April 20, 2007 - If you think the ASBO-ridden streets of Manchester are a nasty place to get caught after a Friday night out, spare a thought for the poor folk who live in the Middle Eastern city of Al-Khali. Turns out this once-peaceful town was built on top of the ancient ruins of a dozen conquerors and one Wednesday afternoon - or maybe it was early evening - all hell broke lose and a portal to the underworld opened up, allowing a tidal wave of unspeakable evil to come flooding through that, unless stopped, will spell the end of the world.
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If ordinary weapons don't have any effect, try magic.
All is not lost, however. Like the proverbial thug-nicking bobby on the beat, Al-Khali has its own police presence, but the guys who are patrolling the streets in this game are a hell of a lot meaner than the rozzers who roam the local estates. In fact, the Jericho team are a bunch of misfit psychopaths who probably shouldn't be trusted with high-velocity machineguns, but they're the only suckers stupid enough to enter the city limits of Al-Khali to find out what exactly's going on.
So begins Jericho, a squad-based, horror-themed first-person shooter penned by British gore god, Clive Barker. After all contact with Al-Khali was lost, a seven-man strike team - the Jerichos - were sent into investigate. It's an adventure that travels through time and space, with team Jericho fighting through the modern-day city, as well as incarnations set during World War II, the Crusades, during Roman times and back to the fourth millennium BC, when the trouble all started.
Starting in the modern day, scouring the labyrinthine streets, the Jerichos are surrounded by demolished buildings which rise up on each side while flaming debris lies scattered across the ground. More worrying however, is the army of ghoulish freaks roaming the shadows. These skeletal warriors have travelled up from the depths of Hades and, within seconds, it all kicks off.
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"GET OUT OF THE WAY!" Sometimes the AI isn't that hot.
To say the action in Jericho is intense is something of an understatement. In one of the levels we played through, set in dark underground caverns around the time of the Crusades, our team of hardnuts was ambushed from every side by undead cultists, some getting in close and hacking with rusty swords while others hung back, throwing bloody great spikes on chains. In a blur of spilled blood and bullets, the battle continues, with players controlling one of the Jerichos while the other team members fight autonomously. However, players can switch between soldiers at any time at the press of a button. This enables you to be in the thick of the action at all times, as well as make the most of each character's individual skills.
If Gears of War went down the obvious space marine route with its character design, Jericho's team of misfits is a much more varied hotchpotch of brains and brawn. Take Sergeant Frank Delgado, a bald-headed man-mountain who carries a minigun. On the surface he wouldn't appear out of place in Epic's Xbox 360 classic, but there's more to him than muscle and machineguns. His right arm, for example, is possessed by the flame spirit Ababanili, meaning he can send fireballs shooting toward enemies, engulfing them in flames.