The Bottom Line: It had so much going for it, but sadly comes up short.
In the year 2048, The Mantel Corporation is waging an all out war for the freedom of civilization. At least that is the company line they are putting forth as they send legions of drug enhanced soldiers into the jungles of South America to bring down the rebel opposition.
In the new game HAZE, players take on the role of a Sgt Shane Carpenter who is tasked with leading a squad against the rebel leader, a man dubious named Skin Coat. I want to say at the outset that the games publisher, Ubisoft, did not return several calls and e-mails for more information and review materials for the game. We were able to get a pre-release interview for the game, but since then, no further information was passed along, so I had to rely on Gamefly to provide the game for review and did not have an outlet to get explanations or clarifications for questions I had with the game and its performance.
Carpenter was a college student who decided to make a difference in the world and at the start of the game, finds himself launching with his new squad to recover pilots from a downed aircraft. Carpenter like all of his fellow soldiers, are enhanced by a drug called Nectar which grants them greater abilities in combat and is administered by the combat armor they wear.
The first few missions are fairly standard shooter missions where players mow down generic baddies in a dense jungle before they undertake an urgent mission to capture the rebel leader who has been located in a smelting plant. As the mission unfolds, Carpenter begins to have doubts about his role thanks in large part to a malfunctioning Nectar administrator. In short order, Carpenter soon finds himself involved in the rebellion and seeking to find the truth behind Nectar and the real agenda of the Mantel Corporation.
The game has a good setup and premise, but sadly the best moments of the game come in the early stages of the game. Aside from the abundance of generic units as both enemies and NPC characters, there are roughly a dozen lines of dialogue that are spouted in the heat of battle by your opponents and comrades. While this is an attempt to add depth to the game, it comes across badly, as many times the lines are not always appropriate to the situation, and rapidly become redundant after you hear them for the fifth time in a mission. There were also a few moments were the audio portion of the game dropped out.
Another issue with the game is the very bad A.I. that aside from rolling from side to side, limits your enemies to straight on attacks for the most part. On more than one occasion I was able to shoot an enemy only to have him take a shot at me and then turn his back to me and ignore me until I attacked him again. The game attempts to explain this during a load screen with text that informs you that soldiers on Nectar become impervious to much of what is around them. While this may be the case, it tends to make for some very dull and uninspired enemies and gameplay.
Another issue I had with the game was the level design missions. Many missions involved simply getting to a point and then getting back from a point and surviving the combat in between. There were few distractions in the plot and little twists to give the game a sense of suspense or mystery, and to explain Carpenters motivations. A so called reveal hinted at things, but there was never a big payoff or confirmation, so I was left to accept that Carpenter had a change of heart based on what was largely circumstantial evidence and the word of another person.
The game does get some things right, and that is the solid selection of weapons and the ability to administer Nectar to yourself in combat. Gamers who want a bit of perverse fun may want to give themselves an intentional overdose and watch what happens next.
The finale was a big disappointment as there was no ultimate bad guy for me to content with nor were any of the real mysteries of Mantel fully explained. I had thought that this might be explored in a future sequel but since Ubisoft did not respond to my requests, I have to assume that this is not the case. The final conflict was so uninspired, that two quick bursts from my rifle and a grenade ended the conflict. I did not even need to use the special Nectar grenades that my character learned to create later in the game.
Another issue with the game is the inconsistent graphics in the game. At times the game really shines and at other times, the textures seem on par with PS 2 graphics and do not live up to the potential the PS 3 offers.
The voice acting, music, and sound effects in the game are average and do not really stand out, but the multiplay does offer some interesting options. While I had problems staying connected to many ranked games, there were some great options such as a co-op mode and a multiplay game where I could either be a guard or a prisoner trying to escape from a compound.
I also enjoyed the use of vehicles in the game as being able to drive or ride in certain vehicles both in the solo and online portion of the game were actually some of the best moments in the game.
Using the Dualshock 3 control did help somewhat as the vibration effects did allow for some added immersion into the game, but sadly did not allow me to steer the vehicles with the control via motion sensing as some other PS 3 titles do.
In short, Haze is a great concept that sadly fails to live up to the promise that was so evident when I first previewed the game at the PAX Expo in Seattle last summer.
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About the reviewer
Gareth Von Kallenbach (garethvk)
I am a syndicated movie & game critic, writer, author and frequent radio guest. My work has appeared in over 60 publications worldwide and he is the creator of the rising entertainment site "Skewed … more
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Set in the year 2048 in a world where Governments have outsourced military operations to Private Military Corporations (PMC), you play a newly enlisted soldier seeking fulfillment and thrills by fighting for a good cause.