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Haze Review

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Developer: Free Radical Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: May 20, 2008 Also On: None

Free Radical is a studio that usually delivers a quality product. This is a team of developers committed to making excellent shooters. Free Radical created TimeSplitters and many of its employees worked on both GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark in the 1990s when they were members of Rare. While TimeSplitters used humor (Harry Tipper was the name of one of the characters in the game) and both GoldenEye and Perfect Dark perfected the first-person shooter on the N64, Haze has very few redeeming qualities.

The story is the first major letdown. You play as a soldier in the Mantel army. The game starts you off chasing a rebel leader known as Skin Coat by Mantel, supposedly because he wears the skin of his victims. The moral superiority that Mantel uses as its propaganda to drum up support is undercut by the fact that its own soldiers are brutal, inhuman junkies (more on that in a minute). Your character eventually breaks his ties with Mantel, helps the rebel leader escape and fights back against his former comrades. The developers should have avoided whatever political statements they were trying to make and focused on writing a better story.

The gimmick in Haze is that a drug called Nectar enhances a soldier’s abilities. When you use it you can see further, enemies stand out, allows you to take more damage and makes your melee attacks stronger. On the downside, the stuff is both highly addicting and can overdose. If you overdose on Nectar, your senses go haywire. You can not tell friend from foe. A bar shows you how much Nectar you have and how much you are using. If you go over the limit, you overdose. On the other hand, the enemy A.I. can overdose as well by throwing a Nectar grenade, which is particularly useful to clear out a room, as they will go crazy and kill their allies.

The concept of Nectar is a good one, but I rarely ended up using it anyway. You are not forced to use it and once you become a rebel, they put you through a treatment that makes you sober the rest of the game. As a rebel you will get the ability to play dead, which pretty much acts as an automatic restoration of health since they will not attack you when you do this (unless it is a gun turret). You can also set explosive traps for the Mantel troops to run over.

Your arsenal of weapons is rather limited throughout. You rely on two weapons: a primary and secondary. You can swap weapons as you see them, but a lot of the stuff seems to disappear after a while. There aren’t any particularly exciting weapons to choose from. You get a couple different machine guns, a shotgun (the shotgun Mantel soldier looks oddly like a Big Daddy from BioShock), sniper rifle, flamethrower, knife and that’s about it. You also get grenades and a rocket launcher to shoot down some helicopters.

The only really positive thing that I can say about Haze is its co-op play. You can play with people online or locally. The “very few” redeeming values that I mentioned at the start of this review include the fact that you can play with a friend through this mess of a game and they can jump in or out as they please. This is a great feature that should be included in all shooters from now on. It simply is not acceptable anymore to force one player to give up just because the second person has to go home. All you have to do is press start and drop your character out of the game. Anyone else can keep playing.

Let me just be the first one to say that the visuals look very bad in Haze. Whatever you saw of the game in trailers, don’t believe it for a second. At best, Haze looks like it is a late-generation PlayStation 2 game with its textures and character models. This could easily work on a Wii. Instead of taking advantage of the PS3’s horsepower, Free Radical decided to slack off. I am not a graphics snob, but when you give me nothing else to praise you for, this becomes another of the long list of issues.

There was promise here. The storyline needs some refining, the graphics need serious polish, the A.I. needs to be completely overhauled and the constant looping of laughable voice acting will annoy you to death. If you are unfortunate enough to buy this game, at least play it with a friend to replace your A.I. allies. I can not and will not recommend Haze to anyone. This game is neither worth a rental, purchase nor the disc that it was put on.

Graphics: 3
Sound: 4
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 6
Replay Value/Game Length: 6
Final: 5
Written by Kyle Review Guide