|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 Tom Becker
May 1, 2007 - Brains and brawn rarely meet in the FPS genre. Occasionally, a game will come along that is as smart as it is action-packed. Titles like Deus Ex and Half-Life immediately spring to mind. It's not often that a game actually goes one step further, into the realm of satire. Free Radical has decided to try and walk this particular creative tightrope with their latest FPS, Haze.
We live in a strange time, no doubt. As our access to information grows exponentially, our individual liberties are increasingly under fire from a variety of sources, foreign and domestic, and the technologies meant to make our lives more fun and convenient often do just the opposite. It's a technological and existential crisis we face, one which forms the central plot of Haze. Thirty years in the future, governments are essentially subjugated by massive corporate entities. No longer are militaries amassed for national defense, but rather military might is contracted to multinational corporations. The star player in the corporate world of Haze is Mantel Global Industries.
Founded by corporate dynamo David Bloomfield, Mantel has a hand in every major commercial endeavor from defense contracting to genetic engineering. Bloomfield himself is a bit like Tony Robbins mixed with Bill Nye the Science Guy, about three Red Bulls over his daily quota. His enthusiasm is contagious, contagious enough at least to inspire the Sergeant Jake Carpenter to enlist. That's you.
As the old saying goes, the player gets to travel to new places, meet interesting people, and kill them. South Americans, to be specific, are the first target of Mantel's horde-for-hire. Guerillas have been a continual thorn in the side of peace, harmony, and international commerce south of the equator, and you and your fellow servicemen and women are called in to extract it. Mantel not only backs you with billions of dollars in military firepower but also a handy pep-pill called Nova-Keto-Thyrazine, a.k.a. "NECTAR." It's the latest word in performance-enhancing supplements and, of course, Mantel Global Industries owns the copyright. Are there any unpleasant side-effects, you ask? Let me answer with another question. Have you heard of BZ? Google it, and just say no, kids. There's obviously much more to Mantel Global Industries and NECTAR than meets the eye, and the player will unravel the truth as the game goes on.
In the meantime, there's plenty of Mantel-supplied hardware to play around with. One can assume the standard array of handguns, rifles, and grenades are available, but aircraft with hovering technology and advanced body armor are also at Mantel's disposal. Diverse weaponry is just another perk of global corporate domination. The leader of the opposition is a man with the somewhat cartoonish name of Gabriel "Skin Coat" Merino. As you could probably guess, it's not just a cute nickname and more of an accurate description of his wardrobe. Still, all is not what it seems in the world of Haze, and Merino is probably no exception. Whatever the specifics of the plot, Haze looks really terrific.
Trailers and screenshots from the game show a high amount of graphic detail and realism, and the stills look about as good as the cinematics. The jungle is lush and vehicles and explosions are rendered in the high detail next-gen systems were made for. There seems to be a lot of attention paid to the cinematic quality of the game, as the trailer makes major shifts between the polished Mantel image and the reality of combat on the ground.
In terms of gameplay, it seems to utilize the standard FPS format. While the single player mode is the focus of the game, a standard multiplayer mode is available as well. The folks at Free Radical seem to have invested as much in the story and concept behind the world of Haze as the gameplay itself, so it remains to be seen if the game will suffer for it. In the meantime, you can delve into the dystopian world of Haze by visiting Mantel Global Industries' official website, www.mantelglobalindustries.com. It's a little thin on content but offers a chance to get a feel for the game with its sly satire of corporate culture and media.
There's not a lot of room in video games for big ideas. Writing has always been an integral part of video games and even mega-hits like World of Warcraft can get a little wordy. At the same time, trying to say something about the status quo is liable to turn off most gamers, especially the steely-eyed, blood-hungry FPS market. Developers like Oddworld's Lorne Lanning can pull it off, but only through novel concepts and eminently playable games. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, and whoever said shoot-em-ups couldn't be fun and smart? With the release date pushed back for further game development; confidence at Ubisoft seems to be high. If their ornate displays at previews are any indication, they're gearing up for a big-budget event release, one which will match the ambition of a game that dares to blend shooting with satire.
The ability to mock that which most frightens us is one of the greatest and most crucial ironies of human existence. As our world grows ever closer to the one depicted in Haze, satire is more important now than ever. It's the last thing one would expect from an FPS, but with the ever-growing popularity of gaming and the blurring line between games, film, and TV, it's an idea whose time has come.
CCC Freelance Writer
Free Radical Design flex their creative muscle with an all new shooter by Patrick Evans
July 8, 2006 - The boys down at Free Radical Design have been around the block a few times. The creative minds behind perennial FPS console favorite Timesplitters, the experience behind Free Radical is tough to match in this cut-throat industry. So when they announced a next-generation project that wasn't Timesplitters, the industry took note.
Twenty or so years in the future, national defense is handled by privatized security firms sporting the most highly trained soldiers using the most advanced weaponry available. Haze's trailer, which is available to view on their official website, plays like an army recruitment video for a firm called Mantelcore. Showing soldiers supplying refugees in a barren desert, playing football on an aircraft carrier, and later taking bullets to the shoulder without blinking, this Mantelcore paints the perfect picture of the ultimate soldier. That is, until this soldier goes crazy, ripping equipment from his armor and shooting a row of televisions playing the recruitment clip.
Not too terribly much is known about the plot of Haze. As a member of this privatized military force, you will travel with squadron members into heated environments under heavy fire. All the media displayed so far, from the E3 demo to the screenshots, place this title in a jungle, complete with beautiful waterfalls and lush vegetation.
War shouldn't be this beautiful, but games like Haze, and to the same extent Crysis, manage to make the jungle look photorealistic. Leafy undergrowths sway while you hunt photorealistic enemies acting in unison, using precision tactics and well-placed grenades. Not only is the environment beautiful, but the AI seems to be a thing of beauty as well. While the enemy will be very dangerous armed with these tactics, your squadron will also be equipped with deadly intelligence capable of holding its own against the guerilla onslaught. Commanding these troops will be very simple as cover, deploy, attack, and follow is all mapped on the D-pad, allowing for quick decision making in the heat of battle.
Free Radical has hinted towards an interesting aspect of gameplay that will enhance the experience in the jungle. Civilians will inhabit many different battlefields, placing them directly in harms way during the firefight. More importantly than that, there will be decisions that must be made throughout the campaign as to what to do with certain people and their villages.
Stout veterans of the FPS world, Free Radical is exploring new territory with Haze. Squad tactics and morality systems is new to this team, but what we do know is that they are capable of visuals and gameplay that matches anything else out there. Shooter fans looking for a little morality with their gunplay should be pleased from what we have seen thus far. Haze's release date has not be officially announced, but we do know that it will be out sometime next year.
CCC Former Staff Writer