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Pariah (PC)

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Pariah
Game: Pariah
Platform: Windows
Genre: FPS
Developer: Digital Extremes
Publisher: Groove Games

A while ago (monday may 15th, 2006) I was walking through the city center of Sittard (the Netherlands) once again and when we stopped by Dixons I found Pariah lying around there for €12,90. So I picked up Pariah there and when I got back home I installed it. All good so far, but when I first started the game the troubles began…

The good

But let’s talk about the troubles later, in the “The bad” section. First I will discuss the good parts of this game.

The graphics of Pariah are good, but you’ll have to keep in mind that this game is allready over a year old and that it uses the Unrealtech 2 engine and thus it won’t look as good as DooM 3 or FEAR. Anyway, the game looks good. There is quite a lot of detail in the environments as well as on decals and other objects. The enemies look pretty detailed too, comparable with the playermodels of Unreal Tournament 2004. Also the special effects like explosions and heat distortion look nice. The weapons aren’t of the best designs I have ever seen, but they look smooth and also don’t fall short on details.

My conclusion is that the game looks very nice overall, Digital Extremes has done a good job on the graphical part of the game.
The intro movie isn’t much revealing, but that’s not neccesary either, a good story unfolds during the game, but this is what I know after playing through the first few levels:
You are Jack Mason, a military doctor who has the assigment of transporting a young woman called Karina (who isn’t that bad looking for a polygon model :P) who is infected with some kind of virus to someplace I don’t know about. Karina is cryogenically frozen, so transporting her shouldn’t be all too much of a problem, but then the ship gets hit by a missile and goes down… Karina escapes, finds you and points a gun at you. She gets shot by someone else and her blood splatters onto you transferring the virus to you. While you explore the surroundings, your buddy who shot Karina dies and Karina gets captured and you have to find her… Etc… Not too much of an exciting and original story, but it doesn’t matter, it does it’s job and should prove pretty interesting.

The bad

Well, that’s about all the things I can come up with that are actually good in this game… Seriously.

Here is where we get to the troubles that I mentioned earlier, when I started the game at first, it came up with the Groove Games logo followed by the Digital Extremes logo followed by some music and a black screen… I pressed Alt+Enter to see if anything was happening and it switched to windowed mode and showed me a menu with a rather cool animated background. I then switched back to fullscreen to be presented with the black screen again.
After a support mail to Groove Games it turned out that the latest nVidia drivers can’t render Pariah properly, but that the 91 and 92 series of drivers did work. So I downgraded my drivers and now the game ran fine.

The story could have been interesting, but the point of actually shooting everybody, except for the fact that they’re shooting at you, is unknown… Even the enemies motives for hating Mason are unknown to me. I don’t know who they are and where they come from or who they might work for.

On top of that, the story is told using cutscenes during levels or between them, but the last played sound from the ingame action is echoed through the cutscene at a higher volume than the cutscene itself making it almost impossible to understand what the characters are saying. The cutscenes themselves look pretty bad compared to the ingame graphical quality. Low resolution prerendered scenes that are actually rendered using the game engine, what’s the point of that? They could’ve been rendered in real time to keep them at least at the same quality as the rest of the game… But that shouldn’t kill the fun.

Something that does kind of kill the fun is the audio… The sound effects are blunt, the voice taunts repetitive and the music, in the parts where there is music, is nothing special either, not bad, but it doesn’t add to the atmosphere of the game, neither does it invoke tension. The sounds of the weapons don’t add that neccesary punch to it. The Bulldog (machinegun) sound like a nerf gun to me and the shotgun sounds more like a firecracker than like a gun. Another bad thing about the guns is that they are actually as powerfull as they sound… The only rather satisfying gun would be the grenade launcher, which delivers quite a punch, but a green flame from a grenade explosion isn’t really doing it for me either, but at least it’s good at killing enemies and Pariah’s grenade launcher is much easier and better to use than the grenades launchers of many other games.

Anyway, next point; the levels. Linear, that’s it, there is no alternative path, just like we’ve seen before on games like DooM 3, but for some reason, with DooM 3 it’s not annoying and with Pariah it is. I think it’s a matter of game athmostphere which is completely absent in Pariah…

Then we arrive at the controls. The controls of Pariah suffer from, what I like to call, the Halo syndrom. Both Halo and Pariah were originally developed for the XBox and then ported to the PC. Pariah has been ported a lot better than Halo as far as performance is concerned, but both games suffer from pretty much the same control issue.

The controls seem a bit off… Slow response, slow movement pace and it seems tough to move in exactly the direction you want to go. The gameplay itself seems a bit too fast for the controls and I can assure you that Pariah is really, really slow paced action. I like it a bit faster and more intense, like Unreal Tournament 2004, DooM 3 and FEAR. In other words, Pariah’s gameplay sucks for PC standards, but I’m pretty sure it’ll work quite well on the XBox, as with Halo.

They did use the Havok physics engine, yes, but I don’t seem to be able to notice that. Why didn’t they just use the physics engina that comes with Unrealtech 2? It’s called Karma and would have done the job at least as good as Havok in this case. The only things that happen are barrels that roll around and ragdolls that fall to the ground or fly away from a grenade explosion… Did they really need Havok for that?

The last point, which is certainly the worst is that it seems that you die at random every now and then. Just when walking up a staircase with full health, no enemies and no boobytraps around (all taken out if at all present) you hear somekind of blasting noise and you’re dead… Then, when replaying that section and walking up the stairs again, nothing happens. Or you bump into a wall and die, or you heal and you… Yes, die… Very strange and if it wasn’t for this, I might even consider trying to finish the game.

The unknown

I haven’t played through the whole game and I’m not planning to either. The last point in the “The bad” section points out why. But this brings me to the point where I haven’t seen everything in the game. I haven’t used any of the vehicles, which look pretty nice and I haven’t used all weapons. I also haven’t played the multiplayer part.

I have read that the multiplayer part is quite Halo-ish and should prove to be fun, but I’m not willing to try it as I think the… Well, you probably allready know what I think. I’m not mourning about the vehicles either. Allthough they might be cool, they won’t be able to make me actually like this game. The other weapons don’t seen very interesting either. As for what I’ve read about those there is an underpowered plasma rifle, a wimpy rocketlauncher and a sniper rifle, which is never to my tastes anyway.

The bottomline

Pariah is bad… Pariah is very bad… Stay away from Pariah if you haven’t played it before… Even the lousy €12,90 I payed for this game has proven to be too much for it. It’s not fun, the controls are dodgy and the audio section doesn’t add any fun value either. Most lousy addition to my games collection in a long time. I’ll give it a 3/10. 1 point for the developers efforts and 2 points for the overall graphical quality, I can’t give it any more, it’s just too bad. The worst thing is that the developer of this game (Digital Extremes) is the same developer as the one that created Unreal back in 1998. How on Earth is it possible that the creators of such a brilliant first person shooter can create something like this?

Peace out…

…End of line.

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