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Jericho: X3F hands-on

As you know, a demo for Clive Barker's Jericho hit Xbox Live Marketplace this morning. Unlike our compatriots at Joystiq, we did not have a chance to test the game at E3, so this was a fresh experience for us. It's clear that the folks at Codemasters really want players to like Jericho, as the demo comes loaded with a very lengthy video explaining the premise and gameplay features of the title. You learn about the character switching dynamic as well as the abilities of the seven squad members. Unfortunately, you only get to utilize three of these squad members during the demo, but we still got a decent idea of how the full game should play.

In the demo, you are given command over the sniper, heavy weapons expert, and a close combat specialist. The combat specialist utilizes a katana and a severely underpowered machine pistol, and she possesses the power of bloodscribing. Basically, she activates powers by carving symbols into her flesh. Most of the time, this power acts as a net, tangling enemies and locking them in place. The heavy weapons expert carries a gatling gun, a pistol, and possesses the ability to summon fire to do his bidding. The sniper, as you might expect, packs a sniper rifle that has a somewhat unusual addition: a grenade launcher. The sniper also possesses the power of telekinesis, allowing her to push enemies away and -- much more intriguingly -- guide sniper bullets with her mind. Using this power, she can kill several enemies with one bullet by changing its trajectory after each kill.

The action takes place in an ancient Middle Eastern city that supposedly sits atop the resting place of God's aborted attempt at creating the first human being. As you can imagine, it's not exactly a friendly place. It's all very dark, at times so dark it's literally impossible to see. Such times require players to use their flashlight, which does just enough to light the way. We're sure the weak flashlight was designed to increase the tension, and it works pretty well as enemies can get the drop on you if you're not careful.

Speaking of enemies, they are quite the grisly bunch. The ancient city seems to be populated mostly by the undead Crusaders we've seen in earlier trailers for the game. The types of Crusaders varies. Some of them are simply charging targets, while others change things up with shields that block incoming fire. Remember the weak machine pistol we mentioned? Don't even think about it on these guys. We've emptied a whole clip on unshielded enemies with no effect, so stick to the katana if you want to bring them down. Of course, the gatling gun and sniper work just fine as well.

Honestly, the demo is short enough that we never really felt the need to switch characters, except for two scripted instances that required their abilities. The sniper has to use telekinesis to clear a blocked tunnel and the katana wielding member is needed to climb a wall. Also, we're not sure if difficulty was turned down for the demo, but it seems difficult to die. In fact, the demo informs players that the bloodscribe power drains health points. At one point we just sat there casting spells to see if we could weaken ourselves to the point of death, but no dice. Even with several spells active simultaneously, it hardly seemed to effect health at all.

Still, as we said, the demo is short and what's there to play is enjoyable. We actually enjoyed one scripted sequence that prompted us to input the correct buttons or face death. We failed several times, resulting in a long fall onto hard stone, where we actually watched the blood pool around the character's body from a first person point of view. Mr. Thompson, we think we found your next target. At any rate, the demo is certainly entertaining, and we're looking forward to the opportunity to try out the full game and the remaining squad members.

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