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Old 09-10-2007, 09:22 PM
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Default Jericho Hands-on

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Before we sat down for some hands-on time with Clive Barker's Jericho, we mentally prepared ourselves for the worst. That wasn't because we were expecting the game to play badly though. Rather, if Undying, the last game to feature the horrormeister's moniker, was anything to go by, this wasn't exactly going to be a bunny-filled, blue-titted walk in the park. However, that didn't make our confrontation with the obese, hook-hanging Roman emperor with a penchant for ripping open his rolls of flab and spewing corrosive black blood into our faces any easier.

For those who haven't been keeping up, you play as the Jericho squad, a team of seven super soldiers sent into a bizarre time paradox where evil beings have been trapped for countless centuries - and, frankly, aren't too happy with the whole arrangement. You're tasked with finding out what's going on, destroying anything that moves and averting the impending apocalypse. Just another simple day at the office, then.



At least this decaying Nazi's got something to smile about.


Of course, one of Jericho's more novel twists is that your character is, to all intents and purposes, dead. That means you can posses the bodies of your squad mates and control their actions. In gameplay terms, you're not just restricted to playing as one type of character throughout the entire duration - instead, you can try your hand at being a sniper by switching to squad member Abigail Black or, perhaps, perform some run-and-gunning playing as Delgado, who's armed with a mean mini-gun.

Despite initial worries that having six squaddies at your disposal - all with their own unique abilities - might be even too much for our well-honed game-brains to cope with, that turns out not be the case at all. That's mainly thanks to the character selection mechanic which enables you to select a squad member either by looking directly at them and pressing A or by bringing up the easy-access selection menu. This works surprisingly well and you'll soon be flitting from person to person like a spectral slut.


Sure, he looks sweet now. But wait until he spews blood at you.


Of course, the point of all this body-swapping is to make the most of each character's abilities in any given situation. For instance, one scrap saw us going up against a towering, decaying gladiator dressed head to foot in aging armour. As tends to be the case though, Mr. Gladiator has a weakness: a huge gaping back wound. Here, we chose to distract him by laying down some heavy fire as Delgado then, as the gladiator charge toward us, we skipped to Cole. Her unique supernatural ability enables her to slow down time - perfect when you're trying to thump a few bullets into the weeping sore of a grizzled military relic. Once her time-slowing powers depleted, we leapt back out to give Cole a moment to recharge before repeating the process all over again. It's something of a blast back to the past, with boss encounters emphasising the need to hold back, identifying their weaknesses and attack patterns, then deciding how best to exploit them. Epic might be an appropriate word to use here - and that's how we like 'em.

Meanwhile, the squad element of Jericho is shaping up to be equally impressive. Unlike some squad-based titles, which practically make you hold hands with your AI-deficient team mates, in Jericho the gang really does feel like a hardened team of trained pros. Scouting through levels, they run ahead and adopt an attack stance in sensible situations, just in case there's an ambush waiting around the next corner. Furthermore, when you're in the heat of the horror, you don't have to worry about them handling themselves. In fact, it's entirely possible to sit on the sidelines and watch them take over the action for a few moments - Delgado unleashing his fire demon, Church using blood magic and Rawlings healing any colleagues in need. Exciting stuff.



There are some truly hideous creations in Jericho.


What's more, alongside decent AI for the Jerichos, developer Mercury Steam has also used some black magic to pull off realistic enemy AI. You see, a big aspect of the terror here is forcing you to get up close and personal with the hideous inhabitants of Al-Khali - just to see how horrible they look. Enemies don't just slowly lurch about waiting to be picked off - instead, once you're spotted, they charge in, weaving out of your line of sight, ensuring your skills get a good airing. It's an incredibly unnerving experience when a bloody, spiky-limbed creature from the pits of Hell itself runs toward you at full pelt while you fumble with your gun.

Even better, those boss encounters are surprisingly imaginative for an FPS. Rather than simply blasting at them with your gun, some encounters have puzzle elements too. For instance, one battle saw us playing as only Black (the sniper) and Jones (who can spectrally project himself). The first portion of the fight involved shooting at a floating Egyptian...thing...as another creature emerged from the fiery pit below, running straight at us, engulfed in flame. Once obliterated, we needed to use Jones' astral projection to beam ourselves into the writhing body of an enemy trapped inside a suspended cage, in order to press a nearby switch. This opened a spinning sarcophagus - which, obviously, spat blood everywhere - and inside was another giant enemy to annihilate. Mercury Steam is certainly bringing some interesting ideas to the table - and then spilling plenty of blood on it.


Unlike some squad-shooters, the action comes thick and fast here.


With BioShock still fresh in our Plasmid-addled brains and Halo 3 just on the horizon, we were expecting to find it tough to get excited about yet another FPS. However, Jericho has some exceedingly compelling hooks and plenty of supernatural action. What's more, character-switching works well, giving players the opportunity to play the game in a myriad ways. Although we've still got a few doubts - mainly involving the linearity of progress and some rather 'samey' corridor-like locations - Jericho is shaping up to be a definite treat when it lurches onto PS3, Xbox 360 and PC this Halloween.
http://xbox360.ign.com/articles/818/818943p2.html
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