Update: We recently heard that this game will boast four-player Co-op multiplayer campaign! Now, if that's not good news, nothing is. Four players working towards the same goal...yup, we like it.
It grabbed plenty of attention at last year's E3, but Haze has kinda dropped off the radar since then. However, thanks to some new details released by Free Radical and Ubisoft, we now have a much better understanding of this atmospheric FPS, and just how original it might be (in comparison to most generic games in the same genre). If you're a TimeSplitters fan, pay close attention to this preview, ‘cuz it's the same team behind Haze. It oughta be fun, that's for damn sure.
Initially, the game appeared to be along the lines of a Rainbow Six - only out in the jungle - but the latest presentations of the game show more of an individual adventure, which is good news for the sake of gameplay fluidity. The storyline is typical and yet...not. Apparently, the mega-global corporation, Mantel, is working to control just about everything, right down to the very air we breathe. Somehow, the company even has it's own private army, which they release at the drop of a hat to smack down potential civilian rebellions. Now, it sounds to us like Free Radical has some sort of problem with Mattel, the veteran toy manufacturer. It may seem like a wild theory, but look; it's only one letter off! Somebody on the team must've gotten a defective action figure when they were little.
Now, we know what you're asking: what about the name? Will we ever be in a "haze?" Well, yes and no. See, Mantel has produced this crazy serum called Nectar that heightens the senses of their soldiers, thereby turning them into more-than-formidable adversaries. However, you can also tap into some Nectar stores along the way, increasing your own senses and abilities to even the playing field. You'll suddenly have the benefit of locking on to an enemy, and there will even be a form of thermal vision, which makes enemies stand out in the background. But best of all is the sensory enhancement that amounts to a futuristic Spidey-sense: you'll be able to tell when danger is near. If a squad is advancing to your left, you'll know about it a few seconds before you can actually spot them. Sweet, huh?
But that Nectar can have some nasty side effects, too (drugs are bad for you, kids). If you stay on the stuff too long, or if you get nailed with a super-charged dose, your vision can become blurred and enemies and allies will all start to look the same. Furthermore, because your own allies can go a little nuts with Nectar, too, you have to keep an eye on their serum intake. They could very well start firing on each other, and if that happens, you might have to take cover until the insanity dies down. So Nectar is a dangerous ally; you'll always be striving to experience a little buzz, but overdosing is a crippling occurrence. So there's your "haze," and why this particular FPS stands out from the crowd. We just hope they don't get too obsessed with their great idea and forget other facets of the game, but we doubt that will happen.
As far as the entire gameplay presentation is concerned, it's all about seamless interaction. You'll always have control of your character, and there will always be something to do. So while they're certainly including a cohesive plot, Free Radical places the emphasis in Haze on "free" play (pun intended). So don't expect any non-interactive cut-scenes or FMV, here; you'll never lose control for even a split second - supposedly - and for all you twitch gamers out there, that's like heaven, right? We wonder if this opens up the door for more decision-making, too. For example, if we always have control, even during storytelling segments, can we change the outcome of a plot-advancing event? For instance, what if we just decide to leave the room during a speech, or you get all drastic and shoot the person speaking? Can we do that, and if so, what will happen?
We have high hopes for the graphics, as early screenshots and videos have showed off some significantly impressive color schemes and a boatload of detail. While most of the public screenies available indicate a setting very reminiscent of Far Cry, you won't be limited to a tropical setting throughout your adventure in Haze. We've seen an industrial area, and we've also seen several other mysterious indoor locations that might be the Mantel headquarters. Of course, just like any good FPS nowadays, the game will also boast several vehicles, one of which is the standard off-road buggy/ATV of sorts. They won't be optional, either...at least, on the surface, it appears there are portions of the game that force you to master that buggy. And if that's the case, there should be a healthy dose of diversity.
We anticipate a lengthy and relatively deep single-player experience; the Nectar sounds like an awfully intriguing concept, and with the free play, "never-lose-control" gameplay style, we expect to be fully immersed from start to finish. Much like the TimeSplitters games, we also predict we'll see a goodly assortment of multiplayer options as well. TS remains one of the most entertaining online experiences out there, so we have complete faith in Free Radical in that department. For now, Haze is scheduled to arrive in November of this year; we'll be sure to let you know once they nail down a release date because this one looks uber-promising.
5/22/2007 Ben Dutka