Haze is the first foray into the next-generation for Free Radical Design, the team behind the much-loved Timesplitters series of games. Drawing on the company's extensive first person shooter experience, Haze tells the story of Shane Carpenter, a young solider fighting for the Mantel Corporation, a private militia tasked with bringing down a rebellion organised by a terrorist group known as the Promise Hand.
Winners don't do drugs
Mantel's main advantage in the fight against the Promise Hand is a performance-enhancing substance known as Nectar. Administered via the L1 button, Nectar boosts your speed, strength and endurance, as well as making enemies glow a bright orange colour and giving you advance warning of danger such as grenades and hidden explosives. Even the music gets more exciting, with pounding drums and techno basslines turning the experience of war into something akin to a videogame for the Mantel troopers. The problem is, it's very easy to overdose on Nectar. Do so, and all of a sudden you become completely uncontrollable. Your vision blurs, making it impossible to tell friend from foe, and your weapon will fire automatically if anyone comes into its sights, regardless of whether they're on your side or not.
As the game progresses, Shane begings to have misgivings about the Mantel Corporation, and his fellow troopers, all of whom are aggressive, violent, and hopelessly hooked on Nectar. Ubisoft have been pretty open about the game's twist - halfway through the campaign mode you switch sides and find yourself fighting for the rebels which, as well as showing you a completely different side to the game's plot, also presents a whole new set of abilities and weapons for you to use. Rebels cannot use Nectar themselves, but can still use Nectar to their advantage. You can remove Nectar packs from defeated enemy troopers and attach them to grenades to form Nectar bombs that cause Mantel soldiers to overdose instantly, turning them against each other. Promise Hand troops also have the ability to play dead if they take enough damage. Due to the effects of Nectar, Mantel troopers are unable to see dead bodies, so you effectively become invisible in this state, allowing you to regenerate your health in safety.
Rebel with a cause
One of the most exciting features in Haze is the range of multiplayer options. Haze supports four-player cooperative play both online, and locally through split screen. You can play through the entire campaign mode with a four man squad, and your friends can drop in and out whenever they want without the need for starting a new game. This is in addition to a wealth of competitive online play modes for up to 24 players, including mission based modes that pit teams of rebels against teams of Mantel soldiers.
One thing that becomes apparent on playing Haze is that the levels are huge. Moving away from the corridor-based combat of the Timesplitters series, Free Radical have harnessed the power of PlayStation 3 to create massive, expansive levels set in lush South American jungles and sprawling military compounds. Most of the levels are so big that there's no way you can traverse them on foot, so there are some excellent vehicle-based sections that see you and your teammates pile into a souped up dune buggy to go tearing around the countryside. This is particularly fun in co-operative mode, as each member of your squad has their own role, with one player driving, one manning the mounted gun on the back, and two riding on the vehicle's running boards, guns drawn, to take out threats from the front.
Haze is shaping up to be an extremely impressive addition to the already stellar line up of first person shooter games available on PlayStation 3, with more than enough action, fun and interest to make sure it stands out from the crowd. Keep your sights trained on eu.playstation.com for more on Haze, including an interview with the developers, coming soon.