The makers of Unreal Tournament are growing up a little bit. As with most young men, getting older means that often, old primal desires develop into finer emotions, like a desire for intrigue over action. It is no wonder then, that Pariah is going to be a story-based, with a focus on character development over fragging, and plot advancement over deathmatches. This is not to say that Pariah will be a point and click adventure, but gamers should expect a little substance with their gunplay. Very little has been released about this game, but I can tell you from what is know, that this is going to be one of next year’s most anticipated FPS.
The story at this point is sparse, but even at this early stage it shows promise. You play as a disgraced doctor that has been removed from his position of power, for reasons that are a bit shady. It is far in the future, and a mysterious plague is threatening all life in the galaxy. You took it upon yourself to experiment on human beings, in an effort to eradicate this illness, but out of several test subjects, only one survived. This woman shows no sign of the illness, much to your surprise. Unfortunately, your funding is cut and you are ordered to take the woman to an undisclosed location for further testing. As in any good story, something goes wrong. Your spaceship is attacked en route and you are forced to land on a strange planet known only as “Earth.” Once a thriving world, Earth is now a quarantined planet with only a bare remnant of society left, and you can bet they’re not happy about their lot in life. It is your duty to protect the lone survivor and to successfully complete your mission.
Once on the world you will have heavy opposition from the terrorists who attacked you, native inhabitants, and even the planet’s own security systems. This being a FPS, you won’t exactly be unarmed either. Various weapons will be available, all of which will be customizable and upgradeable, with dozens of possible combinations available. Coming from the Unreal developers you can expect some unique tools of destruction. So far only two weapons have been confirmed, a snub-nosed machine gun and the aptly named “Fragrifle.” This bad boy is made of spare gun parts and random scraps of metal, making it the least reliable rocket launcher you’ve ever player with. It’s a cool mechanic in the game that allows for you to upgrade weapons from scraps you find laying around. Your final character will be unique, with weapons that are limited only by your imagination.
Vehicles play a large role in Pariah as well, but with only a single vehicle released at this point, it’s going to be a long wait to see how much they factor into the final equation. The Wasp is a single person vehicle, which raises all sorts of questions about the plot. If only one person is in the vehicle, where is the woman you’re supposed to protect? I smell a kidnapping somewhere. Besides the limited seating capacity, this quick moving attack vehicle is known for its dual-heavy bore machine guns and its propensity for getting its driver killed, due to lack of proper armor.
The real selling point of the game is apparent in the screenshots, which are simply lovely to behold. Maybe I am just easily impressed by pretty pictures, but make no mistake about it, Pariah is going to be a great looking game. It utilizes the current Unreal 2 graphic engine, which means this entire story is going to be pushed through with an amazing frame rate as well. The artistic direction is definitely taken from the post-apocalyptic mythos, with a heavy dose of science fiction for flavor. You’ll see alien ships hovering around rusted piles of metal, and the combination gives Pariah a look all of it’s own.
Not to be redundant, but there is a lot of expectations from the makers of one of the biggest cult PC games to date. One of the biggest is the multiplayer modes, and how this series will advance these modes. Digital Extremes understand this, and are giving players new tools to help lengthen the shelf life of their game. Added with the game is a full map editor that will allow players to create their own maps, and share them with other players. You can control the usual things like terrain, weapon placement and ground elevations, or you can dabble in playing God with options like fog and other weather effects at your command. When you believe you have created the perfect killing field, you can enter the map by yourself to scout out weak points in your design, and quickly edit them out. Once you are done creating you can post your designs, none of which will be larger than 64KB, for other players to enjoy. It’s a simple feature that will ensure this game is played years after the technology that runs it has become obsolete.
While many people might dismiss Pariah as just another FPS, I find it hard to dismiss a game with a pedigree as good as this one. That alone gives it a certain prestige, and the fact that the development team is so excited about this project lends credibility to their claims of “something different.” With a proven graphical engine, and software aimed at prolonging the gaming experience, Pariah is certainly a game to look forward to when it is released in the spring of 2005.