Among upcoming shooters such as Resistance 2, Gears of War 2, and Killzone 2, there lies a new intellectual property, and it's Ubisoft's Haze. Haze has managed to garner a fair share of its own attention, seeing as how the developers behind it have brought us FPS games such as TimeSplitters and GoldenEye. The Free Radical game has often undergone questioning of when it'd finally be released, and while the game is still about a week off, we've been given a demo to play and here's what we think.
The playthrough is fairly brief, about 15 minutes, if you include the tutorial pauses, and 10 if you don't. The one aspect that differentiates Haze from other first person shooters is nectar injection. Characters inject nectar into themselves which heightens a variety of their abilities. The most notable change is the ability to detect enemies, as the nectar injection allows you to see an enemy's body heat - this'll help you spot threats from a distance.
When you've spotted enemies, you can pick them off with your weapons. As you'd expect, well placed shots to the head will neutralize an enemy immediately, where as shooting at a torso may require a few bullets. No matter what weapon you use, be it a rifle or a standard handgun, you have the ability to use a more precise, zoomed-in perspective to take down enemies from afar. The zoomed-in perspective isn't simple either, as its assisted by the abilities of your suit, making distant aiming with even a handgun easy.
Additionally, nectar stabilizes your zoomed-in aim, as well. But before you think you can just juice your way through the game, you're limited to a capacity of five nectar injections. On the other hand, you can take one from a teammate if you're running low. Or you can wait for nectar shots to refill gradually as you play through a stage. Finally, a full injection lasts about a minute, which is long enough to get rid of a wave of enemies.
My complaints with Haze is that, aside from the nectar injections, the game doesn't seem to break the mold of what most FPS games have already offered. Presentation isn't as engrossing as I'd hoped for it to have been; the cut-scenes aren't particularly entertaining, and the voice-acting can be pretty bad. While the overall gameplay isn't broken, in a genre as populated as this one, that doesn't save a game from being written off.
Another complaint is that the shooting doesn't feel impactful. Where as in games like Resistance, every shot fired felt like it packed a punch, you don't get that same level of feedback with Haze - and I'm not even talking about force feedback from a controller. So there's this feeling that you're disconnected from the experience, and, in addition to the problems above, this creates a lack of immersion.
Visually, because this is only a demo of the game, I will refrain from making any final judgments, as textures could've been down-sampled to keep the download size smaller. Then again, at 1.5GB this isn't exactly a small demo (one of the largest on PSN, actually), and so the possibility of these being finalized textures is good. Still, the texture detail in the demo is average, at best. There wasn't one thing that I looked at that impressed me, it all just left me feeling indifferent. Fortunately, the game has good lighting effects, and runs at a solid 30 frames per second with no aliasing or screen tearing issues to be seen.
If you were expecting the next groundbreaking FPS with Haze, your expectations will be shattered. Haze isn't a bad game, but if this demo is any indication, there doesn't seem to be anything very impressive about it. The voice acting pales in comparison to many others, and the sense of immersion is weak. We'll give this demo the benefit of the doubt, in the meantime, but keep your expectations moderate to low.
5/13/2008 Arnold Katayev