Pariah

a game by Groove Games
Platforms: XBox PC
Editor Rating: 8/10, based on 2 reviews
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Dr. Jack Mason has been given yet another milk run. Assigned to escort a virus-infected prisoner between prisons in the not-so-distant future, Mason finds himself with yet another boring assignment at the twilight of his once illustrious career. However, after his transport plane is struck by a well-fired SAM missile, Jack and his now awakened Typhoid Mary find themselves confused, lost, and behind enemy lines.

And now both of them have the virus.

Pariah, the futuristic first-person shooter from Groove Games, seems to have all of the elements of the more successful adventure-based shooters out there, such as Doom 3, Unreal Tournament, Halo, and Half-Life. But how does it stack up against these heavyweights in the FPS world?

Let's look at the good first: For graphics, Pariah uses a modified Havok engine, which has been very successful with Unreal Tournament, among others. This makes for crisp skins, 'rag doll'? body effects, and good detail to surrounding areas, and Pariah exploits this with very few problems on high-end graphics cards. In game vehicles are also fun to use and very effective in usage throughout the game. Controls are easy to use (The WSAD keys default for movement) and simple to modify, so getting control up to speed for the average FPS fan is quite easy. What this makes for is a game you can get into quickly and enjoy all of the scenery while you're at it.

Alas, this is where Pariah starts to show its flaws. Though the game starts off well, the storyline in the game becomes almost completely incomprehensible after just a couple of cut scenes. Audio is well done for the most part, but becomes repetitive VERY quickly, and dialogue is weak at best. Enemy AI is not exactly something to strike fear into the hearts of competitive gamers, even at the highest settings. Though in game bots tend to be fairly accurate with their armaments, their movements become quite predictable.

Speaking of weapons loadout, what is up with the cookie cutter FPS games out there? You have your obligatory automatic (Bulldog), the completely ineffective shotgun (Frag Rifle), and the high end exploders, and that's about it. Pariah tries to innovate a bit with Weapon Energy Cores, items that can modify and boost your weapons stats, accuracy, or special abilities, but they're mostly hit and miss. They can make some weapons very effective, but add almost nothing to others.

Pariah's single player game is also obscenely short for an FPS. I finished the whole thing in under 6 hours, and I'm no power gamer anymore. Add to this the almost incomprehensible story and absolutely no connection with your protagonist, or even an understanding of your enemies and friends, and you'll understand why I was less than please with the single player game.

Pariah does have a small but loyal multiplayer following, with multiplayer games following the basic standard of death match, capture the flag, assault, and variations on these themes. The action tends to be fast and furious, and one feature I found surprising and actually likable is that all players are limited to two projectile weapons per person. These are selected via prepackaged loadouts before you begin fighting (Bulldog and Grenade Launcher, or Rocket Launcher and Sniper Rifle, for example). While I at first found this somewhat restrictive, I soon began to enjoy the ability to specialize in certain weapon types and boost my skills with others, while learning to use tactics on teams.

Still, unless you're only into multiplay, Pariah quickly loses it's appeal. First person storyline has low appeal and almost no replay value, and frankly, there are other titles out there that do it much, much better. Fair to good multiplay keeps this from being a complete waste of time, but not by much.

Game Reviews

It is an unfortunate thing when we can see what a game could've been, but ultimately was not. Pariah is one such a game, that from the very beginning roped me into what I thought would be a satisfying ride through a cinematic paradise. Opening with what I'd call one of the best cinematic title sequences I've ever seen, it was a painful realization that I came to, understanding that this game wouldn't blow my expectations away.

First, the gameplay in Pariah couldn't be blander. The only thing saving you from essentially the most default and basic of arsenals is the upgradeable nature of the weapons, and using them against the enemy is definitely not the most enjoyable experience. Prepare to kill lots of goons that don't seem to stand a chance of defeating you, and pilot a great many vehicles that couldn't survive impact with a gnat, let alone actual combat.

Pariah's plotline, while somewhat interesting, is wasted by a game that fails to appropriately deliver that story to the player. A normal problem in games like this, you'll go from objective to objective, literally stumbling across elements of the major plotline, with virtually no explanation helping you understand what they represent. Fortunately, the plot does see fit to deliver you in to some really visually appealing scenes.

While the level design itself is dull, repetitive, and fails to take advantage of the environment present in the game, the backgrounds and production design makes the game seem big, with epic settings that show you at least a glimpse of what the design was meant for. On the small scale, the game looks beautiful. There's detail where you wouldn't expect it, and some really nice effects that just stand out. Sadly, for every well done graphical element, there's a piece of the game that's bereft of detail and basically lacks the great look that other parts of the game have.

I can't really understand how Pariah was designed, because there's so much here that could've been a great game. The gameplay is lacking, but somehow slightly functional, as the basic weapons are basic for a good reason. Machine gun, shotgun, grenade launcher, these all work because they're solid. But with the other elements, graphics that don't seem entirely finished, or a plotline that's seemingly half done, Pariah is fun to play, but ultimately one of my biggest disappointments of this year.

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