A year ago you couldn't look at a list of PlayStation 3 killer apps without seeing Free Radical and Ubisoft's Haze right up there towards the top. Promising cutting edge visuals, a deep story, and the unique power of the nectar, a drug that gives soldiers superhuman abilities, Haze seemed destined to become one of the PS3's definitive games.
So how did destiny fare? The game is out, the scores are out, and the word is out on the ambitious first-person shooter. Does Haze deliver a nice, warm buzz, or does it leave you shaking and sweating in the corner, craving your next fix? Here's several small doses of Haze, now in convenient capsule form.
Here's the problem — despite all of the creativity used to build the two sides in this game, Haze still plays like an incredibly average first-person shooter with some very sloppy design issues. Play as a member of the Hand and you feel incredibly naked, not to mention having to deal with very confusing level design that leaves you wandering around lost more than driving any sort of action. Play as a member of Mantel and, unless you're juiced up, you're pretty much just as useless.
Sure, it has a consistent framerate and no loadtimes (thanks to its four gigabyte install), but its looks vary from "pretty good for an HD-gen shooter" to "wow, look at those textures change from low- to high-res back to low-, and check out those cracks!" The weapon pool is really scant, with just a pistol, assault rifle, sniper rifle, flamethrower, and rocket launcher. Sure, there are Mantel and Promise Hand versions of each weapon, but it realistically translates into the Mantel type looking futuristic while the Promise Hand version looks budget and uses a Spanish name.
A seven-hour campaign and uneventful multiplayer modes just don't cut it in light of the far better modern shooters available on the market. The patchy quality of the entire package is surprising, considering the developer's fine pedigree. Yet Haze is a roller-coaster ride made up of tall peaks and unfathomable valleys, and it won't leave you so much breathless as disappointed with its squandered potential.
There is a litany of problems with the game, from the odd warping of allied soldiers that blink into view suddenly at arbitrary checkpoints to poor texture work. Many of the environmental textures are generic and weak, and you'll frequently see seams or tearing constantly pop up within the game, which distracts from the action onscreen. The worst example of this has to be the visuals for the flamethrower, the Dragon de la Gente, which vomits a horrid cone of supposed flame that looks visually on par with what you'd find from the 386 PC days 15 years ago.
There's really no reason to recommend Haze over similar titles in the PS3 library. The game feels less polished than it should, seemingly "good enough" for release after suffering multiple delays. The story is forgettable, the weapons nearly indistinguishable and the seemingly strong concepts so poorly implemented that you'll have a hard time convincing three of your friends to drop whatever else they're playing for a co-op slog through the thing.
I thought I was going crazy over the past year concerning Haze, not seeing what the big deal was all about. I'm still a bit crazy, just not regarding this particular title.