Pariah sure sounded promising—realistic physics using the Havoc 3 engine (think Half-Life 2), great graphics using the latest Unreal Engine, indoor and outdoor environments, upgradeable weapons, vehicles, advanced artificial intelligence, a plot written by "Hollywood script writers" and a deep map editor mode. Since it was created by the same developers who created the venerable Unreal Tournament series, Pariah showed a lot of promise. But it ultimately proves that what sounds good on paper doesn't always pan out in the execution.
Pariah is, at best, competent. It borrows heavily from better shooters like Halo, Half-Life and The Chronicles of Riddick. But what made those games so noteworthy is that they pushed the boundaries of the first-person shooter genre, rather than being derivative and forgettable. While not a bad game by any means, Pariah merely traverses familiar territory and ends as an outclassed shooter that, while briefly entertaining, is ultimately forgettable.
The game begins in fashion typical of games such as Half-Life and Red Faction as a routine prisoner transport on a futuristic world becomes anything but routine. A lone scientist must arm himself and deal with a seemingly overwhelming onslaught of futuristic mercenaries as he attempts to rescue the prisoner, a young woman infected with a virus that has the potential to become a grave threat in biological terrorism.
What follows is a mixture of indoor and outdoor levels not unlike Halo, but lacking the deep enemy artificial intelligence and the expansive levels to make it nearly as exciting. Enemies are reasonably well varied, but because they generally behave in predictable patterns, encounters have a feeling of sameness to them.
The big calling card of Pariah is its weapons upgrade system, which works well. There are a number of basic weapons, each of which can be upgraded up to three times. Some of the upgrades seem very useful, and others' functionality is a bit more nebulous. The basic assault rifle is by far the most effective weapon in the game, and once it's fully upgraded there's little need to use anything else save for the few instances when assault rifle ammo is hard to come by. However, many of the guns are fun to use just because of their far-out designs and the big kick that they provide.
Taking a page straight from Halo, Pariah mixes some vehicle sequences into the single player levels. However, the vehicles are, in a word, atrocious. They handle decently, but lack the precision of those in Halo. Moreover, the onboard weapons in the vehicles are laughably ineffective. Even taking down enemy infantry is incredibly tedious. I actually found it easier to get out of the vehicles, blast my way through the inept enemies Rambo style, then hop back into the vehicle to get where I needed to go.
Pariah's decidedly average single-player campaign doesn't totally do in the package though; fortunately, there's a decent multiplayer mode present. While the multiplayer itself is nothing outstanding, the addition of a superbly easy-to-use map editor makes for some pretty creative opportunities. The weapons and vehicles are good enough that the multiplayer is enjoyable.
Had Pariah been released five or six years ago, it would have been at the forefront of its genre. However, it's ended as merely another forgettable entry in the overcrowded first-person shooter genre. While competent enough to satisfy hardcore fans between better games, Pariah never really takes off and brings its ideas to fruition. It is at best at second-tier shooter that rides the waves of its peers instead of making them.