If there is one thing any video game should provide, it is entertainment. By telling a good story, challenging players intellectually, offering solid game play mechanics, or featuring good level design any game should be expected to deliver an enjoyable experience. Unfortunately, between its bland environments, lack of a concrete plotline, and some poorly implemented game play elements, Pariah ultimately fails to satisfy players as an entertaining first-person shooter experience.
The game begins on board an aircraft with a rather unique cargo. Dr. Jack Mason is overseeing the delivery of a quarantined patient in cryogenic sleep. The ship is attacked and forced to crash land on the vast open fields that is the world of Pariah. Only Dr. Mason, the patient Karina, and one other crew member survive the crash. Waking from her cryogenic sleep, Karina runs off and disappears. As a band of thugs approach the crash site, it is up to the good doctor to find Karina and complete the mission.
Players will quickly find out that randomly disappearing is quite a hobby for Karina. Too many times in the game you will locate her, talk to her for a moment, only to have her captured or take off in some new random direction. There is some interesting background story about a terrible war engulfing all of mankind. Very early in the game, Dr. Mason gets infected by the virus Karina is carrying, which puts an interesting spin on the mission. The exact nature of the disease is intriguing and the game does have a fairly nice plot twist towards the end. Yet Pariah simply does not mold these individual elements into a concrete and coherent plot.
Players are never provided as much information as they should know about their mission. Objectives are not always clear. Sometimes you will not know quite why Mason has to infiltrate a certain location until you actually do it. The background history is never properly explained. The cut scenes that are supposed to propel the story onward seem forced and incomplete. It seems as though the developers tried very hard to come up with ways to put Karina and Mason together to advance the plot but make sure they were separated during the actual levels. You’ll know there are the makings of a decent plot in Pariah. Yet it is neither communicated effectively nor implemented successfully to work with a first-person shooter game.
The majority of the levels in Pariah are outdoors and cover considerably large amounts of terrain. The beautiful graphics do make these environments pleasing to the eye. However, the open areas often feel all too empty and lacking in diversity. Jack does occasionally have to find some kind of switch to open a door or deactivate a security system, but for the most part he will be moving along a linear path and gunning down miscellaneous nameless enemies on the way. Some of Pariah’s levels simply lack creativity and degenerate into tedious chores. It feels as though some sections of the game were included with the sole purpose of adding game play time.
To Pariah’s credit, the game does have a handful of strong moments. During two levels of the game, Jack has to infiltrate a prison compound while a riot is in progress. Sneaking around the raging battle without drawing too much fire on Jack is greatly entertaining. The two boss fights towards the end of the game make a nice break from the regular action. The gunfights do occasionally become quite engaging and pleasantly challenging. But the brief spurs of excitement hardly make up for the inordinate amounts of tedium. By the time you complete the game, you will most likely be very glad that Pariah is over and the game was not any longer.
The health level system in Pariah will be familiar to Halo players. Dr. Mason’s current health level is indicated by squares that appear on the upper left side of the screen. Each time Jack is hit, a portion of the health in one of the boxes is diminished. If Jack manages to stay away from the action and not take any more damage for a few seconds, the lost health is automatically regenerated. However, if the doctor takes enough hits to completely empty one of the boxes, he has to use a healing tool to recover the lost health. The healing tool takes a few seconds to use and Jack will be drowsy for a brief moment after injecting a dose. Thus it is somewhat difficult to use the tool in the heat of battle.
Pariah features an array of guns that will be familiar to fans of first-person shooters. There is the standard machine gun, the modernized equivalent of a shotgun, and the obligatory grenade and rocket launchers. While the weapons themselves may not be exceptionally unique, the game implements a great upgrade system that gives Pariah a distinct touch. Dr. Mason will find weapon energy cores distributed across the game’s 18 levels. These energy cores can be used on weapons to make them more powerful and give them additional abilities. For instance, the first upgrade on the machine gun increases the rate of fire while the second one reduced recoil. The grenade launcher can be upgraded to enable remote detonation whereas the rocket launcher can be enhanced to fire heat seeking missiles. Perhaps the most useful upgrades are the ones available for the healing tool. The second and third upgrades permanently increase Jack’s maximum health level, which is tremendously helpful throughout the game. Players will have to come up with a strategy and choose what weapons they want to upgrade carefully to become more effective in combat. The weapon energy core system is one of the best features of Pariah.
The enemy AI on the other hand does not fare quite as well. Your opponents will either charge at you directly or stand still while shooting from behind cover. They never show any degree of true organization and only pose a threat when they rush at you in large numbers. Throughout the majority of the game, Jack can just rely on taking out enemies from a distance.
The enemies are also great at killing off one another. Especially the opponents with rocket launchers will frequently misfire, killing themselves as well as nearby allies. The opponents with grenade launchers are not much better either. The enemies are also incapable of noticing a grenade landing right next to them. They will not make an attempt to move away and happily accept being blown into pieces.
During a few parts of the game, Dr. Mason will be required to operate vehicles. This is yet another feature of the game that is badly implemented. While the regular controls are quite smooth and do not have any problems, the vehicles handle terribly and prove to be a great nuisance. It is difficult to aim with the guns mounted on the vehicles and they are destroyed all too easily. Your odds might actually be better if you just let Dr. Mason proceed on foot rather than driving anything.
In the end, Pariah simply does not deliver enough of an entertaining and engaging gaming experience. The graphics are great, the game is very stable, the weapon upgrades are a nice touch, and the action does occasionally get interesting. But none of these features are enough to make up for the glaring problems with the storyline and the tedious levels. The game does not manage to create the kind of atmosphere that will drive you forward and make you want to keep playing until you reach the end. Pariah tries to accomplish a great deal, but ultimately falls short of the mark. The game can only be recommended to fervent first-person shooter fans that are in serious need of new content.
The final grade is 69/100.