Pariah's ragdoll physics, as enemies are catapulted high into the sky before raining down around you. Indeed, blast a foe point blank in front of a railing and they'll slump backwards, contorting themselves over said railings before tumbling into oblivion. Brilliant. Pariah's engaging enemy AI also compounds this. The Just A Flesh Wound difficulty setting isn't too taxing, though whack their toughness up to Heroic Measures or Flatlined and they're fearless adversaries with the cunning of an Oxbridge-educated fox stealing chickens from the MI6 coop. Or double-hard bastards who'll take a mag-full of ammo before going down. Either way, it's not good news for you. Enemies frequently hide behind littered pillars and barrels, all of which can be obliterated to reveal the hiding heathens before dispatching them.
Pariah is one of the rare breed of shooters that features some genuinely jaw-dropping moments, and players will frequently stumble across truly epic setpieces. It's not unusual to round a corner to find swarms of enemies rocking up in combat vehicles, lobbing grenades and plasma
orbs in your direction, or emerge from a tunnel to find rival factions tearing chunks out of each other. Similar to the Covenant/Brutes/Flood spats of Halo 2, players can either sit back and let the scrapping parties slowly wipe each other out, or get involved and add to the mayhem.
The tiniest bit of slowdown is occasionally evident, taking the sheen off these incredibly polished moments, though we'll play the understanding boyfriend and forgive Karina and co just this once. After all, she's put out a whole lot throughout the rest of the game for us, eh?
And so onto the weapons that make all this possible. Pariah's arsenal is a bit more inventive than your average shooter, and at its core is an ingenious upgrade system (see Making The Grade, page 066). Each weapon has its own merits and advantages, and none are ever superfluous; we found ourselves using a beefed-up Bulldog (the first weapon you'll encounter in the opening scene) right up until the final level. Upgrades make a genuine difference to each weapon - you'll both feel and see the marked difference, and the ability to pick and choose which weapon to upgrade adds a healthy dose of variety to the infected blaster.
The weapons menu is super-quick and intuitive to use, and players can instantly switch guns or assign upgrades even in the middle of a firefight. You can tap the Left trigger at any time to whip out your crunching Bonesaw as a melee weapon, though we found ourselves hardly ever using this, such was the ferocity of our ranged weapons and the absolute abundance of ammo replenishment.
But enough of the single-player campaign. Monogamy is not something Pariah practises and the game features much more than a token, tacked-on multiplayer. A lot of sweat and tears have gone into this side of the title, and the rewards are there to be reaped. Although only five game modes are present in all (Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Siege and Front Line Assault), the inclusion of super-fly AI bots ensures every match is an engaging pitched battle.
The latter game mode in particular is a real riot, as players engage in a continuous tug of war over a map, trying to gain footholds in bases over the other. A great feature is the ability to swap out your Weapon selection (an assorted two per player) at any point in the game. Powerless to stop the marauding opposition from storming your base? No problem, simply swap your sniper rifle for a hefty rocket launcher and the next time you spawn you will, quite literally, be the king of the hill. That is, until the brilliantly astute AI and your with conspiring mates start flanking you and you have to rethink your tactics...