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Clive Barker's Jericho

The squad controls are kept deliberately simple: you can select members by holding the A button and pressing the D-pad, and the available members are divided into two squads. And being a supernatural game, you don't have to constantly reload should one member die. As in Gears of War, squad members collapse at the point of death and can be revived at the press of a button. You don't need to hop back to the last checkpoint unless your whole team is wiped out.

The preview code concentrates on the Crusade and Roman periods. Each time period has its own distinctive look and architecture, and its own ugly brood of monsters, but they're all bought to life by the developer's own Mercury Engine, which provides an excellent range of wet surface effects, gloomy lighting and the sort of gritty detail we saw in Gears of War. At times the visuals are - literally - too dark, but this is expected to change before the final release. Still, even now you can see Barker's influence in the strong character and creature design: think Capcom's work in Devil May Cry and Resident Evil with an added splosh of Hellraiser's gruesome body horror and you're getting pretty close.

Frankly, Jericho even makes The Darkness look tame. Blood has been splashed liberally around on every surface, corpses dissolve in a cloud of flies, bloody orifices open up on creature's backs, and one boss appears to be a hideously obese pervert who can tear open his stomach to hurl a stream of blood and bile right in your face. Even the menus are overlaid onto the sort of hideous pulsing organ you usually see flashing up briefly in a paricularly gruelling episode of Casualty. It's just that sort of game.

What it doesn't appear to be is a game of brooding atmosphere, cerebral strategy or sudden shocks. Instead, the pace is fast, and the action fairly relentless. Mixing squad abilities adds an interesting touch, and some of the enemies are a real handful. The Crusade levels feature some fast-moving, twisted knights, while the Roman levels go big on warped legionnaires with heavy, half-organic shields. One of the highpoints of the preview code is a gigantic gladiator armed with a huge metal ball. Like Capcom's finest baddies, he seems utterly vast and unstoppable until you spot his hidden weak spot. At this point, shifting from squad-mate to squad-mate becomes not a cool feature, but an absolute necessity for survival.

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