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Haze


Back in the day when Haze was announced it sounded mildly interesting. The promise was there to craft a somewhat fresh experience within the FPS genre and the fact that Ubisoft was publishing it and Free Radical was developing it created an air of potential quality. You know Free Radical. They are a collection of guys that created Golden Eye 007, Perfect Dark, and TimeSplitters. Needless to say, Haze's pedigree was impressive from the beginning but somewhere along the way something went wrong.

The problem here is that there isn't once single department that disappoints; it's the whole experience. I wasn't coming to this title with any expectations other than to find a decent first person shooter. What I got was a middle of the road uninspired FPS with obnoxious characters, bland trappings, and outdated gameplay. This game most likely would have been average in the days of the N64 and PlayStation 1 and by today's standards it's simply archaic and sloppy. Saving graces are few and far between and for all intents and purposes Haze has "bargain bin" written all over it.

One of the biggest elements of the game that disappoints is its storyline. That may sound silly to say but games have evolved over the years to the point where a great story is an important component of the experience. In Haze you play as Shane Carpenter who is a young soldier for Mantel out to rid the world of evil. Mantel has become as powerful as it has by injecting its soldiers with something known as Nectar. This is basically a performance enhancing drug that makes Mantels superhuman in many ways. Unfortunately as you get to know Shane and his Mantel squad mates it also obviously causes stupidity of an enhanced degree.

Shane is an extremely flawed character who whines all the time and doesn't really fill you in on what he's thinking. Because of this you'll never feel connected to the character you're playing as which is a problem. If you don't care for your digital avatar then what the hell is the point of playing through an entire game as them? At any rate Mantel is out in the middle of nowhere trying to "liberate" the indigenous people, though as you might imagine liberating them means sending them to meet their maker. Shane eventually feels that this is a bad thing and switches sides.

While this is a relatively nice plot twist, it's also not very surprising. Considering Shane is working with a bunch of douche bags I'd probably want to kill them too the first chance I got. Sadly it's not very satisfying and the rebels you join forces with aren't much better in many regards. All around Haze is a game with a few interesting elements but the plot ultimately falls flat on its face thanks to bad characters and uninspired storytelling. Strong narration is essential to games these days and this one is very short in that department.

Gameplay


Another department Haze comes up short in is the gameplay. While Free Radical has been well-known for their ability to create great shooter experiences, Haze is "almost" a disappointment the entire way through. I say almost because there are some elements here that are promising but Free Radical failed to capitalize on them to their fullest extent and they more or less wind up being gimmicks.

One of the cool elements that you'll find in Haze is your ability to shoot yourself up with Nectar. This allows you to perform better all around and it even lets you see enemies highlighted with bright yellows. It's a gimmick for all intents and purposes but it's a nifty feature that works well when it actually works. My only complaint with it as far as the single player campaign is concerned is the fact that it almost makes the game too easy. An entire map full of enemies suddenly becomes fish in a barrel once you go all Barry Bonds on them. Then again I guess that's the benefit of enhanced abilities.

The only gripe with this element is once you really start to get accustomed to it you'll switch sides and it won't be available to you. Instead you'll be facing your ex-squad mates who are jacked up on the Nectar but seem to do nothing with it. Seriously, the AI in this game is pathetic even if it is juiced and you'll hardly be given a run for your money while in the midst of an assault. Enemies will stand there and look at you while you until you shoot them and even your own teammates run into your bullets or shoot you based on their own stupidity.

Making the single player campaign even more droll is the selection of weapons which comes to us straight out of the mid-90's. Free Radical developers invented the current industry trend of alternative firing options and outlandish armaments but in Haze you get the same humdrum collection of armaments you have been using for the better part of a decade. Combine this is a rather linear experience and you have a recipe for a title that is easily ignored. FPS titles these days need to offer more than a tacked on gimmick such as Nectar and unfortunately Haze doesn’t come close to supplying the necessary firepower.

All of these points come together as a crushing blow to Haze's ability to keep in step with the current wave of FPS on the market. Sloppy gameplay mechanics, gimmicks, shoddy AI, and a meager campaign only mean that this one is best left ignored. In all honesty the single player component should have offered a better experience but as it stands we're left with multiplayer being the only saving grace; which isn't saying too much.

After playing Halo 3 or COD4 you be looking at the next wave of FPS titles and scrutinizing the online set up. Does the experience offer something unique? Is there enough content to keep you coming back hour after hour? Depending on how you look at it the answer to both questions is yes. There is the ability to play co-op via console and online as well as 16 player matches. Both provide plenty of possibilities but the fact that there are only three modes for competitive play hurts a tad. In the end you're looking at a shallow experience all around and if you're coming expecting quality from Free Radical's design legacy then you're going to be disappointed.

Graphics


A terrible story and poor gameplay aren't the only thing going wrong with Haze; the graphics are a mess. With glitchy animation, pop-in, textural defects, and poor design this game is simply archaic by today's standards. Frequent clipping will occur and during cut scenes you'll simply have to marvel at how quality assurance could have let so many glitches get through the gate. Though this release is for the PlayStation 3 you can expect many moments from the game to be reminiscent of the PlayStation 2 era and for that matter it is one that was apparently rushed.

Sound


If Haze could be given praise for one thing it's being consistent. The sound quality in this game is equally as unpalatable as the rest; though some B movie charm has been worked in as an effort to circumvent the poor production. The sound effects are straight from your average shooter and the music is mostly forgettable but it's the voiceovers that take the cake. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to hit mute when the characters in this game began talking. Every single voice actor in this game is terrible though I suppose your only as good as the material you're given.

Conclusion


Don't let the namesake of this game fool you; Haze is a game you shouldn't bother with. Free Radical and Ubisoft missed quite a few things in the quality assurance department with this one and it would seem that the project was rushed somewhere along the line. From concept to final product this game has many flaws that it never fully recuperates from. Sure the Nectar thing is kind of neat and the co-op can make the game somewhat better, but when the rest of the experience is below average is there really any point? Skip this one.