Pariah Impressions - Single-Player and Map Editor

We take a look at the latest PC and Xbox versions of Digital Extremes' upcoming shooter.

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Digital Extremes' James Schmalz discusses this upcoming PC and Xbox shooter. Click on "Stream for Free" for higher resolution.

At a recent press event, we took a look at the latest PC and Xbox versions of Pariah, the upcoming shooter from Unreal Tournament developer Digital Extremes. The first portion of our demonstration focused on the single-player game, and specifically on a level entitled the communication tower. In the single-player game, you'll play as a weary doctor named Jack Mason who is charged with escorting an infected female prisoner named Karina to an Earth prison facility on a ship that ends up crashing before it reaches its destination.

The communication tower itself is set in a lush environment that, while pleasing to the eye, affords your enemies plenty of places to hide. The enemies were quick to emerge when Mason and Karina turned up in their "Bogie" buggy (one driving, the other manning a rear-mounted gun), but they were equally quick to fall as they were either run over or shot. On the whole, the enemies that we saw in Pariah seemed quite intelligent--they were definitely adept at running for cover when necessary, and they could occasionally be seen investigating the bodies of fallen comrades. Also, upon entering the communication tower, the guard inside instinctively headed for the alarm so that he could raise the alert rather than trying to take on Mason in a one-on-one firefight.

Pariah will feature lush environments with slick graphical effects.
Pariah will feature lush environments with slick graphical effects.

With the alarms raised (and the guy responsible for raising them dealt with), Mason was able to move to one of the tower's windows with his sniper rifle and, using a thermal imaging upgrade, shoot the remaining enemies outside--many of which were still in hiding. Mason sustained a fair bit of damage himself, of course, but because he's a doctor he has the ability to heal himself by using a small device that he applies to his wrist. The device appeared to have unlimited uses but, to prevent you from using it all the time, it does have the effect of blurring your vision. Our demo of this particular level ended at the top of the tower, where Mason climbed into a gun turret and proceeded to shoot down enemy dropships before they could deliver reinforcements.

Although Pariah is very much a first-person shooter with all the multiplayer features you might expect, Digital Extremes has clearly spent a great deal of time attempting to add some variety to the single-player experience. For example, one of the other levels we saw was entirely vehicle-based--in it, Karina and Mason's Bogie was being pursued by enemy vehicles. Another unusual level that we saw will place you, as Mason, aboard a dropship that's flying alongside another that is full of enemies. The goal, as far as we could tell, was to board the second dropship. But before Mason could accomplish this, he had to shoot out its shield generators, pick off the enemies with a sniper rifle, and then jump across when the two ships were close enough to each other. Neither of the levels we saw was radically different to anything you'd expect from modern-day first-person shooters, but it was certainly good to see some variety in the gameplay.

Interestingly, Pariah will allow you to upgrade your weapons using weapon energy cores that you will find as you progress through the single-player game. Upgradeable weapons are nothing new, of course, but what's interesting is that you'll be able to customize them to such an extent that your Jack Mason will be quite different from your friend's, for example. Apparently, the weapon customization features will be even more prominent in the team-based multiplayer games. For example, certain players will use their weapon energy cores to effectively become heavy weapons experts, while others might become medics capable of resurrecting fallen teammates. We were told that, as you might expect, teams with a good selection of specialist players are likely to be more successful than a team full of generalists that all have the same upgrades.

The multiplayer features in the game will include capture the flag, siege, and frontline assault gameplay options, and although we didn't get to see multiplayer in action, we did get to take a look at the map editor that will ship with the game. The version of the editor that we saw was taken from the Xbox game which, we're told, will be slightly different to the one in the PC version. The editor appeared to be incredibly easy to use and, in addition to the all of the usual tools for tinkering with the terrain, it has an extensive selection of premade objects and buildings that can be placed with a single button press. Equally impressive is the fact that you'll be able to jump into your work-in-progress maps at any time, take a look around them, and then get back out to the editor without having to endure any loading times.

The game will let you upgrade your weapons to customize your character.
The game will let you upgrade your weapons to customize your character.

Even with different textures painted on, weather and fog effects, and your own custom sound and lighting options, none of the maps you create for the Xbox version of Pariah will exceed 64k in size--meaning that other players will be able to download them very quickly. The map editor will also not allow you to create maps that would cause frame rates to drop, by preventing you from bunching too many objects together in one place, for example.

Pariah isn't scheduled for release until March 2005, but it's already looking very impressive on both the Xbox and PC. A PS2 version of the game (complete with map editor) is also in development, but was not being shown at the event. We look forward to bringing you more information on Pariah as soon as it becomes available.

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