July 12, 2007 - Last month, we walked into the twisted world of Clive Barker's Jericho and came out alive to share a preview of the upcoming action title from Codemasters and MercurySteam. At the Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica during today's E3 presentation, we once again braved the horror master's vision of evil with our Jericho squad and an almost finished build of the game, delving deeper into the lost city that houses an entity hellbent on destroying humanity. Unlike the first time that we saw the game on the streets of Al-Khali, we found ourselves temporally transported to the Crusades and separated from half of our squad. However, it gave us a chance to become re-acquainted with some of the abilities of our troops on the Omega Squad. Each character has a primary and secondary gun which can be used at any time, as well as a primary and secondary special ability.
For instance, the first character in our control was Church, our ninja-like blood mage who packed a sub-machine gun and a samurai sword as a secondary stealth attack. Church's special abilities were pretty interesting, because she'd have to carve a sigil into her hand to throw down a blood ward on the ground. The ward would immediately seek out and freeze any monsters in their place, allowing anyone on the team to eliminate the beast quickly. The next warrior was Delgado, the heavy weapons specialist, who packed a pistol and a powerful chaingun that was slow to spin up to speed, but chewed through enemies. Delgado's special ability was pretty unique: his right arm had been possessed by the spirit of a fire demon in the form of an ethereal snake, and he could channel its fire into destructive homing blasts of flame. The final member was Black, a telekinetic sniper whose gun could fire either bullets or grenades. Thanks to her telekinesis, Black could actually control the path of a bullet, directing it through more than one enemy at a time around corners.
Initially, that might seem like the team has an unfavorable advantage, especially due to the number of abilities and ranged skills given to your Jericho team. The MercurySteam developers actually addressed this by creating a horde of creatures in different time periods that excel at quickly closing distance and bringing the fight up close to you. During our demo, we witnessed incorporeal ghost children that would float through floors and walls before turning solid and striking us from behind, as well as beasts that descended from the walls and ceilings out of nowhere in large quantities. What's more, many of them carried shields or weapons that would deflect bullets, forcing you to come up with new ways of defeating these beasts using your special abilities only if you're going to survive.
Speaking of surviving, the development team has placed a lot more interactive button press elements at key story sections. For instance, there was one section where Church went off solo to explore a section of the castle, and had to quickly descend down a pipe to avoid a creature that flung itself on top of her. Mistiming our button presses quickly resulted in Church getting disembowled and beheaded, while successfully tapping buttons in stride kicked the beast off her, setting it up for a death strike of our own. Fortunately, we were pleased to find that these sequences have an intelligent checkpoint system, so if you happen to fail them, you're not forced to replay a large section; in most cases, it starts you a few seconds prior to your mistake and gives you another chance to succeed.
That's useful, because that helps keep the action flowing for the game from minor enemies up to the bosses in the game. While you'd expect that some of these monsters would have a standard Barker flair, the surprising element surrounding the two we saw is that they were based off two people who existed in history. The boss of the Roman baths was named Vicus, who was an actual Roman governor who was exiled by Caligula for being too extreme (which seems a bit like the pot calling the kettle black). Suspended from large meat hooks and spraying some viscous fluid from his entrails, the governor was attempting to eliminate the Jericho squad in a coliseum environment, complete with gladiators and other warriors. The boss of the Crusades, by contrast, was Bishop Maltheus, who lead an army of children against the Saracens, believing their purity would protect them. Of course, all of them were slaughtered by the Arabic army, which made the spirits of the aforementioned ghost children particularly hostile against any adult (especially the roaming spirit of the Bishop trapped in the castle's chapel!).
Although the build that we played seemed scary enough, there's still a lot of sound effects and details that the team wants to put in to make Jericho an even more frightening experience for players. This includes recording some new sound effects and voices for monsters and creatures, and implementing the Cris Velasco soundtrack for the game (of God of War fame). However, much of the other details, such as the impressive use of shadow and flashlight beams with a proprietary lighting system that MercurySteam created are fully working. Fortunately, we won't have to wait long to get our hands on Jericho, since it'll be coming out sometime in late September. We'll have more on the game soon.