When Free Radical Design announced that they are going to craft a first-person shooter for next-gen systems, the gaming public took notice. Since the studio was comprised by developers who contributed to the development of games such as Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark, interest was high concerning just what this new project would be.
Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark were hits due to their strong multiplayer components, a distinction that also held true for their TimeSplitters series that was released on the PlayStation 2, Xbox and Gamecube.
Looking forward to their latest project, titled Haze, the team hopes to integrate their strong multiplayer roots into an experience that combines fast-paced play with military themes and drug usage. Haze has high expectations to fulfill given the developers’ pedigree, and its announcement as a PlayStation 3 exclusive has placed it as one of the key games that could aid in its expected sales surge this year.
Despite the fact that the title was delayed twice while in production, the demo was made available last Thursday on the PlayStation Network. Will its unveiling lead to a raising or lowering of player expectations?
The world of Haze involves two main factions; Mantel, a private military corporation whom its soldiers fight under, and the Promised Hand, a group of rebels dueling against Mantel forces. The demo places players in the role of Sergeant Carpenter as he leads his troop through the jungle against the Promised Hand rebels.
When you start the game, the importance of Nectar is immediately introduced through tutorials; this is Mantel’s drug that enables its soldiers to have increased accuracy and resistance to damage. This increased accuracy is made easier through Nectar’s ability to give your targets a yellow sheen.
Nectar does have side effects though; use too much of it and you will overdose, causing a loss of sanity which will cause soldiers to fire on anything in sight, friend or foe. In playing through the demo on each of its three difficulty settings, I noticed that on various occasions at least one of the members of my squad overdosed – an action that nearly caused me to die. The only solution to this situation was to kill him on sight; let’s hope that the full version will have a non-violent means to cure these wayward fighters.
The weapons offered in the demo are strong and pack a fair amount of punch. They include a pistol, an assault rifle, and an Oslo, which is the equivalent of a shotgun. There is an option to zoom in, which is mapped to the right analog stick and becomes magnified should you have Nectar in your system.
Health is handled in a vein similar to Halo, where you have a shield and it recharges should you go without damage for a set period. Through my time with the demo, it became a non-issue during the first two difficulties, but I had to constantly keep an eye on it in the challenging setting.
In observing the dialogue between Shane and his compatriots, they reminded me of characters that appear in every war movie that I have seen, joking about their experiences and mentioning that they want to come back to the warzone post-conflict for a ‘vacation.’ Shane himself comes across as an earnest individual and even shows early signs of being ‘disrupted’ by the Nectar drug – something that will be explored in the full version.
In analyzing the demo as a whole, I see a good but not great game. Having played TimeSplitters games on various occasions, I can see the carryover influence here. There are no tactical elements to speak of, the dialogue is more humorous than serious and the graphics, while great, are not mind-blowing. In closing, Haze has some great building blocks, but let’s hope that a final layer of polish is added before the product actually releases.