A Little Haze-y, but Not Bad Nonetheless
Ever since E3 2007, Haze has been a title that many have looked forward to. It promised some very intriguing gameplay and offered an altered consciousness point-of-view to facilitate some “enhanced” gunplay. It also promised a great story and some killer graphics. However, after several significant delays, Haze started fading from memory.
Thankfully, Haze has finally been released and is currently available as a PS3 exclusive. But, is it as good as we hoped? Well, it all depends on how you look at it. As a basic shooter, Haze definitely succeeds. It has the story, core gameplay mechanics, and overall style that you might expect from a title from this genre. But, if you were expecting more, then you may be a little disappointed.
The story revolves around Shane Carpenter, who is essentially a guy just trying to do the right thing. He joined the war company Mantel hoping (as college kids often do) to change the world. However, he got much more from Mantel then he expected. One of the most nefarious things about Mantel is they use a psychotropic drug called nectar, which helps their soldiers ignore damage on the battlefield and more easily target and kill enemies. Though the nectar is great if you want to breed a super-malicious army with zero sympathy, it’s not so good for the human body. The nectar can turn on the human body and cause violent seizures, psychotic episodes where the user kills everything, and even the user’s own death. The worst part is once someone becomes addicted to nectar, they become hyper-aggressive and will stop at nothing to feed their addiction.
However, our buddy Shane figures out that this situation is all wrong and decides to join up with the Promise Hand, a rebel organization who is fighting against Mantel. Although the reason behind why Carpenter shows up on the Promise Hand’s doorstep is unknown, it seems like a better idea to fight for them then go back to evil company Mantel, which, incidentally, is out for your blood. The game’s story deals with issues like what it means to be a traitor, and provides some interesting social commentary on how we view soldiers and how we justify what they do.
The story, while not incredibly cutting-edge, definitely has some very intriguing moments. While some would wager that the story is paper thin, I would say that it gets major points for being direct and cohesive. At least you always know your character’s state of mind, where his alliances lie, and what the enemy is thinking. Games like the Halo franchise always left me guessing in terms of storyline, but at least this one keeps it simple and to the point. Plus, any story that vilifies characters that say the Flavor Flav-trademarked “Yeah Boyee!” gets some serious credit in my book.
As far as gameplay goes, this title has some pretty solid gunplay. The first half of the game is played as a Mantel soldier, so you have the option of using nectar. The nectar is extremely useful in crowded or dark places, as it helps you pinpoint and take down enemies. It is also invaluable in the vehicle levels because it helps you see otherwise hidden land mines. The only trouble is when the nectar goes out of control, you’ll end up killing all of your comrades. Oh well.
Once you lose the nectar and switch sides, there is a little bit of a transition period and this does feel a little awkward. As a member of the Promise Hand, you don’t have any access to nectar, and it is much easier to die. This makes the game a lot harder, and there is a little bit of a pacing stall while you are transitioning to the Promise Hand. Although, there are a few little perks that come with being a member of the Promise Hand. For example, you gain really cool abilities like, um, playing dead.
Graphics in this title are standard when it comes to current-gen visuals. However, there are a few issues like repetitious texturing and random black spots. It also doesn’t really run at 720p (like the box says). Many people might split hairs over this technicality, and I can see why, as this title was supposed to be a showpiece for the PlayStation 3. Haze’s graphics really represent a missed opportunity for the PlayStation 3 in terms of graphics. There was a whole lot of room for improvement in this title and I have to say that I was quite disappointed with the quality of the visuals. They’re not bad, but the fact that they are comparable to the visuals presented in games from the past few years is just a little sad.
Sound in this game is pretty good and has some solid background music and some fairly good voice acting. I won’t put the voice acting at the best quality, but it gets the job done and is entertaining enough. However, buddy characters in the game will often repeat stock phrases during battle and this does get a little irritating at times. But, aside from this small annoyance, the sound scheme is solid.
One big problem that I had with this title was its length. The campaign mode is entirely short. An average gamer will probably finish in less than ten hours. While I’ve seen my share of short campaigns, they have always been supplemented with vigorous online modes; this is not the case with Haze. The fact that the experience is so short is definitely the source of most of my criticism. There is no reason for a game of Haze’s caliber to contain so little content. It is really upsetting that you can spend $60 on a game and be completely finished with it by the next day.
Overall, I think Haze is a passable entry in the PlayStation 3’s growing library of exclusive games. In the PlayStation 3’s short history, there have been several exclusive games that have been hyped as showpieces for the console. Titles like Heavenly Sword and Lair received a good deal of attention before their release and were then subject to serious criticism thereafter. Haze is another title that has been the recipient of some serious criticism post-release, but I do not think Haze is a bad game. Haze does have its share of issues, but the gameplay is solid enough, the story is passable, and the graphics work. Even though nothing here is truly groundbreaking, if you just want another shooter you can do a lot worse than Haze. But, if you’re looking for a title that gives you a long-lasting experience, then you may need to look elsewhere.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.8 Graphics
Standard graphics do not impress on a technical level, and there are a few outstanding texture issues. 4.0 Control
Controls work very well, probably because they are fully customizable. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Background music is inoffensive, and though voice acting isn’t terribly effective, it gets the job done. 2.5 Play Value
The campaign is entirely too short, and once you play through it once, you won’t really want to pick it up again. 3.1 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.