Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Clive Barker's Jericho

Developer: Mercury Steam
Publisher: Codemasters
Release Date: Oct. 23, 2007
Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: Horror Movie: The Game

0:01 A bloody Codemasters logo followed by a jumpy film of a guy in an asylum for Mercury Steam. "The world as we know it does not exist without struggle." We're under assault from what we would call hell, but it's more ancient than Christianity. It's trying to destroy us. "We don't dare name this evil. To do so would be to admit to its presence in our world." Warrior-magicians have dedicated their lives to our protection. They are called Jericho, so there's the title. "They know all too well what the enemy is capable of." They'll torture us into madness, bury us alive, etc. "If the world exists tomorrow, now you know why. Jericho."All this time I'm looking into a pool of blood that's getting sucked into the air. Goes on a little long, lots of exposition right off. Hopefully that will be it.

Some military group that looks like across between the guys from Shadowrun and Gears of War is going into a tomb. This can't be good.

The Swiss team that did recon is a bloody mess. Some ghostly thing with long red fingers attacks. Lots of gun shots and a bloody knife goes through the girl. Suddenly, the title screen. Wha?

0:07 Browsing the menus reveals the existence of the occult warfare department ... "the most powerful and clandestine special forces unit in the U.S." Lots of backstory I don't really care about.

0:08 ".. and God created the Firstborn in his own image. An entity neither male nor female, dark nor light' a singular being that was both beautiful and terrible to behold." The Firstborn was left unfinished, banished to the Abyss, God created humans next, blah blah blah. This whole thing types out during the loading screen... make it seem shorter at least.

0:09 A soldier walks with a charred child in a desert. A fierce tornado swirls in the distance. "This isn't real." "It's as real as your soul," the freaky child says. "Help me." The soldier wakes up... it's three in the morning. He's called in to the airfield. More exposition explaining "covert occult warfare... just a fancy term for witches with guns. ... We fight their wars for them. " We're going into the desert. "Somewhere down there is the cause of all human conflict." All of it? Really? It's the city of Al-Khali. "Rapture" is trying to get their hands on it, along with some guy named Leach, who used to be on our side. God, just stop talking and let me play!

0:12 The tornado from my dream show up as the helicopter doors open. There's a quick flashback to the dream... y'know, just in case you forgot what happened three minutes ago! Apparently the tornado is not a natural phenomenon. The voice acting is pretty mediocre.

0:13 And I'm finally in control. I walk very slowly. I (character) bark out orders that I (player) don't understand. As we walk someone talks in my ear telling me about how Rapture overtook the defenses and the storm is impenetrable. Just when you think you're done with freaking exposition...

0:16 Weapons seem to work. Primary and secondary, with multiple modes on each. Par for the course. One of my team members takes down a wall somehow, but the rubble doesn't make a sound. Weird...

0:17 Oh lord, more loading. Instead of interesting apocryphal text from before, it's now just a basic description of what's going on in the game, which, so far, is not much.

0:18 "The gateway to paradise is lined with the blood of the innocents" says a wall carving. I blink for a second and suddenly my character is in a pit. I thought it was still a cut scene! To get back up I have to hit the buttons as they appear on screen. All the fun of Simon Says...

0:20 "Stinks so bad I can taste it." Now I can too. Thanks, guy. I'm navigating by flashlight in a dark cave. There's blood everywhere. I guess I should be scared but I'm more just disgusted.

0:21 "Everything is just sort of... 'dead'" You can say that again, teammate. I'm still walking around the ruined city and NOTHING IS HAPPENING.

0:22 Finally some action. We encounter some mummified, knife-armed beasts that are torn right out of Silent Hill. I tell everyone to hold fire, but someone jumps the gun. They attack and suddenly I'm firing too. Their are veins on the edge of my vision and a beating heart sound effect when I get hurt, but soon enough I'm all good. Not bad.

0:23 We're splitting up? NEVER split up! Haven't you ever watched Scooby Doo? "Back here in one hour," I say. Oh I am never seeing them again. I seem to run a lot faster when my gun is out.

0:25 Witty remarks upon killing enemies, so far, from my teammates: "Stay that way." "Go to hell." "It's dead... for now." "BANG! Motherfucker!" "Stay dead!" Oh, this isn't going to get old at all.

0:26 The corpses of the mummy things disintegrate into this floating black cloud after a few seconds. This is the first really creepy thing I've seen.

0:27 The child from my dream is teleporting around, leading us. "I think it wants us to follow." Duh! Like I have a choice on this linear path?

0:29 I've seen this one Silent Hill reject enemy over and over. Some variety would be nice.

0:30 One of my teammates drains some blood from her hand to open a "blood sigil." "This is serious magic!" she says. OK then.

0:31 Line of the moment, from the loading screen: "The lost city of Al-Khali is caught within a box of extremely virulent evil." Not virulent evil! That's the worst kind of evil! *snigger*

0:33 So far, I'd say the game has been about 5 percent action, 5 percent loading, 90 percent explaining the backstory of this world. Not a good ratio.

0:34 We come across a woman named Muriel, who thinks we're "one of them." Rawlings tells stories of their wild time in Prague to make her believe him and they embrace. Apparently if we don't stop this evil, "everyone in the world is lost." Well gee, that sounds... serious. No time to reflect... we have to go help Alpha team.

0:35 Heh, the first genuinely witty line. Me: "I thought you were a priest." Rawlings: "I am a priest." Me: "Then what about Prague?" Rawlings: "I'm also human."

0:38 A new enemy! Just like the old enemy, but now he's on fire. Wait, does that count?

0:40 Finally some more action. And an actual new enemy... an ogre like one from Resident Evil: Nemesis with exploding yellow pustules. They're very slow and not all that threatening. These guys just keep streaming in. My team is extremely adept at taking them out... I feel like I'm basically watching. What's worse, if one of my team dies, anyone else can just revive them during a lull. How's that for tension?

0:42 "This isn't human blood, sir. At least, not all of it is." Um, good?

0:44 Another big firefight. At least four of my teammates died somewhere in there, but now they're all good as new. So far, the much-ballyhooed "squad-based combat" has mostly been a bunch of people firing at the same things. Now that Alpha team is safe, Muriel, who we left behind, radios for help. Of course.

0:47 I can't help but feel this is all kind of pointless. If someone dies, even me, they're just revived post-haste. I suppose if everyone dies it could be bad but that doesn't seem like a huge threat. Every battle is just an endless stream of enemies that appear out of thin air for no apparent reason. Meh.

0:50 Muriel is a dead, bloody mess. Of course. Cole is going to cause a "temporal displacement" to get old data from a computer, so we have to defend her. Kind of cool.

0:51 I take it back, I can die, and do while everyone else is busy, apparently. I have to restart from the last checkpoint. Which is...right before I found Muriel's body. How convenient.

0:54 Apparently the strategy to win this fight is to hang back and let my teammates get slaughtered while firing off a few shots of my own. Cole manages to get the old data. Leach lets off a karma bomb or something to open a dimensional rift here. "Spellcraft like that takes vision... foresight man." If you say so.

0:57 Delgado: "I think I've been fighting for the wrong side." Where did that come from?

0:58 Something I just noticed. I seem to have unlimited ammo and, through my teammates, health. No items, no management, no nothing. Just an occasional reload. Sheesh.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? No.
Why? My tolerance for basic, repetitive first-person combat and mystical gobbledygook is depressingly low.

This review based on a retail copy provided by Codemasters (I think)


Ronald said...

Sounds like the demo actually plays better than the full game. you didn't even get to the "possessing" gameplay part yet, which makes the game a lot better, and is the only difference to your run of the mill fps.

First hour sacrificed to Mr. Barker as "story time"?

Dave Gilbert said...

A friend brought over his 360 and I tried playing this game... and I learned the hard way that I can't play first person shooters. I have the wussiest stomach in the world it seems, and the constantly shifting POV camera made me stupidly ill after an hour of playing. Oh well!