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Haze (PS3)

Haze (PS3)

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There has been much hype with the release of Haze on The Playstation 3. With popular development team Free Radical behind the game and with apparent delays for playtesting and additional development this game should be at the forefront of establishing the PS3 as the leading "next generation" console. Well thats the theory anyway, but does it finally deliver the goods?

Unfortunately the end product fails to live up to the claims and we are left with a seemingly average and dull game. At the core Haze has much to offer, with a bunch of high tech soldiers offering a possible intense strategic shooter. Sadly it ends up a simple run and gun title with very little left for a tactical experience.

The game starts in the Mantel Corporation and introduces Haze’s lead Shane Carpenter as he learns to control the power given to him by the Nectar Drug. This drug gives its recipient’s superhuman abilities. Taking the drug gives enhanced vision, all enemy forces glow yellow which marks them out against the environments and boosts player speed and accuracy. It is an interesting concept and while hardly original it helps to give the player an edge in game.

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Interestingly the drug has drawbacks, especially if taken in overdose amounts. This renders Carpenter unable to differentiate between friend or foe and will result in the player firing panicked bursts of gunfire into the fray.

The Rebel soldiers also have abilities which level up the combat environment. They can play dead once health is critical with a quick tap of the L2 button, this forces the player to the ground and out of visibility of Mantel units. Once trouble has cleared from the immediate vicinity two quick presses of the X button resurrects the soldier. Rebels also have the ability to take ammunition from fallen troopers and they can lay grenade mines to maim careless Mantel units. Not only this but they can sabotage Nectar packs which places the unknowing recipients in a confused overdosed state. The Rebels also have a cool melee attack which stuns the troopers and if followed up by a quick button press they can snatch their guns and fire point blank into their faces.

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So far this sounds great, right? However the dynamics between the soldiers never comes into full fruition in single player mode. The Mantel section of the game is decidedly far too short and just as this reaches an exciting section, Carpenter is stripped of all his abilities and he finds himself fighting for the Rebels. I didn’t enjoy playing the Rebels as setting up cool attacks such as grenade traps is a waste of time, due to the rubbish AI of the non playable characters. Even the Black-ops soldiers who are introduced later (yawn) are apparently spawned from the loins of mentally retarded single cell amoeba. Sure they are invulnerable to nectar sabotage but it is such a moot point it is hardly worth mentioning. Point your gun in any direction and they are sure to walk head first into the line of fire.

The story is also sadly lacking, supposedly the focus was going to be the many layers of gray rather than a black and white scenario, however after spending limited time with the drug ridden Mantel forces is it clear they are far from fair and even handed, they are in fact all loud mouthed, macho, egotistical (asshole) soldiers we associate with the worst two dimensional war films throughout history. The rebel soldiers are much more likeable initially, however with very limited dialogue and repeating phrases throughout the game they soon became tiresome and I found myself shooting my own troops in the attempt to shut them up. The main problem with the story (and in fact the dialogue) is the abundance of worn out clitches and horrendous characterisation. This in fact just makes the whole environment seem entirely two dimensional and run of the mill in all regards. An unpleasant side effect means that you play the game with little regard for anyone or anything in it.

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Just like Doom 3, Haze has a similar methodology of running around handling mundane tasks, such as pulling switches which is quick to irritate. Not only this, but there are escort missions which are so slow and repetitive they will have you pulling your hair out. Couple this with inane repeating dialogue from your companions “you are going too far, come back!” and it becomes akin to a regular visit with the dentist.

Haze has the obligatory vehicle support, however the development and playtesting stages  have not received the necessary attention. The mechanics are appalling, they handle like oversized go karts and the poor computer AI means squad work is next to impossible. Even the sixaxis motion feature doesn’t work intuitively. If your vehicle catches fire, you are required to shake the controller to extinguish them –  what a ridiculous concept, unless your jeep has suddenly mutated into a living, breathing space age monster with fur.

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 On a more positive note Free Radical have successfully implemented a solid weapon system and they all handle as well as could be expected. Even though they are rather limited in versatility, the core gameplay and shooting mechanic works very well.

Multiplayer is a relatively positive experience also, with some fun and entertaining death match scenarios available. It was actually this mode I had the most fun with and I wasted several days fragging with friends online.

The game audio is pretty decent with a wide array of ambient sound effects adding to the atmosphere. The weapon sounds are also well handled and make you feel as if you are firing the weapon in hand.

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The graphics vary from excellent with many of the dynamically lit environments, to simply appalling with some of the texture quality and model design. Thankfully the dreaded sub-30 fps which seems to plague the Playstation 3 never raises its ugly head here, but the graphics at times are so last generation (and even reminiscent of the playstation 2 at times) that it is hard to believe this is a game released in 2008. Needless to say, if you spend any length of time analysing the graphics you will start to notice a huge array of shoddy work.

Even though HAZE promised to be one of the killer Playstation 3 games which would help shift a few hundred thousand consoles it has failed to deliver the goods on a variety of levels. The graphics are firmly rooted around 2004/5 and the storyline and scripting is so stereotypical that even relatively new gamers will find themselves becoming weary of the progression. The game is unfortunately nothing special and only the most die hard shooter fans will take something positive from it.

A very basic game at the core which is something we never expected.
A major failing of the game which is a shame as it does nothing to help sell the Playstation 3 to the masses.
The ambient effects are good however the grating and repeating dialogue helps to ruin the game.
Multiplayer is relatively good, so some extended life may be found here.
(Not an Average)
A wasted opportunity and a major disappointment for what should have been a great title.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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