Clive Barker's Jericho Preview
Some games just kinda sneak up on you, especially when a title isn't an easily recognizable name, like Grand Theft Auto or Devil May Cry. But we weren't about to let Clive Barker's Jericho slip by us before its release in September on the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. This one is a squad-based FPS, complete with the intense, atmospheric environment one should expect from the likes of Barker. Anyone capable of dreaming up the "Hellraiser" movies should be able to conjure up one hell of a freaky video game, so perhaps Resident Evil has a first-person competitor. But this one is definitely unique; you'll even time travel in Jericho, and that's not all: psychological abilities, squad strategy, multiple futuristic weapons, and more awaits the gamer brave enough to sample this dark and brutal world.
That brief description tell you a lot right off the bat; the game won't be your typical, run-of-the-mill FPS. In fact, many of the abilities on display in Jericho resemble something very similar to superhero skills, which should completely alter how we approach the gameplay. For example, one character can set enemies on fire (like a human flamethrower!), while another can actually control other enemies. The latter is Captain Xavier Jones - anybody thinking of Professor X from "X-Men"? - and we're wondering just how powerful this possessor will be...can he actually control an enemy's actions, or is he only able to "hold" them for a short while? Well, even if this controlling skill is limited, he gets help from another character's special telekinesis ability. Abigail Black can literally change a bullet's path in mid-air, and like Xavier's capability, this one has almost limitless options. Think about it for a second- what if you could slow down time and change the path of bullets fired in your direction? Imagine the possibilities...
But if you think it ends there, think again. One final ability, which has certainly gotten our attention above all others, is Simone Cole's magical-like "summoning" ability. Now, even Black's skill has its roots in other games - the bullet time from Max Payne - but Cole's ability appears completely fresh. She can literally make certain items appear out of thin air (that includes ammunition and perhaps other health pick-ups), and she can also cause an entire group of enemies to move in slow motion. This sounds multi-faceted to us, almost to the point where it's unfair to have such power. It seems even more like overkill when we learned that certain characters could combine their skills into one massive combination maneuver, which, given all the abilities outlined here, is just insane. However, we're not likely to say this is a bad thing, because having all kinds of amazing power makes games more fun, yes?
Oh, but wait, we're not done with the player advantages. In most games, even if they're squad-based, if the leader dies, it's Game Over. Not so in Jericho. While each member of your team has a unique - and borderline supernatural ability - all of them can heal one another. You may be familiar with healing teammates in games like Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter and this sounds similar to those processes; stand next to a fallen comrade, and heal up. But while this makes the game sound even easier, we'd like to include one last point of interest- the computer can do the same thing. That's right, your foes will attempt to revive incapacitated partners in crime, so you had best move fast in order to eliminate the threat entirely. We can't be sure if all enemies will have this decidedly human skill (in looking at some of the screenshots, many of your foes certainly aren't human), but we hope it'll add an interesting dimension to the gameplay.
Much of this sounds very new and original, but a solid foundation of standard FPS controls envelop these ambitious features in a nice, warm blanket. You'll have your typical assortment of primary and secondary attacks - although the secondary attacks may have you utilizing different equipment - and you'll be able to tap into your psychological powers with the press of a button. As for the team, a fairly basic set of commands will sit at your disposal for the three-man (or woman) parties. We've also heard you can switch between any teammate at any time; taking care of the dirty work by yourself and dipping into your vast repertoire of trinkets, gadgets, and other goodies. Many of your weapons can be customized, and you can work that into your attack plan in any given scenario. Above all, you'll probably want to keep your team relatively close together, so as to take advantage of that nifty healing ability. After all, even if you fall at the hands of the enemy, your friends will come to your aid...provided they can reach you before succumbing themselves.
Finally, there is one feature of the game that falls into the category of, "hm, that sounds vaguely familiar." It seems as if every developer on the planet is adopting the idea of context sensitive attacks, which first appeared at the tail end of the last generation with God of War and Resident Evil 4. Jericho will boast a system just like this, but they're calling it "survival events." Basically, when you're faced with a particularly harrowing situation, a series of button prompts will pop up on the screen, and you have to nail those buttons quickly and accurately. If you don't, it's likely the end of the line for you and your squad. And given how many powers you have combined with the healing capabilities, it's probably a good bet to say these "survival events" could be the player's Achilles heel. Of course, it all depends on how quickly the button prompts appear, and how many of them you have to do, but we're hoping for a decent challenge.
Clive Barker's Jericho is slated to release this September, and that might be good timing. Most of the giant games like Grand Theft Auto IV and Halo 3 don't hit until October, so this one might prove to be a great option for gamers before the heavy hitters arrive. In the meantime, we must say we appreciate any new twists that accompany such a straightforward FPS premise, and we have some very high hopes for Jericho.
7/23/2007 Ben Dutka