Haze Review: It Sure Beats Pumping Gas

Ubisoft's Haze is a futuristic first person shooter from developers Free Radical Design.

Set in 2048 and a war torn world in which private military company Mantel Global Industries acts as private peacekeeper, with organizations like the UN and NATO a thing of the past, players control Sergeant Shane Carpenter who has been deployed to the Boa region of South America to help neutralize the Promise Hand rebellion. With the help of a performance enhancing drug known as Nectar, Shane and his fellow Mantel troopers are on the hunt for a man known as "Skin Coat."

For better or worse, Haze carries the distinction of being a PlayStation 3 exclusive and has the development pedigree of being created by the team responsible for seminal console shooters like GoldenEye 007 and the Timesplitters series. Unfortunately for Free Radical—and gamers—Haze won't be as fondly remembered as those two first person classics.

Loved

Mechanically Sound: Haze is a competent shooter, with somewhat interesting gameplay mechanics and tight—not to mention fully customizable—controls. It's meat and potatoes stuff, but the gunplay works rather well. Multiplayer is similarly competent but dry, with a serviceable, but run of the mill weapons selection.

Four Player Co-op: The pop-in, pop-out co-op campaign mode worked like a charm, turning the single player mode into a full sprint. You'll fly through the campaign mode if you're with a moderately skilled crew. Sadly, cut scenes cannot be skipped and at least one runs a good ten to fifteen minutes.

Hated

Idiot AI: Even on harder difficulties, computer controlled opponents don't put up much of a fight. AI enemies will abandon cover in lieu of running straight at you, guns blazing. Your teammates are useless for anything but drawing an auto turret's attention, as they'll routinely walk into your line of fire, then turn on you when you accidentally shoot them. Only then do they have any accuracy, resulting in frustrating deaths.

Great Concepts Are Squandered: Haze has some interesting gameplay twists, many that you'll like never use outside of the tutorials. As a Mantel trooper, you're in no danger of running low on Nectar, nor is there a threat of overdosing, outside of one obligatory over-Nectaring that seems to come out of nowhere. As the Promise Hand, burying grenades underground—you have the superhuman ability to dig through metal and concrete with your bare hands!—is largely pointless, as you'll be better served sticking to your rifle or super powerful pistol. In fact, you'll probably be doing yourself a disservice, likely dying in the process, trying to take advantage of some of Haze's marketed features.

Bland Overload: You'll be doing plenty of giant lever pulling in Haze while traversing its dull, often ugly environments. There's noticeable texture tearing and you'll see low quality textures and models popping in and out, even in cut scenes and with a mandatory 4 GB install. There's not much variety in the guns, as each side has its own semi-automatic rifle and shotgun, with a boring rocket launcher and flamethrower that spews hideous fire effects rounding out the more interesting weapon diversions. Virtually every aspect of the visuals is underwhelming.

Grating Dialogue: After you hear one of your Mantel buddies spout out a brain-dead line like "This is the most fun I've ever had with my pants on!" or "This sure beats pumpin' gas!" again and again or Promise Hand rebels repeating "Remember your promise to Merino!" for the hundredth time, you'll wish they were all dead. There's an an odd mix of mangled rap lyrics, heavy handed philosophy and dramatic cut scenes that come off as unintentionally comedic. "Yeah, boyeeee!"? Really?

Dull Main Character: As Shane Carpenter, you're an easily manipulated rube, a clueless sergeant with a wimpy voiceover who is unconvincing in his convictions. It's difficult to emotionally invest in him as your vessel, because he's not entirely empty, just saying enough to give him a shred of unlikable personality.

Free Radical has an interesting game buried deep within Haze, it's just layered beneath archaic gameplay and half-executed concepts that it's hard to get excited about any of the eight hours spent in the single-player campaign. Those eight or so hours feel unnecessarily padded, as you'll spend a painfully long time watching unskippable cut scenes and, later, escorting a slow missile deployment system and clearing a mine field that feels like busywork. Players may find more value in Haze's multiplayer modes, if they've got a thirst for generic Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch after running through the five Team Assault levels.

There's really no reason to recommend Haze over similar titles in the PS3 library. The game feels less polished than it should, apparently "good enough" for release after suffering multiple delays. The story is forgettable, the weapons nearly indistinguishable and the 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.

Haze was developed by Free Radical, published by Ubisoft. Retails for $59.99. Available on PlayStation 3. Played single player campaign to completion on normal difficulty, played campaign co-op mode for five chapters. Tested all multiplayer modes and harder difficulties.