Free Radical’s ‘Haze’ Gets Lost in its Own Haze

Brent Wallace

Haze is a first-person shooter (FPS) that has been made by Free Radical exclusively for the Playstation 3 (PS3). Free Radical has had a good run with the shooter genre, starting off strong with 007: Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64 console, and then providing more high quality titles, such as the Timesplitters series.

With all of that experience behind them, its quite shocking to see how Free Radical messed up with Haze. Haze is still a solid shooter that is worth a look, but the game’s merits are almost completely lost in its own hazy mist.

The premise of Haze has you playing as a character named Shane Carpenter, who has had a rough past but wants to do good deeds for the world. As a result, Carpenter joins the army of Mantel, a mysterious military industrial corporation that provides its troops with a drug called nectar, which makes their troops more powerful and neatly shields their eyes from the ugly sights of warfare, such as blood and dead bodies.

You’ll probably appreciate it more if you do your research and get familiar with the undertones used in Haze’s story, which include the mockery of generic shooter characters, the consequences of drug usage, media manipulation, and more. Even with these undertones, however, Haze’s story is very boring, and never gets you truly involved.

The basic game play of Haze revolves around two different sides, the Mantel Troopers and the Promised Hand Rebels, and their distinct usage of nectar.

The Mantel troopers use nectar to make fighting their enemies easier. When used, nectar increases the trooper’s fighting capability and highlights enemies with a red glow, making them very hard to see. Nectar also gives the troopers other advantages, such as the ability to see the blast radius of an explosive before it goes off.

The troopers have to be careful and avoid going into an overdose or else they will lose control and start shooting everyone in their vicinity.

The rebels don’t use nectar directly on themselves like the troopers do. Instead, the rebels have abilities such as dodge rolls, the ability to use nectar-infused knives and grenades to force overdoses on the troopers, and the power to play dead to hide from the troopers, since they can’t see dead bodies.

The game’s short and uninteresting single-player campaign doesn’t do that good of a job introducing players to each side’s differences. This is primarily because you quickly discover that nectar usage doesn’t really change how you play the game in any meaningful way.

With the troopers, you probably won’t be very selective with how and when to use nectar; since you have little to no excuse to ever be caught in a fire fight without it.

With the rebels, you’ll see that forcing overdoses is not as effective of a tactic as just running-and-gunning. The dodge roll and playing dead abilities are more than enough to counter the trooper’s strengths.

When you’re done with the campaign, Haze offers a few multiplayer modes for you to check out, although you’ve seen them all before. Haze offers basic death match and team death match modes, along with the more interesting team assault mode, which has each team going for specific objectives.

A nice touch in the death match modes is that you are allowed to play against the artificial intelligence (AI), even though its quality can be questionable at times.
Unfortunately, the death match mode suffers from some slight balance issues between the game’s two sides. At first glance, you’d think the troopers would have the upper hand with all of nectar’s advantages. But the balance of the game is actually in favor of the rebels, since nectar can’t effectively counter playing dead.

Haze also allows you to play through the campaign cooperatively with up to three other people online, or with one other person locally via split screen. This does make the campaign a bit more enjoyable, since you now have intelligent players on your side instead of the lackluster allied AI.

Graphically, Haze is an ugly sight to behold as a PS3 game. The graphics look like they were made using the 4-year-old Doom 3 engine. Haze has some good looking character and weapon models, but everything else, from the stiff animation to the low resolution textures, looks downright dated. The game’s fire effects are particularly hideous and could even put a Playstation 2 (PS2) to shame.

Haze doesn’t fare much better with the sound department either. Haze does have some decent music, but none of it is truly memorable. The game’s voice acting is also decent, but is sabotaged by a lack of decent dialogue. The voice acting also gets very repetitive since many characters repeat the same few lines way too often. At least the game’s weapons all sound and feel right.

What makes Haze all the more disappointing is the fact that the developers of the game have had plenty of experience in the genre. They had no excuse to send Haze out in its current state.

Despite all its flaws however, Haze is still a solid shooter that is worth checking out, as long as you haven’t been spoiled by the likes of Resistance: Fall of Man or Call of Duty 4.

Released: May 20
ESRB: M for mature: Intense Violence, Blood, Strong Language, Use of Drugs
Retail Price: $59.99
Availability: Retail stores and online vendors

My rating: two out of four stars