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Pariah is a first-person shooter computer game developed by Digital Extremes, co-developers of the Unreal franchise. It was released on May 3, 2005 for Windows and Xbox. It uses a modified version of the Unreal engine and the Havok physics engine. A demo featuring the multiplayer portion of the game was released half a month before the game.
In the year 2520, Jack Mason, a medic, is on a ship transporting Karina, a woman who is carrying a highly classified transgenic virus—and who, according to the manual, has had her civil rights revoked. While flying over "The Zone" the ship is shot down by "Scavengers," crash landing on Earth. Karina is seized by the Scavengers and Jack must find her before an outbreak of the virus occurs. Jack suspects that it was more than just a Scavenger conflict, as the surface to air missile was too advanced for scavengers to have obtained on their own.
Pariah features standard first-person shooter gameplay, largely influenced by the Unreal franchise, particularly Unreal 2 (whose game engine Pariah is based on). The single-player and multi-player game feature drivable vehicles that may be used in combat.
The game's most remarkable feature is the use of collectible Weapon Energy Cores with which to upgrade the player's weapons, giving them additional features and greater power. Each weapon in the game can be upgraded a total of 3 times.
- Jack Mason – Jack is a medic for the Alliance. Having been demoted several times for insubordination, he now does menial jobs such as transporting prisoners and patients.
- Karina – Jack's transport when his ship was shot down. Karina is a cryogenically frozen patient carrying a highly classified transgenic virus.
- Stockton – Stockton is the warden of "The Anvil" prison.
- Stubbs – Stubbs was Jack's pilot when his ship went down.
Full Plot Synopsis
Pariah notably omits to explain key background information about the plot and the in-game universe from the player, and thus much of the story progresses without any context or background for the player to identify with. Even at the end of the game, many key plot points remain largely unexplained, leaving it up to the player to conjecture as to what really happened.
The game takes place 30 years after mankind fought a devastating war against an enemy known as "The Shroud". Exactly who or what the Shroud are is never actually explained. At the end of the game they are shown to be hairless humans with corpse-white skin and highly advanced technology, although whether they are aliens, terrorists, mutants, or something else is never clearly revealed. Supposedly, the Shroud were vanquished 30 years ago, but their reappearance towards the end of the game shows that this is not true.
In the wake of the war, a large portion of the Earth is now an uncivilized wasteland known as "the Zone", inhabited by Scavengers, the violent descendants of prisoners and convicts who were released by the Shroud during the war. Human civilization is now controlled by a government known as the Alliance. According to the game manual, the Alliance mostly live in off-world colonies on other planets, but this is never shown or mentioned in the game.
Jack Mason is a medic for the Alliance, tasked with transporting a cryogenically frozen woman named Karina from the maximum security prison "the Anvil" to Alliance headquarters. However, while flying over "the Zone", Mason's ship is shot down by a surface-to-air missile, crash-landing down to Earth. Karina escapes in the ensuing chaos, and Mason ends up accidentally becoming infected with the mysterious transgenic virus Karina is carrying. Scavengers soon arrive and attempt to capture Karina and kill Mason. The Scavengers succeed in killing Stubbs, the pilot of the ship, but Mason manages to outfight them. Mason is suspicious that the incident is more than a mere Scavenger attack, as it seems unusual for them to possess a surface-to-air missile.
Although Karina is highly distrustful of Mason, her former captor, the two of them team up to evade the Scavengers. In the process, Mason learns that Karina possesses bizarre powers granted to her by the virus; when experiencing strong emotions, she involuntarily produces an explosive effect that creates mass destruction around her, but leaves herself unharmed.
Mason and Karina eventually succeed in radioing the Alliance for help, only to learn that Colonel Stockton, the Warden of "the Anvil", has ordered the Alliance to nuke the area and kill everything that moves, supposedly to contain the infection and prevent the spread of the virus. Karina is soon captured by Alliance Security, and Mason finds himself fighting against the very organization he works for.
Mason infiltrates "the Anvil" to retake Karina from Stockton, and finds that the Scavengers have also launched a massive assault against the Anvil for the same purpose.
It is eventually revealed that Colonel Stockton masterminded the attack on Mason's transport, and that he has paid off the Scavengers to capture Karina for him. However, he double-crossed the Scavengers, captured Karina himself, and now refuses to pay them.
Stockton is obsessed with battling the Shroud, and wants to use the virus Karina carries as a weapon against them. It was necessary for Stockton to kidnap Karina, because his superiors in the Alliance disagreed with his research and wanted to cancel the program and take Karina away from him.
Karina is a weapon created by the Shroud 30 years ago, but she was captured by the Alliance (specifically, Stockton's father) and cryogenically frozen. The virus she carries allows its host to generate massive amounts of energy from their bodies. This energy can be used to power Shroud weaponry and even to create a natural energy shield around the host's body. However, the virus and the energy it produces are also unstable, and hosts have a tendency to explode.
When Mason finally confronts Stockton, he learns that Stockton has infected himself with the virus, granting him powers such as a bulletproof energy-shield produced by his body, as well as the ability to use a captured Shroud energy weapon, the "Titan's Fist". The Shroud soon attack to capture Karina, and Stockton proceeds to use his newfound powers to battle them.
When Stockton attacks Mason to ensure that there is only one virus carrier, Mason succeeds in killing him and retrieving Karina. Karina wants to escape together with Mason far away from the conflict, but surprisingly Mason betrays her and hands her over to none other than the Shroud.
It turns out that Mason is a traitor who has been collaborating with the Shroud all along. His mission was to retrieve Karina and deliver her to the Shroud. Mason's daughter died some time ago. However, the Shroud possess the ability to bring the dead back to life. They promised to resurrect Mason's daughter in exchange for him returning Karina to them.
However, the Shroud betray Mason, and insist that he perform more "errands" for them before he will be allowed to see his daughter again. Mason realizes that the Shroud will never honor their end of the bargain, and even if they did Mason's daughter would no longer be his child, but the Shroud's.
Mason goes on a one-man rampage through the Shroud outpost using his viral powers and the "Titan's Fist" taken from Stockton. Mason defeats a few dozen Shroud soldiers, finally killing a mysterious viral-powered Shroud woman protected by several Shroud assassins. However, when he finally reaches Karina, he finds her connected to Shroud machinery draining away her blood. The two of them are soon surrounded by Shroud soldiers. Karina tells Mason that he cannot rescue her, and begs him to end her life. Mason cannot bring himself to shoot Karina, and so shoots himself instead. When Karina realizes that Mason is dead, her out-of-control emotions produce a massive energy wave that envelops Mason's body and obliterates the Shroud outpost killing everyone.
The competitive multiplayer aspect of Pariah for Windows never took off. During the demo and launch of the game, the game had a small but strong community that actively pushed for its adaptation into leagues and tournaments.