Clive Barker's Jericho Hands-On

We shoot our way through a six-level demo version of this squad-based shooter.

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Currently scheduled for release in September, Clive Barker's Jericho is a squad-based first-person shooter in which you'll be tasked with destroying an ancient evil that's threatening the world in multiple time zones. Time travel and Barker-inspired visuals aside, Jericho's most distinguishing features are the different parapsychological abilities that each of the squad members use in tandem with their more traditional weapons. We've been putting some of those abilities to good use in a six-level Xbox 360 demo of the game recently, and we've come up against some pretty horrible enemies while doing so.

Some of the enemies in Jericho could only have come from Clive Barker.
Some of the enemies in Jericho could only have come from Clive Barker.

At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking that Clive Barker's Jericho is little more than a garden-variety shooter with especially dark visuals, but the various abilities of the squad members promise to really set it apart from the crowd. For example, Lieutenant Abigail Black is a telekinetic sniper who can control bullets midflight and move large items out of the way when they're impeding the squad's progress. In one of the later levels of the demo, she also has the ability to set enemies on fire. On the other hand, Captain Xavier Jones employs astral projection to recon upcoming areas and also has the ability to take control of enemies. Thus, the playable characters in Jericho are an eclectic bunch, and every single one of them has already proved useful in our time with the game. We're told that characters will be able to combine their powers as you progress through the game, but because we only have access to six disjointed levels right now, we're not entirely sure how that's going to work.

Perhaps the most unusual gameplay mechanic in Jericho, besides Corporal Simone Cole's ability to hack into reality and seemingly conjure up ammo for the squad out of thin air or force enemies into slow motion, is every character's ability to heal incapacitated comrades. You only "die" in Jericho if your entire squad (bearing in mind that, at times, you might only be playing with two or three characters) is incapacitated, so as long as you have one character who's able to move around and reach his or her fallen colleagues, there's a chance that you can have everyone back up on their feet in no time. Healing incapacitated characters requires you to do nothing more than stand next to them and push a button which, even with enemies doing their best to stop us, we've only rarely failed to do while playing on the default difficulty setting. We've also noticed CPU-controlled characters healing each other on occasion.

In fact, as gruesome-looking and as intelligent as many of Jericho's enemies are, it's the game's "survival events" that have been giving us the most trouble to date. These brief, scripted sequences play out in much the same way as the cinematic "super action" sequences that were featured in Tomb Raider: Legend. Without warning, you'll be prompted to press a number of buttons in sequence as they appear on the screen, and your failure to do so invariably results in an untimely demise. For example, during one sequence in the Temple of Pain level, we had to perform a lengthy sequence of button pushes to navigate a narrow, crumbling ledge over a spike pit. Missing any one of those button pushes, which incidentally, were a little unforgiving in our demo version the first time we encountered them, sent the squad member in question plummeting to her doom. But then, seconds later, we were resurrected back at the start of the event.

You can switch between the various Jericho Squad members at any time.
You can switch between the various Jericho Squad members at any time.

Survival events aside, Jericho's controls (at least on the Xbox 360) are standard as far as squad-based shooters go. You have primary and secondary attacks (using very different weapons in some cases) mapped to the right and left shoulder buttons, respectively; parapsychological abilities on the bumpers; a reload button; as well as the ability to crouch and zoom in on enemies by depressing the left or right thumbsticks. You can also issue simple orders to the three-man Alpha and Omega squads that make up your group using the D pad. There's a melee attack, of course, and because Jericho is every bit as dark as you'd expect a game from Clive Barker to be, we're pleased to report that every character has a flashlight. Noteworthy control features in Jericho include the ability to take control of any character at any time, and when using certain characters, the ability to customize weapon settings for different situations. For example, when playing as Jones, you'll be able to set your gun for single shots, burst fire, or automatic fire. Furthermore, Jones' grenades can be set to detonate on impact, on a timer, by remote, or with a proximity detector.

Since we've been playing the Xbox 360 version of Jericho, those of you with a penchant for achievement points will be pleased to learn that the game appears to offer a good mix of point-scoring opportunities. For example, many of the 42 achievements will be unlocked simply by playing through the game, but others will require you to kill a number of enemies using specific methods or to complete levels without ever being incapacitated.

Clive Barker's Jericho is headed to the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3, and the PC. We look forward to bringing you more information on the game as soon as it becomes available.

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