Before you even think it, I’ll say it: Pariah is in no way a “Halo killer,” nor is it any sort of competitor. Frankly, at no point did developer Digital Extremes or publisher Hip Games ever try to claim it was going to be either, so we can’t point our fingers and go “you’re no Halo!” when playing the game.
However, they can be faulted for some of the hype behind this oh-so-average game; after all, they did promise a cool batch of upgradeable weaponry, top-tier AI, an immersive story and fantastic environments — little of which was truly delivered on. It’s not that the the previously listed items are the worst we’ve seen, but they have a hard time holding out against even the most average of games. And, after finishing Pariah, several of us went running for bigger, better FPS’ to wash Pariah’s taste out of our collective mouth.
Perhaps the “wash the taste out” comment is a bit harsh, but it’s tough to be kind to this game when it’s so very “so-so.” First there’s the storyline, which many people claim to love and others claim is virtually the next “Gone with the Wind.” It really could have been a good story, if it were paced properly so as to make more sense early on. Instead, you’re thrown a few seconds of storyline during and after levels, and you have to somehow piece together these snippets to figure out what the big deal is with the virus-laden girl you’re safeguarding, and who was kind enough to spray her infected blood in your face (thus infecting you) early on.
The CGI sequences are competent, both in presentation and in story setup, but they are simply too short. And the missions themselves are so odd at times (there’s a train mission that makes absolutely no sense in the storyline) that you have to walk away from the game for a few hours so you can try to make sense of things. As I mentioned, the pacing of the story is scattershot; sometimes you’ll get fed gobs of story at once, while other times you’ll literally be given just a few seconds of storyline to chew on. If you manage to play through to the end of Pariah it all comes together, but by then you really don’t care … you just want to get this game back to the store.
Digital Extremes worked on some of the Unreal games, and it shows in Pariah. The action is typically pretty fast, and there’s not much thinking needed in the single-player mode. Just blast away, upgrade your gun and blast some more. Pariah attempts to differentiate itself from other shooters by offering an upgrade system for weapons wherein you find “cores” that make a weapon bigger and badder than before. The bummer is that the weapons are so unbalanced that you won’t care (or need) to upgrade most of them. Just get the grenade launcher and keep on upgrading it. After just one upgrade, you’ll be a killing machine, and after two you’ll be a god-like killing machine who can romp through the game with little challenge. The weapon imbalance carries over to the online multiplayer, where gamers can choose which weapons to start the round with but everyone just goes for the grenade-launcher kit. This makes the online game about as fun as poking yourself in the eye with a rusty fork. This really is too bad, because the maps for online play look and play great, and the map editor really could’ve made Pariah something with mountains of “hey, let’s play some Pariah tonight” value.
The AI is another strike against the game, because in some places it’s so bad that it’s laughable. What’s odd is that in the game’s early stages it seems pretty competent, but the more you play, the more obviously weak the AI becomes. Your opponents move in predetermined patterns meant to look somewhat intelligent, but after you’ve watched the same guy continually blast the rock in front of him with a rocket launcher, you realize how poor the AI really is. The game is also somewhat cheap in the AI department, as enemies can hit themselves with heavy weapons and not die, but if you accidentally fire a rocket into a wall in front of you, you’re down for the count.
Even if you encounter the AI during one of its better moments, you don’t have to worry about dying, because you’re carrying the seemingly never-ending medkit. It’s supposed to have a limited number of uses, but you pick up extra “charges” at nearly every other kill. There were times my medkit was full and I would find myself bypassing five to six charges simply because they were so plentiful and I knew I’d find more. Using the medikit makes the main character woozy and suffer from blurred vision for a few seconds, which should force you to make tactical decisions about when to use it, but all you really need to do is hide behind a rock or door and the AI will leave you alone as you dose up.
The graphics in Pariah are good, but nothing outstanding, not even in high-definition. They reminded me of Unreal from about 2-3 years ago, not even close to something like Unreal Tournament 2004 for PC. Weapons, armor and opponents have that sort of exaggerated, almost cartoon-like design you saw in games of the late 1990s. Environments are fairly sparse, and frequently you’re stuck running around boring outdoor landscapes that seem devoid of all vegetation. I know the Earth in Pariah has been nuked to Hades and back, but you’d think the dev team would do something to make the world interesting to look at. Rather than looking like a futuristic burned-out husk, the Earth of the future instead looks like every other desert map you’ve ever seen. Indoor maps, too, are pretty generic, and I really really was unimpressed with the train level. Is it really necessary to force players to get completely lost as they try to get to the end of a train level, only to fight off a completely scripted attack by brain-dead dropships?
Pariah starts out with a lot of promise, and it’s actually pretty enjoyable for the first few levels. But even if you can overlook the story, you’re still stuck with some generic (and highly unbalanced) weaponry and gameplay that we already saw back in 1998. The online options could’ve been fun, especially with the nice assortment of maps provided and the map editor, yet the weapon imbalances turn you off within three minutes of your first match. Unless you’re playing with friends whom you can tell “nobody take that @#$ grenade launcher,” you’ll be stuck with “spawn, boom!, you’re dead, spawn, boom!, you’re dead” matches. Pariah might make a nice $20 purchase, but certainly not a full-priced $49.99 buy.
- Gameplay: 6
- Rock-stupid AI, confused pacing and a hugely unbalanced weapons kit make this tough to love
- Graphics: 8
- For the most part, a pretty game, though a bit too stark and bleak in some environments
- Sound: 6
- Purchased from “Clanking guns and boom boom noises volume 1” audio clipart
- Replay: 7
- Not compelling enough to make you want to finish it, and the weapon imbalances kill the chances of enjoying it online
- Overall: 6.5
- There’s nothing we having seen here that wasn’t done better almost eight years ago
— Craig Falstaff