BitSnark

Random scribblings by a prick. Enjoy.

Haze PSN Demo Impressions

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For what seems like years now, people have been salivating over the tantalizing possibilities of what famed FPS dev Free Radical could do with next-gen hardware. Well, that wait will shortly be coming to end and for most of us who have access to the PSN, we received a taster of just what to expect in two weeks time.

After a lengthy 1.6 gig download, and an equally annoying five minute install, I was able to finally get my paws on a taster of the game that would revitalise the FPS for PS3. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but Haze isn’t quite the great white hope for the console that Free Radical would have you believe. Upon starting the game up I opted for the single player campaign mode, as the network multiplayer options didn’t seem to have much luck in connecting me with other folk.

After choosing my difficulty level, I was then thrust into the world of Haze. The first thing that will strike anyone that is able to see clearly is just how, generic and soulless the visuals are. The jungle locale has been done many times in the past in previous FPS titles, and Haze’s depiction could easily be lost in the shuffle. Everything from the low res textures used on the foliage through to the drab and repeated use of the same darn tree over and over, smacks of a developer that simply took the short cut. The same visual laziness extends to the models too, with your fellow soldiers sporting the most basic of designs and also the rebels who look like… well, every other ‘rebel’ from just about every other FPS you’ve played before. Compounding the visual problem further, the physics make you wonder if Free Radical actually took the time to look at how the human anatomy reacts to kinetic impact or simply just pressed the ‘Make Physics Engine’ button on their Aegia PhysX dev kit.

Still, i’ll understand if this hasn’t put you off, as graphics don’t so much make a game as solidify the atmosphere and compound a sense of believability, so it’s nothing too bad eh?

Speaking of suspension of belief and cutting corners, Haze has some of the worst voice acting I have ever heard. It just appears they have got some poor guys in the ADR room and said ‘act like a US marine… from an action movie’, so for a game that has such a promising narrative, with the themes of perception, corporate control and personal identity, having your team-mates sound like a bunch of linebackers phoning in a performance, does the narrative a major disservice.

Moving onto the meat of the demo, the actual gameplay, I found that average graphics would be the least of the sins that the demo would have to bear. Haze does play like every other FPS ever. That is by no means an exaggeration. You run, well more like jog, and shoot guys who all look the same, and have little or no concept of how to use cover or any kind of flanking tactics, and who simply line up to get their heads blown off as they shuffle from side to side.

The promise of open battlefields is also broken, with trees and foliage generally acting as a funnel of sorts to prod you in the direction the devs want you to go in, which again puts further cracks in the facade of believability.

But what about the Nectar you say?

Ah yes, that lovely amber coloured goo that pretty much gives Haze it’s narrative legs, does little for you in terms of gameplay innovation. Basically, your character has up to 6 vials of nectar that can be administered. Nectar usage brings with it a whole host of ‘special abilities’. These include being able to run faster, jump slightly further and the illumination of your foes like Christmas trees because y’know, being a crack, privately funded soldier you don’t have any thermal imaging and well, it is kinda useful for the four year olds who play the game as they can clearly need what needs blasting. With each administration your character gets more and more ‘in the zone’ and if you administer too much you can get Nectar overload and you go berserk, attacking team-mates and generally failing in a big way.

And that’s pretty much it. Before all the hate mail comes flooding in, bear in mind this – the demo itself is painfully short and I WILL be playing the finished product in the hope that it is MUCH better than the train wreck that I have just been describing. From what I have seen there is a lot of work to do and no time to do it in as the game is on our shelves in two weeks.

Free Radical IS better than this and PS3 owners deserve better than this, because hopes aren’t high for Killzone 2 to deliver, but that’s another story for another day.

Written by bitsnark

May 12, 2008 at 8:10 pm

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