When it comes to horror, it’s undeniable that there has been a shift towards FPS horror that had for the longest time brushed aside the survival horror genre and become the dominant form of horror. There was only one problem with this: the games aren’t scary in the slightest. After all, there weren’t many gamers who were disturbed by being able to mow down enemies in Dead Space compared to fleeing from Pyramid Head in Silent Hill 2, and apart from being slightly shocked, any element of fear was gone after shooting the same enemy for the hundredth time. An exception to this, however, was Clive Barker’s Jericho, a 2007 FPS horror that was actually pretty scary in many places, featured a disturbing story and memorable characters as well as interesting gameplay.
The game begins in modern day Middle East as Jericho, an elite army unit with powerful magical abilities, travel to Al-Khali where a breach has been created in the Box, a place where God had placed the Firstborn (a powerful being that he created before man but imprisoned due to its power). Responsible for the breech is Arnold Leech, a former member of Jericho responsible for some very disturbing actions in the past in order to build up enough evil energy with a cult so that the Firstborn, who he and his followers worship, shall be released and bring about the end of the world. He succeeds, although is believed to have killed himself, and thus it’s up to Jericho to seal the breech yet again. You start the game as Ross, a psychic healer who is soon slaughtered by Leech in a disturbing sequence as it’s revealed that Leech has transformed into something more: a winged beast with razor sharp claws. It turns out that death is not the end, however, as Ross is able to put his soul into others and ride along with them and co-direct their bodies. You travel through various time periods where the previous teams who have sealed the breech exist from World War 2 to the Roman Era. This allows for quite an interesting and varied game with many disturbing sights as you traverse through time trying to defeat the Firstborn and all his forces. Indeed, all of the levels are very unique and the player really does feel like they’re getting a different experience every time they enter the breech to go back into the past. It’s a unique style of having levels within the game and it’s one that sets it apart from many other games of the genre.
The gameplay mechanics are also very impressive with the ability to go from body to body at will as Ross, giving the player a whole host of powers and different fighting styles to choose from. It’s inevitable that the player will form a preference to certain characters, all of whom are memorable with interesting back stories. Indeed, this writer found himself thoroughly enjoying becoming attached to the various characters that all have distinctive personalities and backgrounds with the noticeable exception of Cole, who seemed somewhat underdeveloped compared to the rest of the cast. Throughout the game there will be different challenges for each of the team to complete and as such you’ll find yourself giving your time to all of the characters at least once, allowing for a nice variety rather than having one character make the others redundant. The world of the game is absolutely terrifying and very dark, starting very bleak and only getting worse from there. The player will find themselves truly believing that they’re traveling through what can only be described as a place worse than hell and by the end of the game will find themselves wanting to play a nice, happy game just to cheer up.
The graphics are very nice and adding to the fear factor is just how detailed the enemies are, with pulsating, deformed shapes coming at you that are seemingly unstoppable. One thing to note is that the game is extremely difficult bordering on insane even on normal difficulty. You’ll often find yourself dying time and time again with no end in sight and many gamers may just throw their hands up in the air and quit entirely. On the plus side, however, you will feel a massive sense of accomplishment as you move onto the next level, having just survived by the skin of your teeth. The game is also very linear, which might frustrate some, but considering that the story is so good, it can be excused for the sake of the narrative. Indeed, like all great storylines, it makes you wonder about the real world, as well as leaving more questions that we want answered in the future, leaving you to make up your own mind up about what it all meant. What can’t be excused is some of the awful dialogue that at times kills any momentum and atmosphere, although this is thankfully kept to a minimum. Considering that the rest of the game is very much understated, it’s a bit odd to have lines like, “I’ll eat your soul” said by a heroic character in a deadly serious manner and you’ll be better off trying to pretend that the lines never happened. Easy enough to do considering just how dark the rest of the world is and you’ll find yourself forgetting such lines very soon as you continue to delve into the dark world of Jericho.
As a whole, Jericho is a game that deserved a lot more love upon its release as it’s a unique game that stands out in the sea of supposed horror titles. Originally intended as the first part of a trilogy, nothing has been heard about the potential sequel for nearly four years and it sadly seems like this was the beginning and end for the Jericho squad. A shame, considering all the potential that was there for an exciting world with colorful characters and a very memorable story that just screams out for continued development and exploration. The game is available on Steam dirt cheap and is worth checking out as a creepy, disturbing horror game with interesting gameplay and a great story.