|System: PS3, X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Free Radical Designs||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: TBA 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by D'Marcus Beatty
May 23, 2007 - If you were a soldier, would you take drugs that could enhance your abilities? Would you allow yourself to use a super-steroid to boost your battle abilities? How much of a performance enhancing drug is too much? Although most people will never have to ask themselves these questions, PS3 owners may have to tackle this issue later this year. I had the opportunity to take a first hand look at Haze recently and I came away distinctly impressed with Free Radical's progress on the game.
Haze is apparently set in the near future, where a corporation named Mantel has become a near monopoly in multiple areas. However, one of Mantel's most prized technologies is Nectar, a drug that gives people momentary bursts of superhuman ability. Mantel gives this drug to their private army, a squadron of soldiers that they use to crush uprisings against them. This is where the player comes in, playing from the perspective of one of Mantel's private soldiers. Story details beyond this are a closely guarded secret at this point, but the game never takes you out of the first person perspective (like Half Life) and your character does have the occasional vision (a la F.E.A.R.), so we should be in for an interesting narrative.
The Nectar in Haze is one thing that makes the game really stand out from other games. Apparently, the press of a button administers Nectar to your character, which enhances a number of his abilities. When using Nectar, your character becomes faster, foes are highlighted, melee damage is increased, and you are alerted to danger before it happens, giving you a Spider-Sense of sorts without the spider-bite. However, like any drug, Nectar isn't something that you can take without consequences. Too much Nectar has a negative effect on your character, causing you to lose the ability to distinguish between friends and foes and inadvertently initiating friendly fire. Your foes will even take advantage of this flaw, and will attempt to hit you with Nectar grenades or even puncture your Nectar supply from afar.
One thing that is unique about Haze is that the game supports four player co-op, something that is unprecedented in gaming. Free Radical has promised that four people can play through the game together online. This should create some interesting and fun gaming moments with four individuals working together. I even had the opportunity to see a vehicle that the four players shared, with one person driving, one person manning the turret, and two on the sides with their guns at the ready, allowing them to fire their weapons while riding. In addition to the co-op, Haze will also support multiplayer versus, although there aren't many available detail on this just yet.
The visuals in Haze are astounding and truly look next-gen. The stage that I saw was set in a jungle environment, and the foliage looked incredibly realistic. Especially impressive are the blur effects that start when the player is abusing Nectar, as the edges of the screen get distorted and the game world takes on an oddly focused look to simulate the Nectar advantage.
Haze is shaping up to look like a must play FPS, even in the hype of Halo 3. Free Radical's pedigree with the TimeSplitters series is only more reason to expect a quality game when it releases later this year. Although the tone of the game is undoubtedly more serious than TimeSplitters (with the lack of monkeys), the gameplay should prove just as fun. We'll see for certain this holiday season.
CCC Co-Site Director