New shooter game lost in a 'Haze' of mediocrity

Many games are victims of bad timing, and “Haze” is worse off for the existence of other more polished shooters on the market. At the end of the day, your enjoyment of “Haze” relies heavily on your personal expectations of the genre.

Free Radical Design certainly knows how to make a good shooter, having been responsible for some of the best and most influential console shooters of all time. Does “GoldenEye 007” ring a bell? Playing “Haze,” though, probably won’t evoke any sense that the game was handled by experts at their craft.

I hope you aren’t tired of the “bald space marine” cliché of this generation of shooters, because all the armed soldiers in “Haze” are not only bald but also act and sound like overgrown rednecks. What real person utters lines such as “This is awesome!” or “I’m the baddest motherfucker on the planet!” during a bloody firefight? “Haze” clearly undervalues the difference good voice acting can have on a player’s experience.

Only one thing distinguishes “Haze” from the endless sea of console shooters on the market: Nectar, a performance-enhancing drug with which Mantel Corporation fuels all its mercenary soldiers. While fighting for Mantel, you’ll experience the benefits of Nectar first-hand: increased speed, larger damage resistance and, most importantly, the ability to easily spot enemies.

You’ll also be exposed to the drug’s side effects. Promise Hand rebels have ways of forcing Mantel soldiers to overdose on Nectar, making the soldiers insane and unable to separate friend from foe. The effect is legitimately disorienting and pretty cool to experience.

“Haze” seems like a no-thinking-necessary action thrill ride at first glance, but Free Radical does attempt to tell a compelling story. One theme permeates the narrative: Confidence is an army’s most powerful weapon. The message doesn’t even feel sincere, especially when the voice actors delivering the script’s lines make you cringe.

The multiplayer aspect, having been one of Free Radical’s strengths in the past, also disappoints. You can play as a Mantel soldier or a Promise Hand rebel, so the benefits (the soldiers’ Nectar enhancements vs. the rebels’ agility and sneaky tactics) definitely add variety to the combat. It’s different enough to carve its own niche in the online shooter world but not fun enough to tear you away from your favorite shooter.

You’ll find the same weapons layout that has been a shooter staple since the original “Doom” pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle, rocket launcher, grenades, etc. The grenade and knife have “Nectar” variations designed to make Mantel troopers overdose, but other than that, this is one of the most generic selections of guns in recent memory.

As a PS3-exclusive shooter, it’s reasonable to assume the game looks pretty hot? Sorry to disappoint, but “Haze” is one of, if not the worst looking shooter on the console. The texture quality is absolutely abysmal, and graphical glitches pop up frequently.

I commend the inclusion of online co-operative play for the campaign, though, especially since it replaces the brain-dead behavior of your AI squad mates. Further proof that co-op makes any shooter fun, even a mediocre one.

And that’s just what “Haze” is: mediocre. I get the distinct feeling Free Radical, even after two to three years of development and delays, didn’t put their best efforts into this game. “Haze” really isn’t worth anyone’s time, and quite frankly, PlayStation 3 deserves better than a half-hearted effort.

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