playable character is finished off early on, but - ingeniously - survives by possessing his squad-mates. You can switch to another member of Jericho just by targeting that character and pressing X, or by pressing X then selecting using the D-Pad.