Reviewed: June 10, 2005
Reviewed by: Tyler Whitney

Groove Games

Digital Extremes

Released: May 3, 2005
Genre: FPS
Players: 1-32
ESRB: Mature


System Requirements

  • Windows 98/ME/XP/2000
  • Pentium III 800 MHz or faster processor
  • 256 MB RAM
  • 64 MB 3D Accelerator
  • DirectX 9.0c (included)
  • Windows Sound Card
  • 2.4 GB hard drive space
  • 4x CD-ROM drive
  • Mouse and Keyboard
  • 56K Modem for Online Play

    Screenshots (Click Image for Gallery)

  • Pariah: noun {C} a person, who is not accepted by a social group, especially because he or she is not like, respected or trusted. This oddly named shooter has a tough road to hoe in the clogged FPS market. Brought to us by Digital Extremes, who has worked with Epic on several Unreal projects, fans of the latter games should see a resemblance with the Sci-fi atmosphere of Pariah.

    Dr. Jack Mason is a castaway field medic who is forced to partner with a mysterious woman named Katrina. Even worse, her strange disease has transmuted to poor Jack, and he must fight his way out of this deplorable situation.

    While this title wonít win most original content for 2005, nor will it break the sales record, it offers several solid additions to the FPS world. You will face countless threats through 18 levels, in both urban and wilderness settings. Your health system is composed of 4 bars that regenerate during inactivity. You can supplement these bars with a healing tool that refills to full levels and even can be upgraded (much like the weapons) to add more bars. I found this pretty forgiving on the player, maybe not as easy as Cold Winter with itís unlimited health pack; just play smart and you wonít be frustrated.

    A wide array of weapons are available; plasma rifle, sniper (with cool scope feature), rocket/grenade launcher, shotgun and your standard assault carbine. Each weapon can be upgraded with special features, such as an infrared scope on the sniper or a faster reload times with the shotgun. The weapon balancing is a bit off, the shotgun/assault rifle are both underpowered and the rocket launcher takes forever to fire. It takes whole clips from some weapons to drop single enemies. Lame.

    Still, I did find myself enjoying the endless slaughter from time to time. If the lackluster weapons donít grab your attention, perhaps the drivable vehicles will. They handle well enough, but are somewhat easy to go down by enemy fire. Itís designed to break up the foot zerging, and it accomplishes that goal at least. Your foes will act cunningly on occasion, using flanking maneuvers and wonít just sit there to be pounded- but I have seen better A.I. before. Donít get me started on their driving skills-OUCH.

    Cool gadgets aside, the storyline here is somewhat sparse. One moment I think I am here to find a cure for myself and my increasingly neurotic target, Katrina. While the next I am killing everything in sight, without a notion of plot. The cinematics do try and string the story along, but compared to a tightly focused story like Halo 2- Pariah fails to deliver that crucial cohesiveness.

    I recall seeing several previews for Pariah and was impressed with the screenshots, they showed a lot of depth in design and vibrancy. After playing it, however, it was a bit of a let down. Now, the character/vehicle models are pretty sick, but they have a bad case of monotony. It felt like I was fighting the same levels and goons over and over, never a good thing in such a flashy combat oriented genre.

    A lot of the environments are deceptively linear, with sheer rock walls, narrow paths etc. Sure some of the weapon effects are pretty cool as well, but even those were a bit of a downer after seeing several MONSTROUS guns on the back of the box. Thankfully, the game runs pretty good on my modest system, and didnít notice much slowdown or stuttering.

    Digital Extremes also included the industry standard Havokís physics engine, seen in games like Max Payne 2 and Half-Life 2, and effect that produces all those lovely rag doll death animations, and allows for needless toying with the environment. There are a few graphical bugs though, from gun fire not showing, or whole wall textures phasing out, Digital Extremes should have polished this off a bit more, but perhaps their dev time ran out. Overall, some solid graphics here.

    Pariah, with strong voice acting (hehe strong as in R-rated) and dynamic music help elevate this department, but the lackluster weapon sound effects left me confused. If I am toting a 5 foot long Plasma Cannon that can punch holes through walls, why does it sound like Super Soaker? I exaggerate of course, but Digital Extremes should have spent more time to polish off the sound on this title. As it stands, another mediocre auditory experience.

    Music composer Tim Larkin, whose previous work includes such games as Uru: Ages Beyond Myst and the original Prince of Persia, created the game's movie-like soundtrack. With plenty of bass and percussion, the music fits the environments and the gameplay.

    It should take the average gamer a few days of solid play time to wade through the 18 levels. And after that is through, you can look forward to some decent multiplayer experience that includes 13 maps and 3 game modes on 32 player servers. Nice. The modes include your standard Deathmatch, TDM, CTF and the Frontline Assault mode. This latter mode is akin to the Unreal 2004ís onslaught mode, whereby you fight to control points on the map.

    Interestingly enough, the game boasts a newby friendly map editor, and even includes several templates to mess around with. So no worries if you donít know how to craft 3D models and textures, it is all here. Problem is, why make a bunch of maps for crappy multiplayer? Technically, it is fine; very little latency, an easy to use interface to find servers (even a nifty instant action feature to hop right in), but ultimately, other games do it better than Pariah. There is bot support too, which may be nice in a few months when no one is playing online.

    Digital Extremes should be commended for throwing their hat into the ring of a highly competitive FPS market, with juggernaughts like Halo 2, Half-Life, BF2 and countless others gobbling up our play time. Unfortunately, like a salmon trying to fight an upstream battle, Pariah struggles to keep itís head above the proverbial water. With sub-par designs, weak sound effects and a thin storyline, it is doomed to end up on the bargain bin sooner or later. You may want to try the demos out for this title, or wait a few months for itís price to drop, where it would make a killer budget deal.

    It looks like itís moniker may have infected the game itself.