When you look at the game industry, there are certain names you can often pick out that you expect to get quality from. Bioware, Bungie, Pandemic and the team that brought us Goldeneye and Timesplitters, what you don't ever expect is to bump into a game from the latter that's as painful to look at as it is to play. Riddled with bugs and lack-lustre gameplay from the start, Haze, is a terrible game that's only saving grace is that it allows you to play it cooperatively with friends.
Don't believe the hype on the box, because it's wrong. Haze is the kind of game that deserves to be shot into the sun and never heard from again. I'm bitterly disappointed with this one and what you have here is a bog-standard shooter that just doesn't do anything innovative or interesting, and I've played good shooters on most platforms. This isn't one of them.
The story is full of clichés and working for the Mantel Corporation as an enforcer you play both sides of the coin, as eventually, you see Mantel for what it really is and turn your back on it and the booster drug known as nectar. Now it's here that I want to throttle someone, whoever decided that design wise having the Mantel soldiers resemble bees in terms of the black and yellow, the honeycomb designs and so on, also needs to be shot.
You eventually end up working for the rebels and can exploit the weakness of the Mantel's enforcers, since you used to be one. It's about here amidst the corny dialogue and the brash outspoken solider clichés that I really just disconnected with the story and the game turned into pretty much a grind, it became just another shooter with a hackneyed plot and dull uninspiring weapons, go here, shoot this guy, come back, shoot some more bad guys and listen to repetitious comments from barely competent AI team-mates.
Where did you go wrong Free Radical Design, what happened to the edge that you had? Haze doesn't feel like a FRD game at all, it feels incomplete, rushed, botched and don't get me started on the bugs. Hitscan is appalling in the game and often physics glitches will leave bodies hanging as if they had been struck by some kind of Levitate-o-matic rifle. Perhaps I might be down on this game because I had high expectations, but for the kind of price tag we're talking here, I don't like being given half a pizza when I expect the whole thing to have deep dish and extra cheese.
Haze is broken up into shooting sections, driving sections (with pretty bouncy and loose physics) as you grind through the linear macho fantasy story with a bunch of characters you have no empathy with. The only joy for me came when I switched sides and turned my gunfire on those people I'd been running around with. There was something therapeutic about offing the smart-mouthed Mantel buddies from earlier.
For a PS3 exclusive Haze needed to offer up something much better and it failed in terms of singleplayer. Multiplayer fares a little better with the 3 modes of play, deathmatch, team deathmatch and an objective based 'assault' mode that proved to be one of my favourites. There's a limit of 16 players on the maps and they don't feel too crowded or too sparse. FRD also put in computer controlled AI bots, so they can be forgiven a little for making the sp side of the game as dull as a matte black finish.
The game's campaign lasts 6-8 hours and you can play on or offline with a friend, through pretty mediocre to decent level designs. I spent most of my time in Assault mode and even that wore thin after a while, two sides aren't exactly balanced and whilst the Mantel guys can use nectar to boost their performance, the Promised Hand rebels are left with inflicting overdoses on Mantel troopers, laying traps and playing dead.
The problems don't stop there, the game has some badly implemented objective markers and waypoints, they leave you wondering what to do and I often wonder if developers do this on purpose to try and eke out some more hours of playtime from a title that's way too short in the first place. As previously mentioned the AI of your squadmates is questionable in singleplayer and they often do stupid things, like running into your field of fire and getting in your way.
As a PS3 exclusive, with no excuse to blame bad design and graphics on anything but the developers, Haze walks smack bang into the bar of lack-lustre design and orders a drink whilst chatting up the ugliest texture hooker in the joint. Seriously, the PS3 is a good machine; it has great graphics (just look at Metal Gear Solid 4) and deserves better treatment than being in bed with developers who just leave in the morning.
Haze deserves some marks for being an average FPS on reflection, perhaps earlier I might have been a little harsh when I said terrible game. I mean it does have co-op play and you can enjoy some parts of it, when you're not being assailed by laughable dialogue and overly melodramatic voice acting with about as much passion as a dead stoat locked in a cooler. It's below average at best and without the decent online multiplayer I'd have been tempted to score this one lower than I did.
If you ignore my rant and look at the game, seeing the wood for the trees, it's possible to pick out some of the better parts, it's just that the good parts are overshadowed by the awful parts and whilst you might have some different/cool abilities for your soldiers on both sides of the fence and be able to convince your friends to play with you on assault and generally romp through the game in the aforementioned time together. It's not quite enough to lift the pall of mediocre that surrounds the game for me. You might have a better experience and be one of the few out there that actually really likes Haze.
I would expect so much more from a PS3 exclusive and especially one that's been hyped up quite a bit. To listen to the developer interviews on Gametrailers and the like, really pumps you up, like the Mantel troopers themselves, but when it comes down to it, the pump is just full of a lot of hot air and once again we've been built up to such an extent that when the game finally arrived we'd already played Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 and after Call of Duty 4 I'm afraid Haze didn't stand a chance, it was already dead and buried unless it could seriously top that.
Better luck next time Free Radical Design, you best not ruin the next Timesplitters.