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Monday, 02 June 2008 16:42

Review: Haze - A Hazy shade of errrm something

A PS3 exclusive, Haze promised to deliver juiced up first person shooter action for the Sony console.  Can Haze be a Halo killer?

There are positives for a console maker in garnering exclusive titles.  Hit the sweet spot of success and both software developer and hardware manufacture can ‘move units’.
 hazepack.jpg Developer
Free Radical
MA 15+

Halo 3 moved a bunch of Xbox 360 units, but Haze won’t do the same for the PlayStation 3.

Set in the year 2048, 25 year old Shane Carpenter has joined (or been volunteered into) Mantel, a Private Military Corporation (PMC) that Governments have come to rely upon during times of conflict.

So along with his drug enhanced grunt buddies, Carpenter is sent off on a gigantic Mantel Land Carrier into the wilds of some country south of the boarder to free the citizenry from oppression.  The dictator/rebel ‘skin coat’ (famous for donning a jacket constructed of his victims skin) must be stopped at all cost.

Drug enhanced you say?  Yep, the whole premise of Haze centres around the use of Nectar, a performance enhancing intoxicant injected into Mantel troopers in measured doses.  Nectar enables troopers to shrug off minor hits, increase melee attack effectiveness, highlight enemy troops for easier sniping and finally does weird things to the games soundtrack.

Nectar also explains why, during the initial parts of Haze, dead bodies disappear quickly from the battlefield, yet footsteps remain.  I thought I had been transported back to a FPS from 2000, but it turns out it was simply the effect of Nectar on my avatar.

After a somewhat awkward beginning, the real story of Haze kicks in, with Carpenter stumbling from a crashed post mission lift off.  Carpenter wanders the jungle, going cold turkey as his Nectar injector goes off line.  Eventually the inevitable occurs with Carpenter joining the “Promise Hand” rebels.haze1.jpg

As a rebel, Carpenter can now dodge, set traps, fake death, steal weapons and importantly build Nectar overdose grenades.  Lodged into a group of Mantel troopers, a Nectar grenade will trigger an overdose, causing the troopers to go berserk attacking friend and foe.

From this point on, Haze becomes a rather bland, bug ridden ride to the conclusion.  Mantel troopers show no intelligence at all, ducking behind cover occasionally, but more often than not, running headlong towards Carpenter, or standing mindlessly in the open waiting to be taken down.

Friendly AI is not much better, with Carpenter’s rebel squad mates - who cannot be given orders – leaping into friendly line of fire like secret service body guards.  Also the limited dialogue shouted by friend and foe alike wears thin quickly.

Many missions are broken, with trigger points not set up correctly – this is no HalfLife 2 in mission design.  Carpenter runs around slightly bemused, as does the player sometimes looking for the trigger mechanism to keep the mission moving, when all opposition has already been eliminated.

My favourite bug was when, upon checkpoint restart, a quick drive over the hill -in one of the few rather poorly coded vehicles- resulted in the entire world disappearing and Carpenter and his crew plummeting to a digital hell death.  Granted this also occurred once to me during Halo 3.

Generally the visuals disappoint, given this is a game in 2008 on one of the more powerful home gaming machines.  Level design whilst rather bland and within a broken mission structure, is expansive.  There are many paths to take in most cases, to get to on foot destinations.  Urban battles are therefore the highlight of Haze’s single player campaign.haze2.jpg

Multiplayer Haze is, on the other hand, very good.  The network code is crisp and at is easy to join a game in either typical deathmatch, team deathmatch, assault or co-op modes.  Four player co-op is also a highlight of the multiplayer experience.

Overall Haze does feel dated; there are technical, design and direction issues.  A PS3 owner starved for FPS action, which cannot wait for Resistance 2 or Killzone 2 might want to check it out.  But if you can wait, perhaps that might be the best option.

4.5 Nectar doses out of 10

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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.

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