Toby's guilty pleasure is this atrociously designed FPS.
By Toby McCasker on May 15, 2013 at 4:10 pm
Have you ever taken a particular interest in a game that is, at base, really not that good and in fact pretty awful? I know some of you have, you Alpha Protocol-loving goons (AMBLE TOWARDS MY PERSON, BROTHERS). The reasons for this are strange but powerful, like whatever passes for Tyrion’s sex appeal. Something beyond the dodgy mechanics and screaming imperfection calls to your gamer’s soul, or maybe even beyond that too. There is a unique setting at play, or characters that speak louder than what follows before and after them, or a particular sheen of fantasy rarely – if ever – explored by the “brown” and “military” status quo.
All three of those things apply to one of my most enduring and troubled romances in vidya. You see, I love Clive Barker’s Jericho.
It is a titanic cleft of anus where many crumbs gather, and I love it. It treats me like the ass it is, and still I love it. I would do anything for it, even buy it for $12. This Jericho thing is overwrought to the point of already broken. If you’ve never played it, well, it’s a squad-based FPS and it has no idea what it’s doing. Your squaddies — of which there are six at the start of things, six! — are all dumb as hell and their favourite thing is getting killed by all the unusually tough black slime otakus around every bend and fork.
Your favourite thing, by extension, is to forget about trying to save their dumb lives with orders so limited – and spread across two sub-teams, no less – they could never manage this much bad AI in the first place. Basically, it’s Clive Barker’s Mystical Medic Simulator. Eventually you’re the only one left standing, ala a very early and ridiculously difficult scenario involving possessed pillboxes and, again, no idea. Then you have to do something. Die, most like.
I’m not really sure how much Clive Barker himself had to do with its construction, but it’s a severely meta apparition of my enjoyment of his authorial work too. Man, this guy is overwrought, just like this game. At times his writing is so flowery and flawed it really is almost unbearable. But I’ve read Cabal (or Nightbreed in movie form) about ten times. Why? Wasn’t sure, just loved it, but have an idea: What a great place it has created. Jericho creates a great place, explored by great characters of which you are an intrinsic part: a motley crew of supernatural X-Men who live clandestine and lethal lives, each with their own hang-ups and attitudes.
Sometimes I just wanna stand there looking at ‘em, poking at ‘em until they say something like, “Stop poking at me or I’ll fillet your pancreas.” Heaven. Church is my kinda lady.
Sticking with a game that’s bad is different to sticking with a movie or book. It has to really be doing something right not just to keep you there, but keep you wanting to be there. A bad game is actively annoying to the point of real frustration; you can’t sail through the pillbox bit like you would a cheesewheel moment of dialogue. In fact it took me hours and I’m still not sure how I beat it. Luck, maybe. That is atrocious game design – but weirdly, would it be maybe less tantalising if it wasn’t awful? I’m still hanging out in this abusive relationship. Guilty pleasures feel good.