Haze

Haze, quite simply, is PS3's most disappointing game. It's not the worst on the console, but it's certainly the game that has most-spectacularly failed to meet expectations. In the early stages of the game's development, the beautiful jungle settings combined with the promise of TimeSplitters-like shooting mechanices had many excited about the prospect of this First Person Shooter. In addition, the idea of Nectar, a substance used to enhance, but control, soldiers fighting for a private military corporation, Mantel, sounded exciting, particularly when it was revealed that it was a concept with two major halves, the first allowing you to fight for Mantel, making full use of your enhanced abilities, and the second forcing you to us the knowledge gained to rebel against the corporation. The warnings were there though, nearer the launch of the game: the release date slipped continually and review code was reportedly witheld from many major publications. The news that the game was exclusive to Playstation 3 was welcomed, and renewed excitement in the game but, now, it has to be said that I doubt a single X-box 360 owner cares in the slightest.

The eventual state of the game is particularly disapointing, since the shooting mechanics (that certainly share some similarity with the fluid, and excellent, TimeSplitters games) are actually quite satisfying. Character movement and weapon usage is pretty sharp and enjoyable, something that Free Radical are already renowned for, but the praise, sadly, goes little further. It's true that some settings, the jungle, for example, displayed in the demo and as many early screenshots as possible, do look very good, but after leaving the lush green jungles, there are numerous desert paths and swathes of gravel to look forward to, with as much personality as, well, the AI, which I'll get to in a moment. It's true that there are limits on what you can achieve with sand and gravel, but I guarantee that the average beach has far more jaw-dropping scenery than this futuristic sci-fi adventure.

Haze

Graphics aren't everything though, and with decent shooting mechanics, there's still scope for an excellent game, but Haze fails at almost every available hurdle in trying to create an interesting and playable story. The first, and perhaps most irritating obstacle, is the AI. Gormless characters seem to have little or no awareness of their surroundings and, in the case of your teammates, do little to help you out, while enemies seem to struggle with the idea of cover. That the game is turned into a frantic shooting fest could almost be forgiven, if the plot was more enjoyable. As it is though, the few interesting ideas that were emphasized repeatedly during development (nectar gives you strength, yay, then nectar can be exploited, yay, repeat) and it makes the whole experience extremely predictable. Your fellow soldiers at Mantel are so mind-deafeningly exaggerated that you feel as though the flimsy plot is being literally drilled into your brain. There is absolutely no subtlety, which is exactly what the concept needed.

The online infrastructure is one of the few saving graces of Haze. The developers clearly seem to know the sorts of things gamers would like to experience (TimeSplitters was a great example of frantic arcade action that provided multiplayer gaming fans the opportunity to take part in extraordinary battles), and the major strength here is the co-op game. While there's some fun to be had with online competitive matches, the real draw is the option to play through the campaign with friends in a fully-functional cooperative mode. With decent communications support and a reasonable healing system, there's actually a lot of positives in this mode. If the game surrounding it was better realized, with characters and plot that didn't scream STUPID! all the time, Haze could have actually been extremely enjoyable.

Haze

My hope, now, is simply that Free Radical take things almost completely back to the drawing board and ensure that, should they return to the brilliant TimeSplitters series, they do not infect the series with toxic leftovers from Haze. The shooting mechanics are clearly still there, and the graphical talent is present on occasion, so a sensible mixture of ingredients seen in this game, injected into the classic Splitters formula could yet reveal an awesome First Person Shooter. Haze, sadly, is not, and I can only recommend it if you catch it in a bargain bin and fancy a quick bash online.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Ubisoft

Developer:

Free Radical

Players:

1-2

Online:

1-16

Release:

2008-05-23

Trophies:

0

Review summary

Gameplay:

Perfect shooting mechanics; pants game

Graphics:

Reasonable in places, rubbish in others

Sound:

As glitchy as the game itself

Lastability:

Plenty to do, if you can stand it

4.5

Cosmic Dust

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