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Game review: Pariah

01 May 2005

From the creators of Unreal comes a spiraling plunge into destruction, despair and disease. Jack Mason is a burned-out doctor with no will to live, that is, until he nearly dies in a transport crash. Now he and his infected patient are stranded deep within the most vicious prison sectors of a wasteland called ‘Earth’ in the year 2520. In sixteen hours an orbital platform will initiate a total biohazard containment procedure: 50-megaton yield, detonated above sea level, to cleanse the contamination.

Known for creating games with incredibly rich dynamic graphics and mind-blowing fine-tuned gameplay, including the recent smash hit Unreal Tournament 2004, Digital Extremes is reaching beyond the limits with its most ambitious project to date. Pariah is utilising the power of a heavily modified Unreal engine with state-of-the-art Havok physics technology that produces stunning settings, lifelike characters and tremendously satisfying in-your-face first-person action.

The weapons in Pariah are a very interesting mix of the familiar and the new, with each one offering an impressive sequence of upgrades. Upgrades are done using energy cores which you pick-up throughout the game and depending on which weapon you wish to use it on, will have various effects. For example, the frag rifle (basically the Pariah version of a shotgun) is a devastating short-range weapon that takes forever to load - but an energy core can be utilised to improve the reloading speed. Similarly, an energy core used on the sniper rifle in the game will equip your scope with a thermal sensor and so on for all the weapons in your arsenal. This neat little customising option allows you to tweak your favourite weapons in an order of your own choice and makes the quest for more energy cores a driving need in certain levels.

The enemies each pose different challenges and Pariah encourages you to use the surrounding terrain and unique strategies to overcome them. The most common foe is the regular grunt, a soldier who’s fairly easy to dispatch. However, later on you’ll need to upgrade your weaponry to keep up with their increased levels of armour. Then there are the units with flamethrower that can definitely deal out damage as they get close to you.

The good news is that you get the satisfaction of seeing them explode in flames if you puncture their fuel tanks. Pariah also features numerous vehicles you can jump into and drive, and early on, you get an opportunity to ride around in the Bogie, a four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle with a big gun mounted on top. The Bogie lets you get around some of the lengthy levels quickly, and it can absorb a fair amount of damage, though the driving physics take some getting used to.

Later on, you’ll also get to ride as the gunner on the Bogie, allowing you to open up with the built-in machine gun and rocket launcher. One can’t help but think of Halo during some of these sequences - however Pariah has more of a lean toward a realistic feel with intelligent AI, recognisable weaponry and a detailed “future-Earth” environment, not to mention an immersive story-line.