Haze. My personal most anticipated game of the year. It's good, don't get me wrong, it's a very capable shooter, but it is just so undoubtedly average and inconsistent, that it disappoints beyond belief. I could have easily given Haze big points off for letting me down so horribly, as I write this review totally heartbroken, but I decided to let it go. It does have reasonable merits, but I really have to wonder where the hell the Free Radical shine and polish went, in this shooter that could've honestly taken a lot more time in development. Now I wonder what the hell were they doing during the delay?
The guns in Haze are fun to shoot. There aren't a lot of them, but they do feel right and the controls are smooth. It's easy to aim, and you'll be able to kill enemies with just a few bullets. The weapons are roughly the same on both sides, except for the snipers and rocket launchers for the troopers, and the minigun for the rebels.
Nectar is something that you'll use regularly as a Mantel soldier. It makes you faster, stronger, your aim is increased, and enemies glow in the dark as if they'd rolled around in nuclear waste. You rarely run out, and it's not such a gameplay mechanic as it is a simple gimmick. Nectar is unique, don't get me wrong, but it could have been implemented much better. Luckily, as a rebel, the idea of nectar becomes much stronger. Instead of using it to your advantage, you try to make it Mantel's disadvantage. By dipping your knife in nectar, you can make enemies overdose (where they turn red, and don't have control over their bodies) by stabbing them or throwing the blade at them. It's cool and it's tactical, and I appreciate the idea. Nectar grenades are made by strapping a nectar administrator to a normal grenade. When these explode, a cloud of nectar fills the air, and any soldiers standing in it will overdose. It's more of a run and gun Rambo technique, that also works well. Nectar has its highs and lows, as most drugs are.
Enemy AI is poor. Whether it's your allies or your enemies, they refuse to take cover, stand in your way, miss where they're aiming, get crushed by cars, fall off cliffs, don't evade grenades, and their dialogue repeats over and over. It wrecks the immersion factor in Haze that could've been so much better. The Ai isn't so bad that it'll distract you, but these guys simply aren't very tough or smart at all.
What's worse, is that when you're on nectar, you feel as if you're unstoppable, and that's what Free Radical was aiming for. However, when you are a rebel, and you watch how stupid and predictable that Mantel troopers are, you wonder if they even are on nectar at all. Again, it just forces you to wonder if nectar is as deep as it could've been.
As a rebel, you have the ability to play dead. After you've taken a few shots, you can pull L2, and just flop to the ground. This works both in campaign and in single player, and almost always fools the enemy. When they've left you alone, you can get up and silently kill them from behind. In campaign, you rarely see your allies do this, but that's just because of the simple AI. Playing dead is a unique gameplay mechanic that works well, and is one of Haze's redeeming factors of originality.
The story in Haze has you as Shane Carpenter, a man who can't make up his mind. He joined Mantel after seeing an ad on TV, where Mantel soldiers are helping women and children in distress, saving people from flood, and stopping terrorists. He enlists, only to find out quickly that Mantel is more of an evil corporation than a peace corps. He then switches to the rebels after finding out that Mantel and nectar isn't all it seems. The story is told through in game cutscenes, with impressive facial animations, and decent voice acting. Overall, the narrative in Haze is good, but with so much predictability, and a short 7 hour experience, I bet it isn't what the writer had in mind.
Graphically, Haze falls flat. Textures look ripped out of a TimeSplitters game from the Ps2, character models are all the same, and special effects aren't very strong. There are glitches such as clipping as well. There are some times of great art, and the framerate is smooth, but what game doesn't these days? As a Playstation 3 exclusive, I was hoping Haze would have been a graphical showpiece for the system, but that obviously isn't the case.
The sound effects in Haze are hit or miss. Guns sound amazing, and voice acting is good. However, all the well voiced dialogue repeats over and over the same lines, and all vehicles have the same generic sound. At least the orchestral score is good, as it the overall soundtrack. The sound quality in this game trumps graphics so harshly, which is why I've given it a higher score than it deserves.
Aside from the short campaign, which you won't want to play more than once, there is multiplayer for up to 16 people. You can play against other humans, or AI controlled bots, or both. There are 6 maps, but only 2 of them, Carrier and Shanty Town, are actually worth a look. All the same gameplay aspects are in MP, and the balance between Mantel and the Rebels is well done for the most part. If you can look past Haze's flaws, the online multiplayer is very well done, and can take up hours of your life, if not days.
So, is Haze any good? Yes, of course it is. Unfortunately, those of you looking for a great shooter for the Playstation 3, you should look elsewhere. A shallow campaign, poor production values, and utter disappointment keep Haze from reaching any status higher than an okay shooter with big drug issues. Free Radical needs an intervention before continuing their careers.