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‘Pariah’ and latest ‘Resident Evil’ come up short

The Spokesman-Review

“Pariah”

•• (out of four)

Groove Games for

Xbox (also for

Windows),

$49.99

Rating: M (Mature)

Finally, some familiar ground to battle on. The towering spires of Earth sprouting from the ground to the north inspire some hide-and-seek thrills. A small watery inlet surrounded by hills and trees for cover offers gorgeous scenery for action. And a small passage hides a canyon behind the mountains to the south, where I can find two vehicles and all the ammo I need.

Yes, in this first-person shooter deathmatch, I definitely have an advantage. That’s because this rugged level – dubbed “Teeth to Spare” for its horde of gigantic spikes – was meticulously crafted by me.

The mapmaking feature is the coolest shtick this sci-fi shooter has to offer. While it’s not the first game with this feature, this one seems the easiest to use. You can even share your creations with other players and battle on them via Xbox Live. (If you want to try out “Teeth to Spare” – it’s my first attempt at mapmaking, so don’t laugh – send me a friend request and you can download it; my gamertag is Huschka.)

Unfortunately, the rest of the game isn’t nearly as polished; “ordinary” is probably the best word to describe it.

The graphics are fairly detailed, although the frame rate occasionally stutters. The physics are a little sketchy in spots.

The controls are easy to pick up (they’re almost identical to “Halo”), yet targeting and vehicle control often gave me fits.

The story – a tale of Dr. Jack Mason’s attempt to transfer a prisoner infected with a mysterious virus across the planet’s wastelands, which are filled with scavengers armed to the teeth – is more likely to keep you playing than shooting the often dumb-as-rocks thugs.

All told, this game is no pariah. But even with its mapmaker, co-op mode and upgradeable weapons, “Pariah” is too flawed to seriously compete with the Xbox’s big-name shooters.

– Ryan Huschka, Knight Ridder

“Resident Evil Outbreak: File 2”

Capcom for

PlayStation 2,

$29.99

•• (out of four)

Rating: M (Mature)

If the gaming populace was clamoring for an online version of the classic “Resident Evil” horror series, this is not the answer. This attempt at team play is rather like the zombies you kill: relentlessly lumbering and numb.

“File 2” brings together eight Raccoon City residents from previous “Resident Evil” games. They must work together to survive the release of a biological weapon that has turned the citizens into a zombified army.

Each character has special abilities: Kevin, the cop, can do great damage with a gunshot; George, the doctor, can mix up herbs into medicines.

In single-player mode, you pick a main character, whom you control, and a couple of sidekicks, controlled by the computer.

You choose from several scenarios to progress to the final objective. Online, you and up to three other players team together.

Each mode shares a significant problem: team communication, the very reason for this game’s existence. Going solo, you’ll have to put up with the unresponsive computer AI. Online, you don’t have the benefit of voice chat. Instead, you have to use your controller to issue canned one-line commands –very frustrating, given the complexity of some scenarios.

Further complicating things is the convoluted control scheme.

Just to attack, you have to hold down the R1 or R2 button to get into an attack stance, then press X – not good if you need a hair-trigger reaction to survive a monster horde.

I can’t fault the presentation: cinematic camera work, creepy backgrounds, spooky music, labored breathing – signature “Resident Evil” touches, all good. The sights and sounds are almost worth the tedious game-play.

Hard-core “Resident Evil” fans might consider renting “File 2.” But for online thrills, I’d rather do “Halo,” and for a real thrill, “Resident Evil 4” is much more worthwhile.

– Omari Gardner, Knight Ridder

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