‘Scuse me, whilst I piss myself.
Free Radical are basically the people who left Rare to go their own way and make games, probably most renowned for the Timesplitters series, and also the fact the head of the company is actually a Scientist in Goldeneye. I’ve very much enjoyed the early Free Radical stuff, and thought that Timesplitters was a great slice of no nonsense shooty fun with all the exteranious bits and bobs removed. So it’s with great anticipation that I’m looking at Haze.
First thoughts on this then are that the promotional trailers lied. They showed real actors talking to the screen and displayed what, I thought, could have been a deep story about a shadowy totalitarian government/company and their troops. However this game opens up with some over long in game cutscene where you can only move your head and your AI team mates talk unexcitedly about a non specific mission brief and the generic war. This opening wouldn’t be so bad if the graphics looked amazing, but unfortunately they don’t. As a result your first experience of this game is one of the weakest, you are left staring at the lack luster graphics, dull textures and generic character models which just aren’t on a par with many of this games contemporaries. As an opening i’ve seen better. And things quickly move from bad to worse when you experience your first vehicle section.
The vehicles, of which there are three main ones all handle appallingly, it’s almost impossible to turn in any meaningful way and you repeatedly end up hitting walls when you really intended to take the apex of the corner instead, the steering is compounded by the fact the collision detection and physics are miles off and you always seem to end up with your vehicle stuck in some improbably position behind a rock or building.
The main element to this game is the gunplay which is split into two types. At the start you play as a Mantel trooper and then later on as a low tech rebel. The differences between the two do actually effect the way you play the game and are actually a pretty good dynamic. It’s a pity then that you only get to play as the Mantel troopers for two smallish levels, and then after this the only way to play with Nectar is online. Whist the online aspect is fun it’s nothing remarkable, it’s serviceable and hectic when you have a full deathmatch of 16 but more often than not you find yourself just going along for the ride and it doesn’t drive the same kind of adrenaline rush which can be found in most other online shooters.
Playing as a Mantel trooper you’ve the benefit of Nectar which was the key marketing hook for this game. It’s a drug which can boosts your strength, health and aiming. However use too much and you go into a killing frenzy a sort of berserk status in which all you can do is automatically shoot at all people be they friend or foe, and if you keep injecting Nectar past this point you can die. Nectar highlights the enemies on your screen to allow for easy identification and allows you to see the blast radius of the grenades you’ve thrown. It genuinely is a very nice touch to the game and you do find yourself starting to become dependent on Nectar, your finger twitching for the shoulder button and the next hit. It makes you feel invincible and plays really well into the premise that Mantel are an overpowering superpower with the superior tech. Clever use of Nectar allows you to literally walk into any firefight and slaughter the opposition.
Where to begin? If this wasn’t a PS3 exclusive there would be nowhere near the amount of hype and marketing surrounding it. Everything about it is generic. From the utterly unlikeable bald space marine characters to the boring story. The dialogue is the worst and most annoying I’ve heard in a long time, the soldiers sound like a bunch of smug teenage jocks who high-five each other every two minutes and the enemy AI is awful. They seem to have no concept of aiming and prefer to line up to take turns shooting at you.
Speaking of enemies, you pretty much face the kind one throughout the whole game, either carrying a shotgun or a machine gun. When you are a soldier you fight the same rebel over and over again and vice versa. The game does pick up slightly when you switch sides and some of the latter levels are rather interesting but they are nothing you haven’t seen before.
To mix things up a bit, there are also Halo-style vehicle sections complete with awful controls and on-rail shooting sections that are nothing worth shouting about.
Graphics-wise, Haze could be mistaken for a last-gen game and for some reason it isn’t even displayed in proper HD. Messy textures and pop-op are everywhere.
The multiplayer has all the modes you would expect these days and, like the single player, is nothing special. There is the option of online four-player co-op which makes things a tad more bearable since you don’t have to endure the silly AI of your squad mates.
As for the game length it can easily be completed within a day. All-in-all, one to rent.
Secondary Score: 4/10
To polarise this high tech approach you have the rebel troopers, who aren’t able to use Nectar to boost their stats but can use it as form of gas grenade which send the enemies into a killing frenzy. Rebels can plant traps for the enemies and also dive out of the way with a double jump. All of these tricks would be good but the game doesn’t call upon the use of them. You grow tired of trowing Nectar grenades as they take just that too long to explode so the enemies can easily dodge out of the way. One handy trick the rebels have is the ability to play dead when you health is low and let the enemies run past you, this is a fairly useful mechanic and I did get some mild enjoyment out of outflanking the enemies.
Whist based on a modern war the game uses traditional weapons and the arsenal doesn’t throw up any surprises. All the guns use real bullets and genuinely have a great sense of power about them, bullets slug into your enemies, sound loud and aggressive and feel like they do proper damage to the enemies. Unfortunately the enemy AI is so thick you actually feel it’s a kindness to kill them and put them out of their misery. Mostly the enemies will just rush you, or if you are lucky they may throw the odd grenade. But on a few occasions I’ve seen them stood stock still staring at walls or completely ignorant to the fact their mate has just been killed.
The level design if of the school of brown boxy corridors. You will come across brown muddy hillsides, brown greyey swamps and brown boxy ships full of boxes. The levels seem planned for open warfare akin to some of the better levels of Halo, but instead they are populated by a scattering of imbecilic enemies who rush you instead of using the environment to flank you. The levels are so poorly designed that you end up spending most of your time following a trail of red flares the developers have placed to help direct you.
The deep and meaningful take on war and the comment on brainwashing and drug use as alluded to in all the previews is all a crock. The story, if there is one, is confusing and both badly acted and scripted. Repeated shouts from your colleagues of ‘Remember your promise to Merino’ may not accurately portray the horrors of real warfare but certainly filled me with a kind of horror I wont easily forget.
In summary then the game is a massive let down, broken in more ways than I can succinctly sum up in this review, full of outdated concepts and broken gameplay which wouldn’t be out of place in a mid 90’s shooter.