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Pariah: Pariah Hands-On

Company: Groove Games

Known primarily for their work on the Unreal series, one of the most popular multiplayer FPSs around today, Digital Extremes is entering new territory and developing Pariah as a single-player experience. So far, little is known about what Pariah?s single-player game will entail, but the recently released multiplayer demo does offer some insight into what the experience will feel like.

As far as what is known about the single-player aspect, you play the role of Dr. Jack Mason, a burned-out doctor with a dead-end job, transporting sick prisoners from Earth, which has become a prison, for treatment elsewhere. As if crummy work conditions weren?t enough, a mysterious disease has begun to spread on the planet?s surface, making it a hostile environment. Just when it seems nothing else can go wrong, the routine transport of a prisoner named Katrina goes terribly wrong when the transport is shot down, setting up Mason?s search to rescue Katrina and find safe passage off Earth.

Judging from a few levels in the recently released multiplayer demo, Pariah should offer huge play environments. The game is built off the current Unreal engine, and from the looks of it, Digital Extremes is squeezing every last polygon out of the engine. The few maps available are gigantic and sometimes require the use of vehicles to traverse. Most of the maps take place in outdoor environments, offering lots of foliage and wide-open areas for gunfights on both foot and vehicle. Structures like towers and turrets also litter the area. They make for prime defensive positions and should make team multiplayer games a blast once groups get better organized. Vehicles like hover-bikes and jeeps are available to help you travel across the game?s expansive real estate. Some vehicles even allow for multiple passengers, allowing one team member to drive while others take shotgun (literally) or man turrets.

Non-outdoorsmen have no reason to worry though since the game also has its fair share of indoor environments, which should make for claustrophobic fun in both single and multiplayer games.

All of the action is backed by the HAVOK physics engine, so expect spectacular explosions with bodies, debris, and other items flying around. Pariah also features destructible environments, adding just a little more spice and strategy to battles.

The multiplayer side of the game features FPS standards like Deathmatch and Capture the Flag (in both single and team variants), as well as two other modes: Frontline Assault and Siege. Frontline Assault is set up similar to Unreal Tournament 2K4?s Onslaught mode and has teams battling for control of points on the map. Siege, another team-based event, has players carrying a flag into an enemy base.

One of the more unique elements in Pariah is the weapons system. Upon entering a match, players can select from a set list of weapons packages. Each load-out is comprised of two guns, each designed for different play-styles or battlefield roles. For example, one is made for long-range action while others are made for up-close tactics and heavy explosives. Judging from the early group of games I played, it seems players are still trying to get used to the idea of combat roles. Instead of going for more tactical choices and taking roles, the more popular choice is to go for the more powerful load-outs, which include sniper rifles and rocket-launchers.

Once armed, weapons can be upgraded on the battlefield through the use of Weapon Energy Cores ? allowing you to, pardon the expression, ?Pimp Your Rifle.? Attaching one core adds one level to the gun, with a max level of three. The system is easy to learn and flexible. Upgrade order isn?t forced on players, allowing them to either go for a quick, cheap upgrade or save up for a more powerful punch.

In addition to single and multiplayer modes, Pariah will also include an easy-to-use M.A.P. Editor. This feature will be available in both the Xbox and PC versions of the game, although you can expect the PC version to go a little more in-depth. Many of the details are still being kept under wraps, but the aim is to create a system that allows even the more casual of fans to make their own levels and share them with friends online.

If the multiplayer demo is any indication, Pariah is one of the games to watch in 2005. The M.A.P. Editor alone should be enough to get enough people interested, while the promising single-player and solid multiplayer modes should make for a great experience.

Pariah ships in early May for the PC and Xbox.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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