When a game has the pedigree that Haze has, you can’t help but feel a little shiver of excitement, no matter what you tell yourself about over hyping a game, the fond memories of GoldenEye and Time Splitters are so firmly ingrained in your mind, they are almost impossible to remove.
This means that even when a game is good, it will have to prove itself as exceptional in order to surpass its spiritual parents. Unfortunately Haze seems more like the result of too many years of inbreeding and we are left scratching our heads at how Free Radical have come to make this.
Not to say that Haze is face meltingly, horrendous, it just seems a little dopey, slow, unimaginative and at times ridiculous. Moments of inspiration hint at what could have been, but they are quickly drowned in floods of standard gameplay, substandard graphics, terrible allied AI, glitches and a script that would make Uwe Boll proud.
The premise is fairly standard but provides hope for something greater; you are Shawn Carpenter, an employee of the Mantel Corporation, an international PMC, and you are dispatched to fight a terrorist organisation know as the rebel hand lead by the notorious “Skin Coat”.
The attempted deviation from the norm is that part of your arsenal (and wage) is the drug nectar, that helps you and your team become better more aggressive fighters. Free radical had suggested that the game would explore the darker nature of human conflict, however when your team consist of a group of macho, gung-ho uber-men, who suffer from some sort of Tourette’s syndrome that compels them to spout, fairly hilarious frat boy comments, and get in more back slapping than an entire college worth of football fans, you’ll want to reach for the mute button quickly. Any notion that the Mantel might actually be the good guys is thrown out of the window with a few minutes of listening to your teammates chatter; unfortunately this makes the inevitable plot twist glaringly obvious. Having wasted its biggest twist the storyline simply never takes off.
Explosions prove that war is bad.
Of course storyline is always just an added bonus, the main focus in any FPS is on killing stuff. Haze’s first unique feature in this respect is the wonderful drug Nectar. Use L2 to administer Nectar and you become more accurate, suffer less damage damage and highlights your enemies in glowing yellow, essentially turning each fight into a shooting gallery; however you must be careful not to go overboard on your Nectar use, as it can cause you to OD, and render friend indistinguishable from foe. Nectar is an idea the almost worked, but it feels too overpowering and the entire addiction side of things is highlighted through such terrible and painfully clichéd methods as to ruin any chance of making it an interesting plot device.
Once you go across to the other side, you may lose access to Nectar, but you gain a host of interesting abilities. You can play dead, scavenge weapons, or throw a grenade full of nectar at your former comrades, causing them to OD and attack one another. These extra abilities are one of the points of innovation that actually work fairly well, but they have no way near the same level of usefulness as Nectar, especially because it never quite seems like enemy Mantel are actually using Nectar to boost themselves.
Even with these extra abilities there is nothing outside of the ordinary about any of the action, Free Radical have made a solid FPS core, the weapons all feel fairly solid and some of the set pieces are fun, but that is the standard in shooters nowadays and the rest of the time combat is fairly repetitive and uninspired. The vehicle sections are hindered by poor controls and add virtually nothing to the game.
The enemy AI isn’t useless, but is prone to making suicide charges or hiding in plain sight, and on top of this your allies are beyond useless and will do as much as possible to irritate you. They will cross your line of fire over and over again, and when on the side of the rebels this mean you have to revive them, to make matters worse they will occasionally shoot at you as well, this means you might well find yourself waiting at the loading screen courtesy of an allied bullet.
Drugs are bad M’Kay?
The multiplayer benefits from the solid underlying structure of Haze but once again fails to rise above the mediocre. You have the option for 2 player split screen or 4 player co-op, this is useful as it means you have to deal less often with the ridiculous allied AI, however it still doesn’t make the single player campaign any more compelling. Aside from the campaign options you can play deathmatch, team deathmatch or team assault, with up to 16 players. Deathmatch and team deathmatch are the usual affairs, but team deathmatch tries to spice things up by adding in specific objectives like blow up this bridge, or reach area A.
The games visuals are a real let down, animations are jerky, textures run the gauntlet from OK to very poor, character models are ugly, blocky and last gen and you will often find your allies stuck in some sort of insane twitching spasm due to glitches. If the rest of the game had been perfect maybe this would have been forgivable, instead it just compounds the misery. We know what the PS3 is capable of and this is not it. In terms of sound, the majority of the voice acting is poor, and as previously mentioned gets annoying quickly, the soundtrack itself is ok, and the weapons sound effects are acceptable, but this is still a game to play with sound turned off.
Korn helped make the soundtrack, and they probably did some of the programming as well….
Haze promised so much but delivered so little, the fact that it is still at its core a fairly solid shooter only serves to cause us to ponder what may have been, but with everything else being generic and the voice acting being awful, it’s hard to recommend.
To say the visuals leave a lot to be desired is a massive understatment. Frankly it looks like a PS2 game, and not even a good one.
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Generic, middle of the road stuff. Some good set pieces are forgotten due to poor AI the rest of the time.
There are very few things I would like to hear less than the macho frat boy nonsense that the Mantel spout.
Lots of co-op options and some multiplayer goings on, but once again the generic gameplay doesn't provide motivation to go back too many times.
Haze is mostly average, but some of it is awful. This is not the game it should have been.