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Clive Barker's Jericho

Will Porter patiently lets a corpse spew blood in his face before saying how much he enjoyed it

I've been getting a bit worried about Jericho. As with any shooter being co-developed for console and PC, as more and more movies were released of it being a fast-paced, frenetic blaster, my interest just began to wane a little.

The concept of seven (eight if you include your floating telepathic ghostly self) paranormal soldiers with insanely destructive abilities trapped in slices of violent history made me giggle, but concerns of potential disdain for mouse and keyboard backed up this laughter with a slight signs of duress in the corners of my eyes. I'm still a little scarred by Shadowrun, you see.

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But heaven be praised, Mercury Steam seem to know what they're doing and the game feels like it's in the right place. The sluggish mouse control inherent in so many console crossovers is conspicuously absent, while the way in which you have to be directly looking at another squad member in order to nattily transfer your soul (and direct control) before tapping the spacebar is a welcome relief from manually skipping or banging on number keys.

It feels sharp, responsive and its manifold weapons are gloriously free of that horrid impact-less 'float', prevalent in so many shooters created in a developer's own brand of engine. All good: but just how horrified are we going to get?

PASS THE BUCKET?
A colleague enquires: "Is that fat bloke hanging on those chains pissing blood all over you?" Thankfully not a question I've been asked before, but also sadly one I have to respond to in the negative.

In fact, the fat bloke in question - a Roman governor known as Vicus, trapped forever in the Pyxsis void around Al-Khali - was holding apart two bloody chunk-curtains of his belly and letting toxic blood gush from his blackened navel and into the face of a pretty psychic sniper whose mind I was occupying at the time. There's a subtle difference.

And yes, Jericho is horrid and its enemies suitably shiny with moist slime and blood - even if moments of more traditional horror are seen in the Tomb Raider: Legend-esque interactive cut-scenes so much in vogue these days.

It isn't the Barker-isms that make the game stand-out though, strange as it is to have action regaled by screams akin to "babies being dipped in hot oil" (his words, not mine).

Each squad member has an entirely different feel, with unique skills that are genuinely fun to use. Borderline-autistic genius Simone Cole, for example, can spot enemy weak spots, freeze time or magic-up extra ammo with a wrist-mounted computer.

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Tank character Xavier Jones has a fire demon that looks suspiciously like a flaming cobra skeleton to accompany his mini-gunning that whistles around the level, setting fire to those it meets.

Billie Church cuts herself to create a hovering pile of blood tentacles to hold enemies in place so her friends can shoot them in the face.

Best of all, with Abigail Black you can control bullets with a Max Payne-style onboard camera - so three dripping, moaning figures in front of you can have a single sniper bullet steered into their respective heads, letting you admire three decapitated corpses collapsing in the distance as soon as you revert to first-person.

ALL FALL DOWN
Are there issues? Sure - boss battles seem a tad simplistic, the difficulty curve still needs tweaking and levels are potentially a tad samey despite being fine examples of period corridoriana.

Jericho doesn't veer wildly from the traditional linear shooter blueprint, but certainly has an impressive sheen provided by script, character, voice-acting and excellent music, alongside its lakes of blood, guts and shit. It's packed with incidental visual niceties too - from a shadowy child beckoning you into the hellhole its soul has been trapped in, to the way corpses fidget after you've filled them with bullets, before being thrown into the air and overrun by a swarm of flies.

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