Pariah review

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

Whilst there are breaks - the early forest areas, a murky cargo-train and a fight between two dropships high above a leafy canyon - these still stick in the head because of their formulaic gameplay rather than their attempts to do anything truly original.

And while the graphical quality is undeniably high, the inconsistency in texture detail means the game never quite escapes the clutches of a slightly too obvious rough-around-the-edges feel.

So the wider picture might not be a good one; an indecently short single-player campaign, some forgettable levels, a bit of slowdown - it's all sounding a bit like you should be popping those coins back in your wallet.

But let's not forget, Halo had identical flaws that we over-looked, especially a lack of smoothness in co-op.

So look closer - at the heart-stopping panic as enemies attack from all directions while you crouch whimpering behind minimal cover, desperately trying to heal; at the thrill of storming through a warehouse of enemies, joyfully flicking between weapons as each one clicks dry; at the frantic alarm you feel as a bullet from an unseen enemy hits, leaving you wheeling around on your last few drips of energy, trying to plug him before he drops you...

At best it's ridiculously worthy gaming and no mistake, and to top it all off, there's an absolutely storming bout of multiplayer fun to be had.

Whether split-screen, system linked or played over Live, Pariah multiplayer is outstanding. While it adheres to many of the classic rules, in terms of Xbox shooters Pariah fills the happy-hardcore blasting niche we've been missing.

For starters, there's no radar - Pariah bravely chucks you into the fray without any assistance. A smart move we say; because the maps are so intuitive, the action so directed, that after a minute's orientation you'll have forgotten you ever needed a radar and be going at it on that supreme reflex action that we know and love.

Of course, Pariah is tactical as well; the CTF maps, rather than being open, follow the classic one-main-route formula, leading to blood-for-all firefights and intense breakthroughs.

We'd even go so far as to say that the vehicles come into their own in this mode; it's hard to begrudge them their simple handling when it's all that stands between you and a flag cap.

On top of this comes the map editor, which adds an honest dimension of fun to the game. Suffice to say it's the greatest level editor ever seen in a console game, by a not inconsiderable margin. Trust us, you have to try it - it's so simple that in minutes you'll be on your way to creating your dream multiplayer arena.

The health and weapon upgrades from the single-player game translate superbly here; players can heal anywhere but only out of combat and by choice (in your face Halo!), while the weapon upgrades mean an early kill and the consecutive upgrade it awards can lead to interesting early lead scenarios.

We'll dissect it all fully in our Live review next month (XBW 27), but it's worth mentioning that, again, there's a feeling that a couple of things aren't quite right here.

The deathmatch maps are all just a tiny bit too big for those playing split-screen with three mates, and there's only four of them! Then again, there are some generally excellent AI bots to make up the numbers and a slew of astonishingly high quality CTF maps that more than make up for this.

So - once you've played Pariah - you'll be convinced that despite the shortcomings, it was all worth it. Yet still that niggle remains - from such talented coders, why not that one last coat of polish?

We wouldn't dare suggest Digital Extremes wanted to get this project out of the way so they can all move on to more important, next-gen work, but sometimes it feels like it.

However, with the endless possibilities for creating and downloading maps, and DE's track record for giving away new content, there's not too much scope for complaint, unless you don't have Xbox Live. In which case, you've only yourself to blame - it's essential these days.

Pariah is out now for Xbox and PC and will be released for PS2 this summer

More Info

PlatformXbox, PC