Pariah thinks it's got what it takes. Has it got what it takes? Perhaps it has!

Released: 3 May 2005
Developer: Digital Extremes
Selected titles:
Extreme Pinball (1996)
Unreal (1998) [Co-developer]
Dark Sector (2008)

Oh boy. You hear that? No, not that, that's my stomach. I mean the STOMP-STOMP-STOMPing. That's the ominous march of incoming space marines, protectors of the mediocre shooter, and I've just met their vanguard, waving a flag of peace cunningly attached to a big glowy gun. When you are making a game and have precisely no idea of your own, you turn to the space marines for aid.

Thankfully, Pariah doesn't cast you as an actual space marine, you're just busy shooting 'em. And we're actually on Earth, not in space. And, in actuality, I'm not even entirely sure that these guys I'm shooting are marines. But you can't fool me that easily. This muddy brown jackboot stamping on my head stinks of space marine.

The reason for my uncertainty is well-founded, because I'm pretty sure even Pariah doesn't know what's going on. It was much-touted in the run-up to release for having a script written by Hollywood people, as if that was a guarantee of quality. It isn't. Pariah's concept may be intriguing, but you'll never know because it's obfuscated by the most ill-conceived narrative construction. There are glimpses that someone, somewhere in the fog of its development, knew how to tell a tale, but whenever such a suggestion meekly marks its presence it's instantly swallowed by layers of confused dialogue and unexplained motives. The people I shot, the bosses I bested and the young woman I protected (whom the plot revolved around): I knew little to nothing about any of them. "Why am I shooting these guys?" is not an encouraging thing to be constantly asking yourself in a game about shooting.

Dispense with any notion that you care where you actually are, where you're going and what you're going to do when you get there and the game suddenly gets a whole lot better. The game play, and the guns in particular, was broadly criticised on its release, and it seems a little harsh on reflection. The firefights, and the weapons available, are certainly not groundbreaking. There's six guns in total to collect throughout the game, and they're mostly unspectacular, but easy and pleasing to wield. Special mention to the grenade launcher, which is superbly realised. Scattered throughout the levels are collectable tokens which you can upgrade your guns with, adding improved fire rate, quicker reloading and so on. The grenade launcher is changed wholesale from a timed explosive to a button-detonated projectile. I don't think I can over-exaggerate how well this thing works: it's perfect.

Unfortunately, one good gun does not a good shooter make, and no matter how many of those lovely little bombs went arcing merrily through the air to meet a possibly-space marine it couldn't mask the fact that my joyous little crater-maker was touring a bunch of dull brown places and shooting dull brown people (Ed: that's their armour I'm referring to! Their armour!). And no-one would even tell me why.

If I wasn't such a cheery soul I'd say that a pattern is starting to emerge. These average-scoring shooters are turning out to be rather average, which is no fun at all and, I must say, entirely unexpected and quite disheartening.

Pariah Gallery

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