Home | News | Reviews | Previews | Hardware
Score: 60%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: Free Radical
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 4; 2 - 16 (Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
Sound is one of Haze's few stand-out elements. Even though most of the dialogue is poorly written and overly repetitious, the voicework isn't all that bad. I mean, if you're going to make every soldier in the game sound like an amped-up frat boy, you might as well have a bunch of guys who can yell loudly - right? Gunfire, explosions and most of the other sound effects are really good and have just the right amount of impact.

At best, Haze's visuals are mid-level quality. Textures are blurry and muddy and there are a handful of visual glitches that seem to pop in a little too often. If they aren't twitching around with their limited animation sets, characters will slip through environmental objects. Although some of the character designs look nice, they are also incredibly generic and fall into the current "space marines in power armor" pit that nearly every game since Halo has found its way into. With a few rare exceptions, most of the levels also have a "been there, shot that" quality. About the only things that look good are the visual effects like smoke and blurry lighting.

It's clear from the very beginning that Haze is trying to make a point. You are a fresh-faced recruit in Mantel, a group sent to South America to defeat a militant group known as Promise Hand. Your goal is to capture the group's leader, who earned his name by wearing the skin of his enemies in a Buffalo Bill killer sort of way.

The general idea is that you're a solider who has to eventually make a moral choice that goes against everything he's been programmed to think. This is a good enough premise and one that has worked in both games and movies. However, where Haze goes wrong is that it beats you over the head with the concept and lacks any sort of subtly. The "moral" of the story is put before the actual story; so the game isn't just a bore, but it is borderline insulting. On top of that, it is filled with black and white absolutes that it isn't really interesting. The Promise Hand are the good-natured people who are just fighting to protect their way of life and land from the Nectar-hungry, evil corporation Mantel. There's a cheap attempt late in the game to inject some "grey", but by then it is too late.

The story is complimented by a gameplay that is also filled with absolutes - it's either fun or it isn't. Although the general run n' gun gameplay is decent, it isn't very satisfying. Levels are linear and only about a handful are actually interesting - so there are a few fun moments. You can choose to go through each level with a friend, though this just makes the game go by faster since it doesn't seem to adjust to two players. There's also a set of multiplayer missions, though the only interesting one is Assault, which is a mission-based mode where the first to complete their list wins.

Haze isn't incredibly hard. The first half of the game is pretty easy; enemy soldiers are aggressive, though nothing you can't handle without a boost of Nectar. Once the tables turn, however, things get a little more challenging. However, even the biggest force of Nectar-enhanced soldiers won't pose a major threat because of the lame A.I., which is laughably stupid. Even when you're not using your Nectar-enhanced abilities, enemies have an incredibly hard time hitting their targets. That is, if they even acknowledge your presence since it is possible to stand right next to an enemy without any sort of reaction.

Game Mechanics:
Haze shows its hand really early in the game, so things become stale early on and there isn't much to keep you playing. You begin the game with a basic set of abilities granted by Nectar, which is sort of a steroid-like wonder drug that gives soldiers enhanced abilities, essentially making them into Supermen. Early in the game, you'll earn a new slate of abilities, though these aren't as useful as they look. For example, one ability allows you to play possum, though some enemies will continue to shoot at you even when you're "dead" - which sort of negates the point.

Nectar is more of a gimmick than a mechanic. Although some of the abilities, like the Nectar-enhanced grenade, are neat tricks, they never seem like they are vital to the gameplay. Most of the abilities aren't much different from those found in other games that managed to use them in more effective and creative ways. The only really tricky thing about Nectar is that you have to constantly administer it to yourself by pressing the L2 button and that you can overdose on it if a stray bullet hits the pack on your back - causing the screen to blur and the controls to mess up. This is the type of stuff I really would have wanted to see more of; it could have given the story that little bit of social commentary it is desperately searching for while also adding some interesting choices. Do you take a hit of Nectar and risk overdose, or try to do it on your own without the enhancement?

At best, Haze is a great idea that just never comes together. There are a few fun moments, but these don't happen nearly as much as they should and the heavy-handed narrative drags it down even more. At best, Haze is a rental, but not a purchase.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.