Joe Falke exposes Jericho
We sit down to interview Joe Falke, game designer on Jericho, the new action-horror FPS envisioned by novelist Clive Barker and due out on the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 later this year.
Jericho is a squad based FPS using the considerable talents of Clive Barker to put the scare in. What features and elements will we see in Jericho and nowhere else?
For starters the player takes on the role of a doomed man instead of your typical Rambo style character. It's tough being a member of the Jericho squad! Each character has two rapid switch or dual wield conventional weapons allowing the player to dive into the action and be prepared for anything. On the supernatural side the player will be steering sniper rounds through an environment, unleashing an immolating flesh eating spirit, and splattering their blood around the environment casting immobilising Blood Wards. There are a variety of player style specialisations in each different character, heavy weapons, ninja, sniper, assault/tech and so on. To top it off we've created a fully autonomous squad AI that controls each character, when you're not, and utilises their full suite of abilities.
The titular Jericho squad is a unit of scary individuals all equally at home with arcane combat as good old fashioned bullets. Will the player have a choice between mojo and gunpowder, or will the action move between the two?
In the first 20% percent of the game there is primarily gunplay. We then phase in character switching and supernatural powers, opening each character throughout the story creating a compelling difficulty and novelty curve. Approximately halfway through the game the player will have full access to all characters and all the major powers in the game. Then we'll start throwing the curve balls at you!
Players will be able to change which character they control on the fly, how differently will each one handle?
Each character is distinctly different. Movement speeds, health levels and regeneration, completely different conventional weapons and supernatural powers. Also the player will hear VO reactions to events based upon which character they are currently possessing.
One of the characters, a Devon Ross, is in fact dead and can't use any weapons. What use is Casper in a fire fight?
You play as Devon Ross. He's useful in that he can possess the other characters and use their weapons. Casper the Friendly Ghost can't tear your house down with a minigun, but Devon Ross can. Playing as a dead character is the dynamic by which we can justify giving the player control of all the characters in the squad. The character switching isn't some kitschy, throwback games thing. It's all part of the narrative. That's what you get with Clive: justification. There are no crates of ammo lying about for no reason. You don't walk over medipacks.
The game sees things ancient and unpleasant emerge from a city that reappears after a few millennia missing in a Middle Eastern desert. Speak to us of the unspeakable evil that stirs beneath the sands of the east, and what's interesting about the setting.
In Clive Barker's Jericho the player will face an ancient evil in the form of the Firstborn. The Firstborn is God's first, yet botched, attempt at creating man. When great times of strife or evil occur in our world it creates a rift between our dimension and the Firstborn's. Every time this has happened a little piece of our world has been taken into the dominion of the Firstborn.
Time and space seems to be having a bad time of it around the event site. The player will find themselves warped to various time periods in the mysterious city's history. The Crusades, the Roman era, the fourth millennia B.C., World War II - how will these shifts make a difference?
Each era has several specific monster types in keeping with that time period, although some will make repeat performances. Additionally, the Jericho Squad is travelling through these time periods in the realm of the Firstborn. In some of the worst cases, he's been "playing" in each for thousands of years. Making the different time periods and their inhabitants increasingly twisted to behold.
The mighty master of the macabre Clive Barker is the creative force behind Jericho. What is Mr Barker's input - the writing, creative direction, cinematography? How is the horror element being implemented in the gameplay?
Not only is Clive directly involved with each of the above, he is especially interested in the sound effects and score as well. To let you get up close and personal with the monsters we've created what we are calling "Survival Events." Each of these events is a do or die cinematic style sequence that the player must face and overcome. The idea of 'horror' in games has become interchangeable with the 'survival horror' gameplay of Resident Evil. Jericho is horror in the same way that Clive Barker's Hellraiser was a horror movie. It's all about the grotesque and the upsetting. The grimly fantastical. Disgusting monsters, rivers of blood - not zombie dogs bursting in through a window when you don't expect it.
How is the multiplayer shaping up?
Clive Barker's Jericho is a single player game. It was always conceived that way. It's a narrative driven game, and there was no logical way to implement multiplayer. Yes there's a squad of characters with different abilities, but there's no reason why they would ever be fighting each other. We can't, on one hand, have a compelling, engaging narrative full of complex character interaction and then turn around and say, oh, P.S. this lot shoot the shit out of each for fun at weekends. It's not consistent with the Jericho universe. That's even before you factor in the time-altering abilities of certain characters, which would make it a no-go too. There's a tendency to 'expect' a first person action game to include a deathmatch mode, but it doesn't make sense in this context. Luckily we're not ticking off a features list of what people 'expect'. Jericho's full of things you don't expect, and that's why it's brilliant.
The game is to be released on Xbox 360 and PC. What sort of muscle will our PC require to keep up?
Games as pretty as this don't run on a Pentium 2. Sorry but that's fact of life. You're looking at a minimum: NVIDIA 6600GT / ATI X1600XT, an Intel 2.4 GHz or equivalent processor and a gig of ram. To make it really sing, we'd recommend: RAM 1GB, Windows XP / Vista / DirectX 9.0c / Pentium 4 Core 2 Duo or Athlon 64 X2 / 1 GB RAM / Graphics Card: GeForce, 8800 GTS or Radeon X1950 XTX, Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Sound Card / 2x DVD-ROM Drive, 6GB Hard Drive Space.
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