Pariah Updated Impressions - Early Levels, More Editor

We take an updated look at this forthcoming sci-fi shooter.

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Digital Extremes showed up to the Game Developers Conference with a near-final build of Pariah, its upcoming sci-fi first-person shooter. In fact, while the game was on display at the show, the development team back in Toronto was busy stamping out some of the final bugs in the game. However, we won't see Pariah ship for another six weeks or so, as it now has to go into localization for foreign markets. Still, this gave us the opportunity to check out the game with pretty much everything locked down and in place.

In Pariah, you play as soldier trapped behind enemy lines in the year 2525. We were able to glean a few more details regarding the game's plot. Your character is Jack Mason, a military doctor whose career has seen better days. Relegated to escorting sick prisoners off of Earth (now a prison planet), he draws the assignment of riding along a quarantine flight to evacuate a female prisoner infected with an unknown virus. However, the transport is shot down flying over the Fringe, a hostile, uncontrolled area surrounding the prison. When Mason awakens in the wreckage, the sick prisoner is missing, and he finds himself surrounded by scavengers, escaped prisoners who have organized into clans. That's where the game starts, and you'll find yourself controlling Mason as he attempts to survive, as well as locate the sick woman and unlock the mystery regarding her disease.

We were able to watch as the demonstrators showed off the game's first level, and we saw Mason fend off an attack by relatively low-level scavengers, the kind of basic opponents you'd expect in the opening levels of a game. Still, they exhibited some smart behavior, such as shooting from behind cover. To battle them, you'll start off with only a couple of weapons. The first is the bone saw, the game's basic melee weapon. The second is the bulldog assault rifle, a fairly typical assault rifle for the genre. However, like most of the weapons in the game, the bulldog can be upgraded to become more useful, assuming you find the appropriate parts. The first upgrade to the bulldog allows for faster rates of fire, while latter upgrades will allow you to do impressive feats, including shoot down incoming rocket rounds.

Pariah will feature a single-player campaign approximately 15 hours in length. Of course, the multiplayer mode will offer plenty of replay value. The game will support up to 16 players in Xbox Live in deathmatch and team deathmatch modes, and up to 8 players in the frontline assault mode, which is similar to Unreal Tournament 2004's popular onslaught mode. In frontline assault, two teams battle it out for control points on the map, but they must capture them in sequence in order to move the front lines. The game will also support bots, computer-controlled players that can step in and fill out the ranks of a team. And in addition to Xbox Live support, the game will support both system link and split-screen multiplayer.

One of the most innovative features for a console title is the game's map editor, which will let you create and share maps with others. The editor uses a simple interface designed for use with a gamepad, and it's fairly simple to shape and populate the terrain in a map any number of ways. The map editor will also include template levels that you can adjust and modify, so you won't have to start from scratch, which can seem like a daunting task. Meanwhile, the PC version will ship with both the simplified map editor as well as the professional map editor that was used by the game's designers, which should please both casual and serious PC first-person-shooter fans. After you create a map, it's easy to share it, especially if you have Xbox Live. Each Xbox Live subscriber has a small amount of personal storage space on the service, and you can upload your maps to that storage space so that other players can download it from there. Since the maps are so small, if you're hosting a game, players will automatically (practically instantly) download maps that they don't have.

The game looks really sharp, which isn't a surprise since Digital Extremes is a studio with a long history of working with the Unreal engine. The game's levels are lush and colorful, and the inclusion of Havok physics allows for all sorts of spectacular moments, such as when two enemies are hurled into the air by the force of an explosion. Pariah is shaping up nicely, and it should ship in early May.

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