A strange thing happened to me today. I caught myself actually getting a bit bored by disembowelling a dripping, leather-clad corpse.
Who, honestly, could ever tire of disembowelling dripping, leather-clad corpses? One of my few joys in life had become muted - suddenly rendered uncomfortably numb.
The culprit (as you may have guessed) was Jericho - its novel setting and gameplay sadly overcast by the oft-bemoaned sins of the 'not quite there' first-person shooter.
At its base the game is undeniable fun to play - entering the torrid plains of the Pyxis and navigating its time slices with your team of seven gun-toting spectral specialists is pretty engaging.
Each character is markedly different, and when you turn into a departed spirit with the ability to skip into willing brains (like Patrick Swayze does with Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost), running the gamut of their various abilities is like running free in a Woolworths pick n' mix counter of carnage.
Billie the sexy witch self-harms for example (all of the female cast are seemingly plucked from SuicideGirls.com) and can trap enemies in a tangly blood clot, and later a fiery blood clot; meanwhile, Abigail Black the sexy sniper can steer bullets through enemies and knock her way through rickety things with telekinesis.
Tabulate into this the dual-fire on each character and there's a lot of blood that can be spilt in many and varied different ways. There's bullet-time in there, an overpowered cobra fire-demon... all the fun of the fair.
START THE FANS
This, though, is where the variety fun bus grinds towards a halt. Jericho is built a little like the Crystal Maze - four time zones linked to each other containing a smattering of friendly characters and various moments of frustration in which you can't work out how you're supposed to get out of an enclosed space.
Barker's effort has an intriguing, and slightly more shocking, build-up to its sudden close than everyone being awarded a corporate ballooning weekend - but the simile still stands.
Problem is, whereas a game like Painkiller showed how traversing hellish time zones can provide various artistic avenues for a developer, Jericho's World War II, Roman, Medieval and Sumerian zones are so similar, so linear and so repetitive you just want to scream.
What's more the same creatures crop up throughout the game again and again - and, bosses aside, new villains conjured up by the era create so similar to what has gone before that you barely notice the change. As for the squad commands - they're essentially window dressing. After a while I forgot they were even there.
Barker fans too will be disappointed to hear that the game isn't scary in the least, and despite the fleshy, goo-ey visuals it doesn't contain a considerable amount of material that genuinely shocks.
There are a lot of references to shit, blood, piss and death (and I suppose you are re-massacring medieval children for a little while) but that skin-crawling feeling you get when watching a good horror movie is notable in its absence.
Playing Manhunt genuinely unsettled me, watching the Stroggification process in Quake IV made me wince - Jericho didn't cause me to blink.
To be fair, the game tries very, very hard to be grown-up - one character is a lesbian, while the Catholic priest dabbles in sexual relations every now and then for example.
Unfortunately a lot of this is lost in sweary dialogue that lovingly rolls in cliché in the way that my dad's old sheepdog would with horse shit. Still, it can't be denied that the Jericho gang are an intriguing bunch.