Play both sides of the same war and experience two unique game systems, exclusively for the PLAYSTATION3 computer entertainment system.
Set in the year 2048 in a world where governments have outsourced military operations to private military corporations (PMCs), you play as Shane Carpenter, a newly enlisted soldier seeking fulfillment and thrills by fighting for a good cause. As the leading PMC, Mantel Global Industries offers an array of cutting-edge military equipment, including a high-tech arsenal of vehicles, deadly weaponry, and the performance-enhancing drug Nectar.
Your conflict begins in a war-torn country where you have been sent to fight a vicious rebel faction, the Promise Hand. At first all is well, but things quickly begin to look a little strange…
Uncover the truth, switch sides, and break away from Mantel's manipulative grip when you join your former enemies, the Promise Hand.
Ubisoft today announced the imminent release of a fully playable demo for Haze, the new first-person shooter set in a harsh future where war is never quite what it seems. Coming exclusively to the PLAYSTATION Network in early May, this playable demo will give gamers a taste of not only the single-player campaign in Haze, but will also allow up to four-player, drop-in drop-out co-op play online.
Developed by shooter experts Free Radical, creators of the critically acclaimed TimeSplitters series, Haze is scheduled for release exclusively on the PLAYSTATION 3 computer entertainment system on May 20th 2008.
GameSpot Score 6.0 fair
This madly inconsistent shooter offsets a number of thrilling moments with terrible artificial intelligence and an awful story.
If you played any given 10-minute chunk of Haze, depending on what part of this futuristic first-person shooter you chose, you would be convinced that it was either incredibly exciting or simply dreadful. Dim-witted artificial intelligence and deeply embarrassing storytelling are mixed with some breathtaking action sequences and thoughtful map design into an awkward and messy hodgepodge of shooting and driving that alternates between the entertaining and the downright unpleasant. It's fitting that Haze's gameplay would embrace such extremes, because its entire fiction is built around shallow absolutes. One faction embodies unlikeable and unredeeming lowbrow sensibilities without a hint of irony; the other embraces its ethical, sympathetic cause with angelically high morals. This is a shooter both easy to love and easy to hate, and you'll probably find yourself feeling both emotions within moments of each other.
This review's captions are brought to you courtesy of Haze's witty dialogue. Let's start with: BOOSH!
This dichotomy is fueled by the aptly named nectar, a drug that Mantel Global Industries persistently injects into the bloodstreams of its mercenary soldiers. Nectar gives the soldiers extraordinary capabilities, but it also appears to have some unpleasant side effects. As Mantel grunt Shane Carpenter, you see and experience these effects firsthand: the intense focus, the adrenaline-pumping rush--and the total loss of control that an overdose triggers. Nectar also turns every Mantel soldier into an obnoxious frat boy with barely more emotional range than the average caveman. You'll spend the first hour or so of the game with these unlikeable, overgrown adolescents, who spout abysmal dialogue punctuated with frequent cries of "boosh!" Haze doesn't mean for you to like them, and it succeeds all too well at this task. On the flipside, you're meant to respect and admire the Promised Hand, the South American rebels fighting to defend their villages and expose the evils of Mantel's beloved nectar. These men are the shining beacons of Haze's two-sided moral compass, the rational and ethical antithesis of Mantel's malice, yet they're written with the same lack of subtlety. Eventually, the game acknowledges the missing shades of gray in a few bits of contrived and hackneyed dialogue, but by then it's too late: The story has long been exposed as a shallow mess that simply can't deliver on its intriguing foundation.
Nectar is more than a plot device; it's the basis of several mechanics that give each faction distinct play styles. As a Mantel trooper, you can inject a quick gusher of nectar by pulling a trigger, which heightens your senses and causes all of your enemies to glow. While high on the stuff, you are also more resistant to damage, can detect mines more easily, and have better aiming skills. You're also prone to overdose if a stray bullet punctures the nectar administrator strapped to your back. Should you be so unlucky, you will temporarily lose control of your actions. On these occasions, your view becomes muddled and you cannot control your shots, so you'll watch helplessly as you plug your comrades with lead.
A short way into the game, you'll gain an entirely new set of abilities, and you'll spend the majority of the campaign using them. At this point, you can infuse standard grenades with nectar, which will in turn cause an overdose if certain enemies come in contact with the resulting cloud of gas. However, chief among these abilities is the capacity to play dead if you take damage. When prompted, you can fall to the ground and your foes will promptly ignore you; after a few moments (or when you press X), you'll stand again and rejoin the battle. This is a powerful ability, though in the single-player game, you may not always see it as an advantage. If no friendlies are around to take fire once you drop, enemies may hang around, ready to blast you the moment you stand. If there's an automated turret nearby, it will continue to fire even after you've feigned death, so if you find yourself in such a circumstance, you're as good as dead.
It's like taking candy from a baby!
If only your enemies had the deadly accuracy of those turrets. The term "artificial intelligence" only half-applies to your computer-controlled challengers, who are laughably, painfully stupid. Foes will run directly past you as if you aren't there, stand motionless as you fire, and completely ignore grenades tossed toward them. On the occasions when they do notice that a grenade has been thrown, they will wait a few seconds and then leap forward as if stealing second base--sometimes choosing to dive toward the grenade, rather than away from it. You may even find an enemy facing a wall, pointing his gun at a texture rather than noticing that you are standing directly beside him. You're frequently accompanied by AI-driven squadmates, and sadly they fare no better. They seem incapable of using cover intelligently, they stand in your line of sight, and they're often more hindrance than help. In tandem, the AI of both factions will create scenes of comical ineptitude, such as when a trooper and rebel circle one another for 30 seconds in a surreal do-si-do.
In spite of this brainlessness, Haze offers the occasional golden nugget of utter brilliance, and most of those moments come courtesy of some intelligently designed levels that are too good for the AI that inhabits them. Two on-rails sequences are exceptionally thrilling. In one, you defend a village from behind the turret of an aircraft; in another, you race alongside an enormous land carrier while trying to take down its defenses. The carrier sequence in particular is a total rush, pulverizing you with its sense of breakneck speed and using scripted camera adjustments to enhance the thrill. A few other levels are equally enjoyable in spite of the shortcomings, such as a climb toward an observatory and a tense village battle capped by the destruction of a rocket-launching tank.
Nevertheless, not every level reaches these heights. In Haze's worst level, you must escort a vehicle from one side of the map to the other. This badly structured mission requires a bit of trial and error, given that the vehicle's driver is cut from the same cloth as his teammates; he'll readily drive over you or your squadmates, or into the minefield that you're supposed to clear before he arrives. Other levels put you behind the wheel of a vehicle, but these scenarios are less detours than they are wrong turns. Vehicles handle very loosely, as if they weigh just a few pounds, and the odd, limited camera implemented during the driving sections adds to the awkwardness.
What are you, a Communist?
Thankfully, the core gameplay of a first-person shooter--the shooting proper--is smooth and silky. The standard assault rifles handle beautifully and have just the right weight and feel, and chances are that you'll be using them for the majority of your journey. Each faction's shotgun also feels good, though it takes a few more close-range shots from the Oso shotgun to defeat a trooper than you may expect. It's also effective at a greater range than with similar weapons in other games. The small blight on the parade of solid weaponry is the flamethrower, not just because of how it feels, but because of the frustration it initiates. If one should set you ablaze, you have to shake your controller to fan away the flames, which disturbs the momentum of battle and simply isn't much fun. The flamethrower also seems to have a much greater range than it should, so though it may not look as if the flames spewing forth are reaching your enemies, somehow you manage to set them alight anyway.
That issue could be partly due to the pixellated fire visuals, which look decidedly last-generation. In light of the PlayStation 3's powerful capabilities and the genre's ever-rising standards of technology, Haze looks good but not impressive. It certainly has its bright spots: Some of the outdoor lighting is striking, and the centerpieces of the best levels, such as the aforementioned observatory and a hotel courtyard, are rendered with great detail. The game performs beautifully with few frame-rate jitters, so when the action is heavy or you're traveling at high speeds, things look quite nice. When things slow down, you'll notice how modest Haze actually looks. Textures are muddled, scenery is blocky and lacks detail, and animations are clunky. Character models are also inexpressive, which only reinforces the pettiness of the story.
At least Haze sounds big and boisterous, filling your ears with explosions, gunfire, and the rush of aircraft engines. These elements don't sound extraordinary, but they fulfill their roles nicely, as does the orchestral soundtrack, which injects drama into the scenes most in need of it. But this is a game that prizes juvenile leering over multidimensional storytelling, and the voice acting is exactly what you would imagine: a cast of drill seargent wannabes competing to see who can sound more uncivilized. The Promised Hand is no less annoying; once you hear a rebel cry out "Remember your promise to Merino" for the hundredth time, you may be tempted to look down the barrel of your own weapon. Then there's the awful rap tune that plays while you wait for competitors to join some online matches--and then continues to play throughout the match. Its presence is absolutely embarrassing.
Most shooter campaigns are better when someone else joins you, and Haze is no exception. Up to three others can play along, both online and in split-screen play. The game ramps up the challenge during co-op play, and considering the horrendous AI, that's a welcome change indeed. Vehicle sequences are all the better for having a buddy join you, and some action-packed moments are improved with the presence of a few hired guns. However, not every level is suited for cooperative shooting. Some scripted sequences, such as one in which a bridge collapses, are at complete odds with the existence of another player, as if the possibility wasn't considered when the level was designed.
What, you gonna stare at me like you want a piece of my a**?
If you held out hope that the multiplayer could succeed in spite of the campaign's shortcomings, you may be disappointed to learn that competitive play is at best underwhelming, and at worst, weirdly out of balance. Up to 16 players can compete in Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Assault modes. You can also fill out unranked matches with bots, but considering the moronic AI, why would you want to? Assault is the clearly superior mode here, in which rebel and trooper teams take on opposing objectives, which in turn lead to the occasional focused and intense firefight. The other modes are exactly what you'd expect. Unfortunately, shortcomings that aren't readily apparent in the campaign due to the horrible AI are obvious the moment that other players join the fray. Although you'd think that the inherent strength that nectar provides troopers would make them the more powerful faction, the upper hand goes easily to the rebels, thanks to the playing-dead mechanic and each rebel's ability to dodge by double-tapping the jump button. An effective rebel can rack up the kills in this manner, because in a full match, opposing players aren't apt to hang around and see if you spring up 10 seconds later. It's also proof that nectar is, at its core, a gimmick. Being able to cause a trooper's overdose is great in theory, but in practice, it's more efficient to just mow them down as you would in any shooter.
A seven-hour campaign and uneventful multiplayer modes just don't cut it in light of the far better modern shooters available on the market. The patchy quality of the entire package is surprising, considering the developer's fine pedigree. Yet Haze is a roller-coaster ride made up of tall peaks and unfathomable valleys, and it won't leave you so much breathless as disappointed with its squandered potential.
Nectar Haze, running through my brain...
by Jeff Haynes
May 20, 2008 - Sometimes, making a name for yourself with a particular genre or subject can come back to bite you. It's more than likely that not every single title you make will live up to this particular reputation, and the ones that are far off the mark will appear as a large albatross on an otherwise sterling record. Haze is such a burden placed on the otherwise acclaimed development team at Free Radical, whose many employees have worked on GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark, not to mention establishing its acclaimed TimeSplitters franchise. While Free Radical's previous work was quite excellent, Haze is anything but, coming across as a middling, generic first-person shooter with bland visuals, a weak plot and laughable characters.
Haze is the story of Shane Carpenter, a young Mantel soldier that's dispatched, along with the rest of his squad, to the Boa Region of South America. The largest PMC in the world, Mantel has an army of enhanced warriors boosted with their specialized "supplement" known as Nectar. With a large force at its disposal, Mantel has been asked to go in and pacify the region from the dangerous "Promise Hand", a militant group of rebels headed up by the villainous Skin Coat (so named because he enjoys skinning his victims and wearing them). However, Carpenter finds that his mission to "liberate the hearts and minds" of the indigenous people is not what it appears to be, and after one objective takes an unexpected turn, he finds himself defecting to the rebel cause and fighting against his former squadmates.
At first glance, this appears to be an interesting premise for a title, giving players a sense of both sides of the conflict. Unfortunately, its plot is such a hackneyed and feeble amalgamation of concepts that the true impact or commentary that could've been presented in the title is immediately lost. For one thing, the Mantel soldiers are presented as your stereotypical jarhead grunts that have no morality or sense of responsibility, killing people because they have always had a genuine bloodlust for death and destruction. This alpha male broad stroke is painted with comments such as "It's like taking candy from a crippled baby," and "Is there an award for most badass gangsta? Because that's me!" Forget the liberation of people from terror; that concept is immediately thrown out of the window, as is any other sense of humanity.
However, Carpenter isn't ever presented with these emotions, regardless of the action he faces or the amount of Nectar in his system. This makes him stand out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of his unit and immediately weakens the player's connection as to why they want to even play through these sections. What's more, the character of Carpenter doesn't endear himself to the player, especially because he either whines his way through sections of missions or seems perpetually lost, making him come across as exceedingly weak and not someone you want to take through the entire game regardless of what happens to him. It doesn't really help in the middle of battle, when you're dodging bullets or rockets from your former company, to hear Shane complain about not being sure what to do next.
That's unfortunate, because the mechanic of Nectar within the game is actually rather striking. It heightens Shane's senses, making enemies stand out from the environment because of their glowing silhouette. This makes it much easier to snipe enemies or pick them out -- even in dense cover. Nectar also manages to reduce the amount of damage that you take, as well as warn you of incoming danger thanks to a rippling pulse of energy from grenades or other threats. Finally, Nectar makes you much stronger, and any melee attacks are radically stronger than ever before. What's more, every kill that you make on the Nectar high provides you with an additional boost of power to maintain your buzz. That gives you somewhat of an incentive to continue blasting any enemy soldiers that cross your path, as long as you don't accidentally overdose on the initial injection of the drug into your system. This will cause you to lose control of Shane for a while as he shoots at friend and foe alike.
However, while the mechanic works well, the implementation of the drug is rather flawed for a couple of reasons. First of all, Nectar manages to make the gameplay way too easy when you're on Mantel's side. Regardless of the difficulty level, it's way too easy to dose yourself up, sit back, and snipe anyone that glows, maintaining the high for multiple sections of a level. This can make these levels boring, but it brings me to my next point, which is that you only get access to Nectar for a scant few stages anyway. Just as you start to feel somewhat of a flow with the Nectar system, you immediately change sides and can no longer inject the substance into your system. In fact, your only use of the drug is to strap a dispenser to a grenade and throw it into a crowd of enemies, immediately making them overdose. If there were more stages where you had access to the drug, or were exposed to the situation, it would seem much more useful. As it stands now, the way it's handled comes across more as a tossed-off afterthought than a key element of the game.
That brings up the third and perhaps largest problem with Nectar: once you've changed sides, you never get a sense that the Mantel troops use the drug against you at all. The fact that you can play dead, steal weapons and perform other rather unique moves as a Promise Hand rebel is supposed to be a way to balance out the incredible benefits of Nectar itself. In fact, the only reason you would need to set traps or perform some of the other abilities that you have should be to balance out the powers given to the troops. Not only do they not appear to be superhuman soldiers with exceptional sniping abilities or able to shrug off large numbers of bullets; instead, they come across like basic grunts with suits of battle armor that are inept with their weapons. All of these issues make Nectar seem like more of a gimmick than a plot device.
For all of the single player issues that continually crop up within the game, there is one small shining spot, which is within the multiplayer aspect of the game. Haze supports two player split-screen and up to four player co-op play from any point in the game. As long as a player is invited in thanks to the game's easy to navigate "Friends and Invites" option (which ties into your actual friends list on your XMB), they can join with their friends and fight their way through the story. This can sometimes make single player a bit more interesting, because you can rely much more on your friends to watch your back. Otherwise, you'll find yourself playing with up to 16 people through the three multiplayer modes available in the game: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Team Assault. While Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch are self-explanatory, Team Assault provides both sides with different objectives that have to be completed, such as blowing up a specific target or reaching a certain area for the rebels while Mantel is tasked with preventing the Promise Hand from gaining any ground. At the end of each multiplayer round, you can receive different merit awards based on which side you were attached to as well as general accolades. They don't translate to anything other than bragging rights for that particular game, so you won't unlock any new weapons or stages, but it is nice to see a mild reward system in the game.
The sound isn't much better off, with many of the problems traceable to the repetitive dialogue that both sides constantly utter. Earlier I mentioned the ridiculous commentary from the Mantel Troops, who frequently blather stupid phrases in the middle of battle. The Promise Hand isn't much better, although they seem stuck with only a few phrases, such as "Remember the Promise" or "Mantel will fall today." Since the soldiers seem constantly stuck on the same phrases ad nauseum, you'll find yourself muting most of the game. Shane will also have this effect upon you, although you might scream at the TV because his lines come across so poorly. At least dosing yourself with Nectar sounds rather interesting, and while the weapons have distinct sounds (such as the loud crack from a pistol versus the rapid pops from the machine guns), the vehicles all seem to recycle the same generic horn sound, which is rather poor. Closing Comments
Haze was touted as a great PS3 exclusive from a developer well versed in first-person shooter mechanics. While Free Radical does have a solid pedigree, Haze does not live up to the company's reputation thanks to a horrible plot, weak gameplay mechanics and visuals that are truly underwhelming. While playing with friends is enjoyable, not even those are enough to bring this lackluster title around.
IGN Ratings for Haze (PS3)
Rating Description out of 10 click here for ratings guide
A bland story with weak characters and simplistic commentaries on serious topics, Haze is a generic tale at best about war.
Tons of visual issues abound within the game, from texture tears and non-descript environments to pop-in and odd animation problems.
Dialogue is hokey and repetitive regardless of what side you're on. Sound effects are good, but that's not enough to make you turn the volume up once you've hit mute.
A creative concept hampered by gimmicks, a weak story and poor AI, Haze is a disappointment from a developer well versed in shooter mechanics.
4.5 Lasting Appeal
Two player split-screen and four player co-op helps put a minor spin on the campaign, but it won't extend the replayability of the game much. Nor will multiplayer modes and its useless merit system.
(out of 10 / not an average)