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Review--HAZE for Playstation 3
As a service to my fellow video game fans at other science fiction sites, I occasionally do reviews of video games for the Playstation 2, Xbox 360, or Playstation 3.
Here, for the interest of those who might be into video games, is my inaugural review of Haze for this forum.
DEVELOPER: FREE RADICAL
SYSTEMS: PLAYSTATION 3 EXCLUSIVE
RATING: M (Mature for Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Use of Drugs)
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 1-2 (online: 16)
GAMES IT COULD BE COMPARED TO: KILLZONE, TIMESPLITTERS SERIES
DETAILS: This game has an interesting premise. You play the beginning as Sergeant Shane Carpenter, a soldier of Mantel, a security corporation who creates and maintains supersoliders through the use of a drug called Nectar. The Nectar has performance enhancing, psychotropic capabilities which allow Mantel soldiers to fire more accurately, take more damage, and have a much more powerful melee attack. It also allows Mantel soldiers to see enemies more readily, by making the enemies glow, even while they're hiding. The Nectar causes the soldiers to become over-adrenalized warriors who have fun during battle. It would almost make their exploits seem like videogames from their perspective, because they don't see what they're really doing to their enemies. They don't see blood, and pain. They just see targets drop from their drug-induced point of view.
After a couple of missions, Shane begins to experience what he believes are dangerous side effects of Nectar, and then discovers that the Mantel soldiers are now hunting him down, because he's become a renegade Haze....someone who might be going through withdrawals, and could be considered dangerous to the cause. The Mantel are fighting a rebel faction in a Latino country, and the rebellion, under the leadership of a man the Mantel refer to as "Skin Coat", are trying to put a stop to the Nectar drug. But thanks to the propaganda machine of the Mantel, public opinion is against Skin Coat's rebel band. However, it is Skin Coat's rebel soldiers who find you in the swamps, and take you into their countenance.
When playing as a Mantel soldier, you can enhance your combat performance with the Nectar drug...but just make sure you don't overdose. If you do, you will not be able to distinguish friend from foe, you will fire your weapon almost uncontrollably, with the potential for friendly fire kills, and your control overall becomes very sluggish until the drugs in your bloodstream have dissipated....assuming you survive.
After a while, you end up playing for The Promise Hand, Skin Coat's rebel faction, and your abilities change. You lose the benefits of the Nectar, but you are by no means incapable. You have the ability to disarm opponents in a melee attack,
and turn their weapons against them. you can heal your friends if they're wounded, and you can dodge and evade attacks.
Healing in the game is done ala Call of Duty. If you take hits, your screen begins to haze red. Find cover until your screen clears. If you are equipped with the Nectar, the drug actually speeds up your recovery process.
The graphics are nice. Explosions look nice and blossom well. Characters are well rendered, but not quite up to snuff with characters rendered in, oh, say, Rainbow Six Vegas or Call of Duty 4. That said, they do look good in the context of this game. Environments are also quite beautiful.
The audio is decent. Gunfire and explosions are satisfying. The music is well done. But I'm none too crazy about some of the repetitive dialogue from non-player characters. You might hear the same phrase three times in as many minutes, among your allies. And, oh yeah, every rare now and again, you'll hear the famous "death cry" often heard in Star Wars movies, especially if you shoot a soldier over an edge. That gave me a good laugh.
Also, it would seem character models are in short supply. It seems as if there are only a few character models populating the game thus far, excluding the major characters.
Control is also quite good. As with most other quality games, after about two minutes of gameplay, you can pretty much forget about that piece of plastic and electronics in your hands, and focus on your objectives. Another thing I like is the fully customizable control scheme....something that I have sorely missed since the Timesplitters days. (Speaking of Timesplitters, this game is developed by the company that created that series.....so it's no wonder that this game is good, and contains customizable controls.)
Weapons in here are rather cool....and none are too weak for combat. My favorite weapon thus far is the "Mana de Dios" (Hand of God.....I suppose it would be too much to hope that maybe it was a subtle nod to Battlestar Galactica ). Mana de Dios is a mini-gun that can hold up to 400 rounds, and is extremely powerful. But there are also flamethrowers, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, and of course, the old FPS warrior's best friend, the shotgun. Weapon ammunition is cross compatible, like in Deus Ex: Invisible War. In other words, you can run around with two weapons (the max you can carry, a trend since Halo), but, you can walk up on just about any weapon, and collect its ammo for use, regardless of type. (I think miniguns, rocket launchers, and flamethrowers might be the exception to this rule.) But you can walk up with an assault rifle, and collect sniper ammo, or shotgun shells to add to your assault rifle's ammo...and vice versa.
Another interesting factor of this game is the ability (once you become a rebel) to make Nectar grenades. When you walk up on a dead Mantel soldier, you can take their Nectar Administrator device (found on their back), and strap it to a standard grenade. When you use a Nectar grenade, it creates a cloud of the drug, and any Mantel soldiers caught in the cloud will immediately overdose, causing them to fire on each other, or just fire wildly. Some might even blow themselves up as a result of their extreme euphoria.
You can also make a Mantel soldier overdose with a well placed shot, or a good melee hit, to their Nectar Administrator. You can tell when a Mantel soldier is overdosed because their armor turns from yellow to red.
Assault rifles in this game are the weapon of choice thus far in the few hours that I've played this. With short bursts, you can take down a Mantel soldier with no problem if your aim is good.
Frustration factor is none too bad in this game either. You might end up spending several minutes looking for a way out of some places, but once you realize how simple some solutions are, you might end up giving yourself a kick in the astrums for not seeing them sooner.
I have not tried multiplayer yet, but the multiplayer features the usual suspects: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Assault. There is also a two player split-screen co-op of the campaign. You can also have co-op on LAN or online play (cannot combine the two), with apparently more than two players. I don't know how many you can set....but I am guessing at least four players can do the co-op campaign via LAN or online mode.
PARENTAL ADVISORY: (This is a new feature I am going to add in my reviews. It offers my opinion as to what parents might consider before letting their child play a game...especially with a Mature rating. My opinions will be based upon content and effects with other existing titles. Is this game more like Grand Theft Auto in some way? Or is it more like Halo? My experience has shown me that parents will allow their kids to play certain types of M rated titles, whilst keeping them from playing others. I hope this will help.) The language in HAZE is probably the strongest element which earns this title its M rating. The F-bomb is dropped quite a few times. Not with the frequency of, say, Grand Theft Auto IV....but frequently enough to warrant parental discretion. (It can be likened to the frequency and intensity of the movie ALIENS, if that frame of reference will help.) The blood is not very gratuitous, and is perhaps on par with HALO. The drug use refers to the fictional, psychotropic Nectar drug, but because of its effects, is enough to warrant parental notice...and perhaps discussion. Overall, I would say that if you let your kids play HALO, you might find a little bit more in the language department here to use tighter discretion, if you don't like your kids hearing a lot of harsh language. There is also a cut-scene that depicts a torturous dismemberment of one of the main characters. It's not graphically shown, but the screams of agony might be of some concern to parents...as it is quite convincing.
BOTTOM LINE: This is a good, solid title for a PS3 exclusive. I don't know if it's a HALO killer (I highly doubt it....and HALO is usually judged on the merits of its multiplayer gameplay), but it is worth losing a few hours in the day to. My only fear is if this game is too short, and judging by what I'm hearing in the dialogue so far, I pray my assessment might not become prophecy. I can't really say whether or not it's worth the 60 dollar price tag....but I am leaning towards....no.
Endorphin Factor: 3/5
Frustration Factor: 3.5/5
Average: 3.75 /5
As I suspected, this was a fairly short game....beatable in a few hours. And the ending was really short....and uneventful...although it does leave the door open for a sequel.
Generally, FPS titles are not exactly known for epic length like RPG titles, or free-roaming sandbox titles like GTA IV.
Review by: Steve Dunlap aka Martok2112