Digital Extremes is a developer that has always been in and out of the spotlight. They have worked on some of the biggest PC games around yet have only just broken out of their shell to make their own project. The games you would know them from include UT 2003 and 2004 as they helped Epic complete those games by mainly making maps. Pariah is their first game and it does have a few signs of "firstgameitis" but it also has some impressive features that will make their mentors, Epic, sit up and take notice.
The storyline for Pariah is a tale of two extremes - interesting sometimes, not so interesting at other times. You play as a Doctor named Mason who is transporting a sick patient across the galaxy when the ship crash lands on a remote planet full of scavengers who just so happen to want this girl so they can use the virus. The entire game somewhat revolves around this virus but the cut scenes really are quite boring to watch. You want to just get back to the action rather than listen to Karina and Mason drone on about what they have to do next for most of the time.
The game is played from a first person perspective and generally all you do is shoot lots of enemy scavengers trying to take Karina. Karina seems to be one of these new age independent women (plus the time set in the game) who seems to want to do everything herself, then gets stuck, then needs rescuing. That's not to say Karina is a bimbo, but she gets herself lost conveniently for game missions. It's a shame you don't ever play as Karina because it could have mixed the game up.
The game is not all shooting and there is some puzzles to solve. These generally take only a short time as not only is the game linear, it also tells you what you have to do such as find a lift switch, and these switches tend to be close to the lift. Where the game does excel however is the action sequences. Fighting with the enemies is the standout feature as they try to find cover and will use tactics rather than blindly shoot at Mason. You have to do the same or they will kill you quite easily. Ducking for cover and shooting gives a real tense atmosphere to the game. As does the small amount of health Mason has. Four well timed shots are enough to take you out, so charging in and taking hits really is not an option. Thankfully Karina can't die, so babysitting is not required.
The weapons you come across are fairly stock standard but there is some cool things to play with such as the Plasma gun which blurs the screen at the sides due to its kick back and electrical pulses. You can pick up enemy weapons and basically this is how the game progresses you. As the enemies get tougher, the guns get better until you run into a crazy guy who thinks a rocket launcher in a small room on a train is useful.
Where the weapons differ is the modifications you can make with power ups. As you progress through the game you gather mod tools and these upgrade the guns up to three times. They range from quicker reloads to extra features such as remote detonation. While this does change the guns in single player, where it has the most effect is multiplayer where the different levels can give a player a big advantage.
The graphics of the game are stunning to say the least. Lush open forests, industrial factories and a mix of both is primarily what you see as well as some Warthog style vehicles to give the game a fairly Halo feel. The lack of variety is a bit of a miss for the developers but the graphics overall really do represent the power of the Xbox platform. Guns are highly detailed and often change with modifications while the damage model of enemies is impressive. You can shoot helmets off, shatter glass visors, and it also has positional damage meaning accuracy is the way to play.
A map editor is also included which can be share maps over the Live network, even if you're not online. However the map editor is quite basic and is closer to a drag and drop editor rather than the powerful UnrealED which the PC version does ship with as well as the in-game editor. However what you can do is build maps in five minutes, change terrain and create massive CTF maps with vehicles to play in. So it's not a useless feature by any means.
Pariah is a game that had much promise and in many ways lived up to it, while in other ways, it let itself down. It is a very solid shooter with an average storyline and intense action. If this sounds like something you would play then Pariah is an excellent choice.