Pariah review

Xbox World tells you to lock and load, flick off that safety and smoke 'em if you got 'em. Or something

There comes a time when the world confronts you with deep, meaningful, searching questions, that only you can answer. Who am I? What is my life all about? Is it wrong to go five days without changing into a clean pair of underpants? (We'd have to say yes to that.)

But, perhaps most important of all: does it bother me that the game I just shelled out thirty five notes for lasts only seven hours? Seven. You could spend longer in the bath.

It's the classic tale of 'just as things were getting really quite good, the credits interrupted the fun.' Bugger. Of all the flaws we might secretly have feared the game could contain, this was the last thing we expected.

But is Pariah still worth owning? The answer would have to be, in the end, yes.

But sweet hell, it's a close call.

Do you expect a great plot from a FPS? Or is it just some lame excuse to kill things? Given the outcry about Halo 2's ending, we'd concede that maybe some of you do believe that justification for the violence is an important foundation for a quality shooter.

But let's be truthful, with all but the most exceptional of titles, you're a guy on a mission to shoot stuff, and that's all you care about.

The adrenaline rush of fighting under fire, out-thinking, out-running and out-gunning the enemy - that's what it's all about, and in that respect, Pariah - at points in its lifespan - delivers the action with more flair, style and guts than the rest of the competition combined.

Not that Pariah has a bad plot. It follows some interesting lines, there are a couple of excellent twists near the end... it's just that ever since Halo (and the even better Half-Life 2), we're becoming more and more used to seeing things happen in-game rather than just in cut-scenes.

So you won't be buying Pariah for the story, but because you like to shoot stuff; you like it to be coarse, compulsive, a pounding offensive on the senses and the trigger finger - Pariah is certainly all of these things.

Like Halo, the speed of the action comes from the wits and bullets of the baddies, not from your character leaping around like an agitated bunny on speed a la Unreal Championship.

Every single weapon is fun to use - a joyful compromise between power and precision, speed and style, danger and destructiveness.

The shotgun is better than Halo's overpowered yet seemingly lightweight offering, while the grenade launcher reminds us of the halcyon days of Quake 2 - you can bounce them off walls, into clusters of enemies - and with little touches like remote detonation, the feeling of total control amidst the mayhem is maximised.

Our personal favourite has to be the plasma rifle - whether used in burst fire mode or upgraded to launch bombs with a devastating blast radius, it's a pleasure to use - particularly given the remarkable ragdoll deaths it deals out to the enemy.

It's probably worth noting though, that with so many enemies, particle and physics effects going on, there's the occasional bit of slowdown, so you can pretty much forget about enjoying the split-screen co-op because of that.

Once the aesthetic of endlessly satisfying death-distribution has been nailed, what else does the FPS formula need?

Not vehicles; they're generally just a temporary gameplay varying experience - lightweight, not much fun to drive and pathetically armed in Pariah single-player (but thankfully don't figure for much of the game), so we'll happily overlook them.

No, it's about location. And yes, once again, Pariah treads a fine line in this department.

Without exception, every level is a rollercoaster ride - a scorched, gut-busting, brain-fracturing sprint run that is never in danger of leaving the strict rails that guide you rigidly through each environment. But then it would have to be, wouldn't it?

You're always on your own, so there's no scope for open battlefield, tactical manoeuvres. No real complaints there.

What's really controversial are the locations themselves; astounding backdrops always bring any game to life, and whilst Pariah is not short on amazing vistas, the worlds are so grim and deathly that you'll often feel smothered. Plot-wise, that was obviously the intention, but it certainly doesn't make for memorable levels.

From the Quake-style industro-punk factories to arid desert and lifeless futuristic architecture, every new level is just another place you want to get out of fast. Which if nothing else, works to create the continued sense of urgency that underpins most of the game's events.

More Info

PlatformXbox, PC