Pariah is set in the year 2520, a time where plasma rifles capable of inflicting heavy damage burn holes in vicious mercenaries who roam the earth prowling for trouble. Puzzling then, that playing Pariah through the first person perspective of the instantly forgettable Jack Mason, you would think the FPS genre had learnt nothing from the Halo franchise and had gone back 500 years, not forward into some hellish future.
As tiresome as the comparisons will be to developers Digital Extremes, I'm going to repeat them: Pariah, being a futuristic first person shooter, isn't as good as Halo 2. This shouldn't take away from the fact that the game is a sound FPS, and, if released pre-Halo 2, would have stood out among others of the genre. However, times have changed. Most Xbox owners who buy Pariah will have fragged some Covenant at one point or another. Those gamers expect games to evolve and improve, not step backwards.
Our hero, Doctor Jack Mason (the medical schools of 2520 obviously teach a lot more than scalpel use), works for the Transgenic Control Commission, transporting patients and prisoners for the many prison complexes around the solar system. The game begins when Mason's ship crashes while transporting a very special passenger - Karina. All Mason knows is that she is reported to have a transgenic virus and his task is to transport her off earth to a medical facility.
'You eventually team up with Karina for some mundane vehicle combat'
Immediately the good Doctor is faced with all manner of scavengers and mercenaries hell bent on his destruction as you move from open round to complex. No explanation, no reason: just kill or be killed. In terms of storyline, not much can match Halo 2's over elaborate shambles, but at least there was some cause for the mindless destruction from the off. You eventually team up with Karina for some mundane vehicle combat, but, in the main, she dishes out annoying, clichèd soundbites as the plot proceeds.
From a screenshot standpoint, Pariah does well in magazines and on the back of game boxes. Running on your plasma tv in the comfort of your own home, however, the action jerks when you enter an admittedly beautifully drawn wide open expanse with a number of enemies in the distance.
Then there's the feeling that your firepower is actually connecting with something. In Halo, a bullet that hit its target felt as if it had actually left a gun in Master Chief's hand, flew through the air and pierced whatever skin the Covenant like to call their own. In Pariah, you never feel this. Despite using the Havok engine, bullets spray with little accuracy (accuracy is by no means necessary), and, after a while, enemies drop in unconvincing fashion. Grenades cause enemies to fly into the air like some comical Hollywood mock up. Of the items of scenery that are explodable, none demand attention.
The weapons themselves are unimaginative. Machine gun, shotgun, plasma rifle, grenade launcher and sniper rifle types are all included. There's no dual wielding, nor are you going to need to use certain weapons against certain enemies. The ability to upgrade through cores that are laying about the various interiors fails to save them. There's no standard melee attack either, instead, random swipes from the good doctor's Bonesaw (see surgical knife) suffice. In short, Pariah's destruction isn't satisfying.