Pariah Preview

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Publisher: Groove Games
Developer: Digital Extremes (PC, Xbox), Pseudo Interactive (PlayStation 2)

Platforms: PC, Xbox, PlayStation 2
Official site:

Dr. Jack Mason is a military doctor whose career has truly reached an all-time low. Between his attitude problem and alcohol addiction, Jack has been relegated to the dregs of the assignment pool – transporting biological cargo from a prison sector. When the transport is struck by fire from unruly prisoners and crashes, not only is the cargo released from its container, but so is the contagion that infected it. Now biohazard containment protocols have begun, and in sixteen hours, an orbital weapons platform will launch a 50-megaton nuclear air-strike to eliminate the biological threat.

Projected Release: Spring 2005
Kyle Ackerman

Despite the many clichés proffered by Pariah's plot (a deadly virus, a prison colony and an impending nuclear threat) both the story and underlying game promise to be just plain cool. The biological cargo mentioned above happens to be a woman named Karina, infected with a virus that grants her unnamed powers. The prison sector is filled with rebellious inmates, battling to escape incarceration. The landscape remains under the watchful eye of "pain towers" that control the prisoners by inflicting suffering on the inmates, giving them a wild and red-eyed visage. The guards aren't terribly inclined to differentiate between Jack, his cargo and the prisoners. And by the way, the vast wasteland that contains the prison is called Earth.

Digital Extremes isn't saying a great deal more about the plot, but there's more than enough potential in the bits they have revealed to keep us interested. The game also looks impressive.
Digital Extremes has worked on several iterations of Unreal games, and is using that familiarity and expertise to create a futuristic first-person shooter using a modified version of the Unreal engine. The game is being developed for the Xbox, PC and PlayStation 2 (pending concept approval by Sony), but the version we were able to spend time with was on the Xbox. It looked exceptional for that platform. Those looks aren't just the result of the underlying technology – the art and animation are vital, and continue the progression of increasingly refined games on the latest generation of consoles.

Pariah demonstrates that a dark future doesn't have to be dark. The art and colors convey a dismal and futuristic existence, but use sophisticated lighting effects and vivid colors to create a game that shouldn't require blackout curtains to play during the daytime. There is heat distortion around fires and explosions, and water both refracts and reflects light from its rippled surface. This was beautifully demonstrated in an underwater prison level, where water was flooding into the destruction caused by rebellious prisoners. There are, of course, exploding barrels, and because the game uses the Havok 2 physics engine, you can be sure there will be plenty of corpses flung about when ragdoll physics meets with those exploding containers.

Rather than a role-playing-game-like progression of statistics and experience, Pariah will introduce Weapon Energy Cores (WECs). These can be used to upgrade both your arsenal and Jack's attributes. Jack will be able to use the WECs to do things like improve his dashing ability to better traverse open terrain. When it comes to weapons, WECs can both make weapons more powerful and add special functions. Adding a WEC to a rifle might add a scope and zoom function, while adding one to a rocket launcher might upgrade it to a napalm launcher or a device that can send three rockets spiraling simultaneously at a target.
There are also some creative guns, such as the large and stubby-looking piece currently dubbed Titan's Fist. That device has a power-up effect that draws visible ripples around the barrel as it charges (either heat distortion or another form of energy), and releases a hugely destructive blast that persists briefly as a burning plasma sphere. As a military doctor, Jack also has a limited ability to heal himself with medical tools, but if he heals too much too quickly, his vision will temporarily blur.

Pariah promises to be an attractive, engaging first-person shooter – and the team is determined to add exciting multiplayer modes, too. The multiplayer game will include team deathmatch and capture the flag modes, but will also take advantage of the game's upgradable weaponry, and will include vehicles. For the single-player story, or multiplayer carnage, Pariah is something exciting.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on May 18, 2004 11:27 AM.

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