Pariah ReviewCain Dornan
The video game market has been completely swamped with futuristic first person shooters over the past few years. Countless hordes of the almost identical shooters have hit the shelves, rarely offering any features that havent already made the rounds in previous titles. Unfortunately, developer Digital Extremes has been unable to change this tradition, delivering yet another serving of bland, regurgitated gameplay that is only forgiven for its satisfactory graphics and impressive physics engine. Whilst the hardcore FPS fan may find some aspects of the game enjoyable, the simple fact is that majority of us are unlikely find anything memorable about the relatively short experience.
You play as Jack Mason, a once successful doctor whose numerous demotions has resulted in doing the routine prisoner runs from the numerous prison complexes that are located throughout the galaxy. In one particular prisoner run, you are transporting a mysterious woman, known as Karina, who is said to be infected by a highly contagious virus, to a prison complex located on Earth. Unfortunately, the aircraft that you are traveling in encounters a series of mishaps that results the vehicle plummeting into the ground below. After awakening from your rough ordeal, you find that Karina has escaped. Sticking to your duty, you set out to locate her. As luck would have it, you soon become infected with the mysterious virus and find yourself surrounded by a group of gun wielding scavengers who do not welcome your presence.
From this point, you are then expected to travel through bush land, tunnels and futuristic infrastructure without knowing a shred of what is actually happening, what you need to do and where to go. This is where Pariah fails miserably, by not clearly informing the player of what is actually happening. In-game missions inform you to perform such tasks as Unlock the Outer Wall and so on, without a shred of information as to why you are doing such an act. Furthermore, extremely short and vague cutscenes further confuse the player as to what is actually happening, regularly throwing in additional characters or situations with no explanation as to their presence or meaning. Upon completion of the rather short game, you are still given only the bare basics of the storyline, leaving the rest completely to your imagination. While some may enjoy such a mysterious storyline, the simple fact is that your actions are never completely explained, resulting in you continuously plowing your way through hordes of aggravated enemies without having any idea as to what you are doing.
As with any First Person Shooter, the weapons are the key element in the game. Although Pariah does offer a solid variety of weapons, the simple fact is that the weapons are incredibly powerless. The beginning weapon, an assault rifle that is nicknamed The Bulldog, is surprisingly one of the most effective weapons that you will obtain. Capable of shooting a satisfying number of rounds per the minute, The Bulldog makes for an effective short and mid ranged weapon. Apart from this, however, the weapons are virtually useless. These weapons include the frag rifle and plasma rifle, which are often frustrating to use; the shotgun is far from being as powerful as it should be, and the laser balls that are shot from the plasma rifle requires several shots to dispatch a standard enemy. The sniper rifle, which is rarely given the opportunity to be effectively used from a long distance, often requires at least two shots to the head to dispose of an enemy. The rocket launcher takes frustratingly long to reload for a shot that is rather weak. An average grenade launcher rounds up the list of weapons on offer.
One interesting premise in regards to the weapons is the ability to upgrade them by collecting Weapon Energy Cores (also known as WECS), which are scattered throughout each level. Upgrading a weapon increases its effectiveness (although the weapons often remain useless), in addition to adding further abilities to it, such as thermal seeking or allowing you to remote detonate a grenade.
Pariah also offers a small number of futuristic vehicles that appear occasionally throughout the course of the game. A three-wheeled trike, known as the Wasp, is a quick machine that comes stocked with a mounted machine gun. The two-seated Bogie offers a mounted machine gun for the driver, in addition to a rocket launcher that is controlled by the passenger. Meanwhile, a slow yet steady, tank-like vehicle known as the Dozer offers a powerful rocket launcher. Complete with heavy armour, the Dozer is capable of carrying multiple passengers on the side of the vehicle.
Enemy AI is, unfortunately, quite bland. Enemies are only really capable of performing two tasks; either blindly running at you with their guns blazing, or taking cover and occasionally appearing to fire a few rounds. Considering that the storyline of Pariah is rather ordinary, the average AI intelligence certainly doesnt improve the second-rate experience.
Pariah supports two-player split screen, LAN and fully functional online support via Xbox Live. The blandness and lack of uniqueness continues with the modes that are on offer in the multiplayer mode, such as deathmatch and capture the flag, which appear in virtually all first person shooters. In addition to the bland multiplayer offering, severe lag is often experienced. This is especially noticeable whilst playing the two-player co-op mode, which allows two players to play through the full single player experience. For some completely unforgiving reason, once a group of enemies appear on screen, extreme lag is experienced. At one point, it was virtually impossible to shoot any opponents, as the delayed controls prevented myself from getting an accurate aim on an enemy. While this may have been somewhat acceptable if it only occurred once, the numerous times that lag greatly effected the gameplay was far too common, thoroughly destroying the potentially enjoyable experience.
The mapmaking mode offers some solid lifetime for the creative type amoungst us. The mode gives you the opportunity to create a range of maps that can be used during multiplayer battles and can also be traded via online, system link or memory card. Whilst not exactly unique, the mode is rarely seen in First Person Shooters and as such, adds some much needed variety to the dull game.
Although far from jaw dropping, Pariah offers solid, detailed environments and weapons that help to liven-up the rather bland gameplay experience. A selection of large, sprawling outdoor environments are on offer, in addition to the standard, futuristic metal-filled interior locations. Character detail whilst in game is rather standard, with the only interesting animation being the smashing of the glass of an enemys helmet. Although texture flickering is completely extinct, Pariah suffers from poor framerates that drop regularly whenever a number of enemies appear on screen. The only truly impressive visual aspect of the game is the powerful physics engine, which runs off the renowned Havok physics engine. An explosion amongst a band of enemies results in bodies realistically being flung into the air, only to crash into the ground in incredible realism. A number objects that litter the environment, such as barrels, will roll or move according to your interaction with them; a barrel will accurately roll and bounce down a hill, knocking any light objects, such as humans, out of its way. The well-implemented physics engine is one of the few interesting aspects of the game.
Unfortunately, the blandness continues into the sound aspects of the game. Voiceover work, both during cutscenes and in game, is uninspiring, with characters often talking with little emotion. Weapon sound effects are often rather basic, although the occasional weapon offers some interesting reloading sound effects. The music is far from being remarkable, although it aptly matches the gameplay style and locales.
Although this review may come across as completely negative, it is necessary to note that Pariah isnt exactly an awful game. Hardcore fans of first person shooters will likely find plenty to enjoy, however, the simple fact is that Pariah doesnt do anything unique; rather, the game has attempted to combine the best elements from a number of past shooters into a single, pick-up-and-play title. However, the game is plagued with numerous problems, such as the confusing storyline and severe lag that is often experienced during multiplayer battles, to merit Pariah as a worthwhile purchase for those who are only somewhat interested in the genre.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.