PS3 Attitude

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PS3 Attitude

Friday, 23 May 2008

Haze Week; wrap-up, re-cap and meta-review

That was Haze Week. We hope you enjoyed it, because apart from letting you know who won the Haze games and goodies - including the signed copy of the game - it's all over...

Firstly, here's a quick re-cap of the stories we ran, in case you missed anything:

5 things you may not know about Haze
Monday news wrap-up
Interview with Rob Yescombe and Derek Littlewood
Tuesday news wrap-up
PS3 Attitude's multiplayer review
Wednesday news wrap-up
Thursday news wrap-up
The PS3 Attitude review

During the week, it was the reviews of Haze that got the most attention across the blogosphere and at sites like N4G. The fuss all started when IGN gave Haze 4.5/10, and other sites quickly followed in their wake.

Our review has been well received and we've been told that some see it as a kind of antidote to the madness. The comments we got at N4G have been well-received, and we would like to thank everyone for letting us know we're going in the right direction. As you may have spotted by now PS3 Attitude don't give scores - we just tell you how it is and let you decide for yourself.

Of course, review scores are the staple diet of other sites and magazines, so here's a round-up of how Haze did elsewhere (all scores normalised to a percentage):

90 - PSM Italy
85 - Famitsu
71 - PSM3 Magazine UK
70 - GamePro
70 - GameDaily
70 - Total Video Games
65 - IGN UK
65 - Gamer's Hell
63 - Game Informer
62 - IGN AU
62 - Cheat Code Central
60 - VideoGamer
60 - GameTap
60 - GameSpot
58 - The Onion (A.V. Club)
55 - GameZone
50 - Hardcore Gamer Magazine
45 - IGN
40 - Giant Bomb
40 - G4 TV
40 - GameSpy
40 - EuroGamer

That gives us an average of just over 60% and if you were to press us on the issue, we'd say that is not a completely fair reflection. But ultimately, it is you, the consumer, who has to make up your own mind. If you're not sure, then why not rent it. If you like it, buy it.

One thing is for sure - you'll catch me playing online when I'm not on GTA: IV, but I can't promise anything after Metal Gear Solid arrives!

Our thanks go to Ubisoft and Free Radical for the great prizes they offered our readers and the previews that enabled us to put Haze Week together.

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Haze Week; and the winners are...

Haze Week is almost over at PS3 Attitude, and it's been a blast.

There are just two more stories left to deal with, and one of those is the announcement of the three people who have won our biggest ever prize.

You'll remember that we had a copy of Haze plus a box full of nectar-induced goodies to give away, but that one of the copies of the game was special; it has been signed by the creators at Free Radical.

The competition is now closed, and details of the winners will be announced here soon.

Remember, if you stay subscribed to our daily email summary, you will gain automatic entry to all our 2008 competitions. If you do decide to unsubscribe, the opposite is true and you will count yourself out of any future competitions in 2008, even if you subscribe again later.

Keep an eye out for the names of our winners in the near future - was it you?

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Burnout Paradise Discovery Map goes live for PS3 only

The Burnout Paradise Discovery Map, previously talked about as their 'save game analyser', has gone live at the BurnoutTeamRocks website.

A PS3-only feature, it allows you upload your game save and get a map of all the items you have yet to complete, helping you reach the 100% mark.

Hop over to the new web-based feature and try it out now.

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MGS4; 90-minute cut-scenes - do you want them?

The word is out.

According to PSW magazine, who have played MGS4 through to the end, some of the cut-scenes (not one, but some) weigh in at almost 90 minutes each.

90 minutes! That's as long as I expect for a full movie - in fact if movies go over 90 the minute mark they really have to be good or I start to lose interest.

Of course, some people think a 3-hour movie is a good thing.

The good news - you can skip or pause them now, but you might be missing out on the story, which is supposedly epic.

So here's the burning question - do you, the MGS4 buying public, really want cut-scenes that are the length of the average feature film?



[UPDATE] The poll is now closed and the results are in

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Haze Week; the PS3 Attitude review

It's the year 2048, and the world is not a happy place.

Mantel Corporation are the Microsoft, Oracle or EA of the future. A huge behemoth swallowing everyone up in their wake, purely in the name of profit and shareholder value. As well as producing a range of half-decent weapons, they have a performance-enhancing drug up their sleeves - Nectar.

As a Mantel Trooper named Shane Carpenter, it is your job to stop the 'ethnic cleansing' being performed by members of a rebel group - The Promised Hand. Nectar offers you the edge you need to defeat the 'evil' rebels by giving you unique capabilities, such as Nectar Foresight which warns you of impending explosions or Nectar Focus; a kind of auto-zoom for your gun sight that helps lock on to your now-glowing target.

In the first part of the single-player campaign, you are introduced to these various drug-induced abilities, only not in the way I expected.

Having been invited to play the co-op and multiplayer modes of the game twice by Ubisoft and Free Radical over the last month, and after experiencing the joy of zero load times during a two-hour co-op session, it was a surprise to me that the flow of the game stopped almost as soon as I had got into it. In front of me was a large black dialogue box with reams of text about how Nectar works.

The fact that you're introduced to the features Nectar offers in this clunky way does put you off your stride. It would have been nicer to bring them in through example and commentary. But the delay doesn't last long (assuming you bother reading it at all) and you're back into the experience.

The 4Gb mandatory install that is becoming so common on the PS3 does actually work in Haze, since the rest of the game streams constantly with no load times. Well, that is until your get your second rude interruption as your Rebel abilities are spelt out for you in a similar way.


Unconscious competence

There are two things I noticed immediately about Haze when playing the campaign mode, and interestingly both of these items became largely insignificant later, but for different reasons.

The first is the graphics.

Haze is never going to win any awards for graphical prowess. After a mammoth 8-hour session playing the single-player campaign through, I can honestly say I didn't notice any major issues with the graphics - certainly not the pop-ups being commented on in other websites and magazines. The graphics are not remarkable, but they aren't terrible either.

But the reason the graphics become largely insignificant is that they are good enough to do their job, and so after a short while you forget that you're not looking at a work of art, and you get on with the game instead. Think of it like painting a feature wall in your living room - it's only a feature for a few days, and then you don't even notice it is there.

Things do change graphically when you realise 'the truth' about Nectar and switch sides, and it's interesting to note what the real world looks like without honey-tinted glasses, but once again you begin to forget about how things look and get on with the game instead after a few minutes.

The second are the controls.

Free Radical haven't messed around with the way you play an FPS, and with their pedigree and experience, why should they.

I remember the first time I picked up Haze at GameCity in Nottingham last year, I didn't even need to look at the cheat sheet - the controls were so intuitive and the targeting system worked so well, it just came naturally. Of course, to progress you do need to know how to use the specific buttons that operate the Troopers' or Rebels' special abilities, but it all seems to just work.

So consequently, you end up forgetting about the controls quickly too, which helps with the flow of the game and the better-than-average gameplay.

The only problem I found that destroys the illusion of this 'natural gameplay' is when you are required to press a button or pull a lever - often there is a delay between being told to 'press square' and actually being able to press it. The frustration of standing in front of a lever, pressing and pressing until your character does what he's told, can't be ignored.

Something that never quite sits naturally in Haze, however, is the acting.

Did someone say 'Semper Fi'?

I understand why FRD went in the direction they did with the Troopers. Troopers act just like frat boys, and in the UK we just don't have those characters like they do in the US. It wouldn't have been right for a British developer to cast Brits in the role. It's pretty clear to me why the Mantel soldiers all sound like they belong to Kappa Omega Sigma. In fact, the only things missing are beer kegs, toga parties and induction ceremonies.

I also understand that Rob Yescombe went to the additional expense of recording the voice talent all at the same time, like a high-tech episode of The Archers, in an attempt to make sure that the actors fed off each other's lines (no drug-pun intended). Usually, developers record actors separately as it is cheaper and easier to schedule their diaries.

The result, unfortunately, doesn't quite work. And it's not the process that is at fault, it's just the acting isn't that good. The lead character of Shane Carpenter and the voice behind the leader of the Rebels (Gabriel 'Skin Coat' Merino) are the best of the bunch, but the supporting 'cast' often sound awkward.

The storyline itself works well as far as I'm concerned. Many people will look at this game and think that the only parallel here is neoconservatism, with a leader ruling through fear, uncertainty and doubt to ensure his troops take the enemy down regardless of whether they are the bad guys or not, and ensuring the support of the populace. There are nods towards 'pep pills' with the fabled Nectar and references to the politics and psychological strategy of war.

Another way of looking at Haze is that this could also be a game about gaming. The Troopers are the FPS masses who don't care about the morality of the task they're performing - they just see the prize ahead and go for as many headshots as they can. The Rebels are the gamers that think about what they're doing, seeing the game in a different angle and connecting emotionally with the story and the actions they have to perform.

Ultimately, the script just misses the target and I'm sorry to say the campaign does have one of the weakest endings I've experienced in a game of this type. You never quite get that 'light bulb' moment where you actually feel truly bad about killing the Rebels, and you are quickly sent out by your new 'leader' to do exactly the same to the Troopers with a similar lack of remorse because you never quite connect with the cause.

It's not all bad though - there are good moments in the script that do involve you, particularly early on in the game, and it is a shame the momentum of those emotions weren't carried throughout the entire campaign.

Summary

Haze's single-player campaign offers competent graphics with well-above-average gameplay that mostly seems natural and intuitive. The multiplayer and co-op elements of Haze are slick and varied and offer longevity to the game. We have written a good deal about both the co-op and multiplayer modes already, so follow the links to hear what we had to say about them.

Haze definitely has enough going for it to keep you involved. I'm not so bloody-minded that I absolutely have to complete a game just for the sake of it, but in the case of Haze I wanted to complete it in one session, and had a lot of fun in the process.

You may not be looking at the future winner of 'Graphics of the Year 2008', but the single-player, co-op and multiplayer experiences Haze offers ultimately make up for that shortfall.

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Thursday, 22 May 2008

Haze Week; Thursday news wrap-up

Another day passes and Haze Week is nearly over.

Tomorrow, you'll be able to read our full review of the game. Will we agree with the likes of IGN, or do we side with Famitsu and The Guardian? You'll have to wait and see...

In the meantime, here's what the rest of the 'net had to say about Free Radical/Ubisoft's shooter today:
That's it for today. Check in tomorrow for...
  • PS3 Attitude's Haze Review
  • Haze Competition winner announcement (there's still time to enter)
  • Haze meta-critic scores

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European PS Store update for 22nd May

No full games this week, but a good mix of demos for both the PS3 and PSP, as well as a bunch of add-ons, videos, themes and wallpapers.

I say 'demos' but as far as the PS3 is concerned, I mean 'demo'. Having already experienced the pain of Iron Man from the US PS Store, I won't want to relive the experience again.

We played The Bourne Conspiracy already too, and I have to report the actual game is looking better than the demo, which seems to have too many 'breaks' to show how fluid the finished product is.

Here's the full list:

Demos (all free)

The Bourne Conspiracy
Iron Man
Everybody's Golf 2
Beginner's demo for PSP
Everybody's Golf 2 Intermediate demo for PSP
Ultimate Board Games Collection demo for PSP

Add-ons

High Stakes Poker video chat (free)
Go!Explore map packs for PSP (£14.99 each)

Videos (all free)

Haze music video
High Stakes: Poker trailer
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull movie trailer

Themes and Wallpapers (all free)

PixelJunk Monsters: Encore wallpaper
PixelJunk Monsters: Encore theme
echochrome wallpaper

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19 incredible MGS4 screenshots

With MGS4 just around the corner, it time to start getting ready for what could be the biggest PS3 Exclusive of the year.

Start by taking a good long look at the incredible screenshots.

MGS4 Screenshots


Have they whetted your appetite? You can pre-order the standard version for delivery to your doorstep on launch day (June 12th), or go for the bundle that includes the official branded bluetooth headset - the choice is yours...

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The Agency gets some colourful characters

We've been keeping a close eye on The Agency from Sony Online Entertainment (SOE), simply because the premise looks too good to miss.

Imagine an MMO universe where you get to play as a Bond-like special agent every day, with all the gadgets, weapons and tricked-up cars that job requires.

The Agency doesn't yet have a release date, but we've heard on the grapevine that there will be an announcement at E3 and that the title will hit around November.

Check out this 'Colourful Characters' trailer and let us know what you think in the comments...


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Haze Week; competition reminder

Don't forget to enter our Haze Competition if you haven't done so already.

Up for grabs are three prize packs - all including a copy of the game and various Nectar-induced goodies. One of the three winners will get an extra bonus - their copy of Haze will have been signed by Free Radical!

Go find out how to enter now for your chance to win with PS3 Attitude and Ubisoft.

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Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Haze Week; Wednesday news wrap-up

A whole slew of reviews hit the internet today - far too many to put them all here. We'll be doing a 'metacritic' round-up on Friday after our full Haze review is launched.

However, there is some other interesting Haze news popping up on forums around the Internet. Here is a round-up of some of the forum posts we've come across - positive and negative comments included.

Don't be discouraged
I think this sums up Haze the best
Mantal or rebels? Which will do you choose?

That's it for today. Check back tomorrow for more from Haze Week.

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Prince of Persia movie; Gyllenhaal and Arterton sign up

Time after time we've seen some of our favourite video game franchises mauled and molested by the likes of Uwe Boll and others.

It comes as no surprise to us when struggling actors allow themselves to risk their reputation by signing up for a video game movie. So imagine how we felt when we saw that none other than Oscar-winning Jake Gyllenhaal has put his neck on the line for the forthcoming Prince of Persia film.

Along with the arrival of cast member Gemma Arterton (pictured), the film is being put together by Jerry Bruckheimer and is apparently directed by Mike Newell, so there is a fair chance that it might actually not suck!

You can expect to see the Prince show his Sands of Time at cinemas in 2009.

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Haze Week; PS3 Attitude's multiplayer review

With our full review of the game appearing this Friday, today we're focusing on our experience of playing the various multiplayer modes Haze has to offer.

Haze is up against some strong multiplayer competition, of course, in the form of our other favourite shooters - namely CoD4 and Warhawk. Naturally, people will compare Haze to the former (being a gritty FPS) rather than the latter, but it is the multiplayer portion we're focusing on here.

As we explained in our '5 things you may not know about Haze' article, there are effectively 8 multiplayer modes, but they are arranged into 3 types - Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Team Assault.

Within the Assault mode, you have 6 'campaigns' that cleverly align themselves to the single-player story. I'll give you an example, without any spoilers...

Let's say that in the single-player game, someone meets you at an extraction point with a helicopter. In the Assault mode, you might play a 'story' that sees you escorting that person to the helicopter. But along the way, you need to recapture a building (and hold it), remove a blockade and find the radio to call the helicopter in.

It's this multi-task gameplay that makes Haze stand out from the crowd. The Assault modes require proper teamwork and communication, something that a lot of shooters don't foster or promote.

Of course, this being Haze, your view of that particular assault mode changes dependent on which side you choose.

When playing the 'village' map, for example, it might be raining when you play as a member of the Promise Hand, but all is sweetness and light when you're playing as a Mantel soldier. The objectives change, of course, and that means you effectively have 12 Assault experiences to enjoy.

Another Assault mode sees you either trying to burn down, or save, the very plants that Nectar is synthesised from.

The thing that really sticks out in the multiplayer mode is the slick gameplay. Whilst no-one is going to say that the graphics in Haze are particularly cutting-edge, they do serve their purpose well.

Of course, there has always been a pay-off in the world of videogames, where either the graphics a good or the gameplay is good, but seldom does anyone manage to pull off combining the two. As we continue with this current generation of consoles, not only do we start to see great gameplay with excellent graphics, but we almost expect it - maybe that is why so many commenters are being sidelined by the look of the game rather than concentrating on the feel.

The truth is, multiplayer in Haze is immediate and fun. The Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes offer you the chance to play both sides of the coin with the varying pluses and minuses of being a Trooper or a Rebel, and the Assault modes add a nice change of gear that allow more strategic FPS fans a chance to show their worth against the 'gun and run' merchants.

The other thing that struck us is that it seems that being a Trooper on the more open, expansive levels is a better option than being a Rebel, whereas Rebels tend to do much better in close-quarters environments; such as running in and out of all the buildings in the village.

This means that you can choose to really impress your friends by selecting the 'wrong' type for the environment and still win! But the difference we found was a small one - the balance between the factions has been carefully managed by Free Radical, and both sides will find their particular skills useful regardless of the map.

You can check out our multiplayer screenshot gallery below, and look out for our full, non-sponsored, frank and independent review of Haze on Friday.


Haze Multiplayer


You can pre-order Haze now for delivery to your doorstep this Friday, and don't forget to enter our Haze Competition - you could win a signed copy of the game and more...

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Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Haze Week; Tuesday news wrap-up

It's been an interesting day for Haze, given that IGN decided to review the title and award it a 4.5/10 mark.

So today we'll list both the review and the reply from Rob Yescombe of Free Radical, as well as some fun stuff for you to enjoy:

Come back tomorrow for more from Haze Week at PS3 Attitude. It'll be interesting to follow the various comments and fallout from the IGN review and whether other reviewers follow suit. Of course, other reviewers also have the option of reflecting the likes of PSM Italy and Famitsu, who both gave it much better scores.

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Haze Week; interview with Rob Yescombe and Derek Littlewood

Recently, we had the pleasure of interviewing Rob Yescombe and Derek Littlewood of Free Radical about Haze. Well, it wasn't going to be about anything else, was it?!

During our 15 minutes with the dynamic duo we found out a lot more about the game. We discovered Rob has an uneasy obsession with his crotch-area, and he can do a Rebel Sidekick like.no.other. We hope Rob likes the size of our 'censored' sticker... Finally, we saw what happens when someone interrupts an interview with Rob and Derek!

Check back later this week for our 'gag reel', which includes some possibly NSFW chat about monkeys and dogs!

Our Haze Competition is now live - go win yourself a signed copy of the game and more...

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Haze Week; win a signed copy of Haze and more

As promised, here's our biggest competition yet!

Thanks to Ubisoft and Free Radical, we have three prize packs to give away this week.

Three lucky readers will walk away with a copy of Haze and a goodie box that includes a can of Nectar, a glow stick, a torch, a pen and a notebook.

One of those three winners will get an extra surprise when they open up their copy of Haze - as it has been signed by the team at Free Radical!

Here are the answers to the questions I can already hear you asking...

How do I enter the competition?

Simple. All you have to do to for a chance of winning is sign up for our email update. Click the 'Email' button on the left sidebar, enter your details and then confirm you want to sign up in the verification email that you'll receive.

Then, when you get your next email update (which goes out at around 11:00 a.m. UK time each day) you'll see confirmation that you have entered.

Only 'verified' email subscribers will be entered. That means if you sign up and don't see a verification email appear soon after in your inbox, check your spam folder. Adding news [at] ps3attitude [dot] com to your 'whitelist' or contact list will also help.

What if I'm an RSS subscriber?

That's fine - please continue to subscribe to our RSS feed. It is your way of staying in touch with the news as it happens, since the RSS feed updates each time we send out a story.

But to enter the competition, you need to subscribe to our daily email summary by following the instructions above.

What if I already subscribe via email?

You are automatically entered into this and all future PS3 Attitude competitions! If you stay subscribed, you'll gain a place in every future giveaway.

What is the prize?

Three lucky email subscribers (picked at random by our 'supercomputer') will win:

- A copy of Haze
- A Haze merchandise package containing a can of Nectar, a glow stick, a torch, a pen and a notebook.

One of the lucky winners will receive a signed copy of Haze instead of a regular version.

Who is the competition open to?

All PS3 Attitude email subscribers worldwide.

When will the winner be chosen?

We'll be picking three winner from the current list of verified email subscribers on 23rd May 2008. The prize will be sent out within 14 days of the 23rd May 2008.

Good luck, and keep coming back all this week for more Haze goodness...

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Monday, 19 May 2008

Haze Week; Monday news wrap-up

Since it's Haze Week here at PS3 Attitude, it would be wrong of us not to give you a daily summary of the important nectar-induced info hitting the 'net.

Here's a taste of what other sites a saying about the much-anticipated PS3 exclusive:


Haze Week continues tomorrow, with details of our biggest competition yet and an exclusive video interview with two of the team at Free Radical.

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Sony Ericsson to get XMB on phones?

This video has appeared on YouTube showing what is apparently a forthcoming Sony Ericsson handset, not unlike the Sony Xperia X1 that was recently reported on various gadget sites.

The interesting part? Sony's XMB seems to be coming to yet another device.

You may remember how Phil Harrison demonstrated access to PlayStation Home via his mobile phone back at E3 2007. Now, it looks like those compatible phones will also share a common interface with the PSP and PS3.

Check out the video for yourself.

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Haze Week; 5 things you may not know about Haze

Haze Week begins at PS3 Attitude - check back every day for new Haze content, information and exclusives... plus details of our biggest competition yet!

Let's start the ball rolling with a few details you may have missed during the recent information storm surrounding Haze.

1. Multiplayer has 8 modes, not 3

Whilst you may be excused for thinking that Haze only has three multiplayer game types - Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Team Assault - the reality is that Team Assault has a lot more to offer than it seems.

Each of the six maps has a different Team Assault mode, changing the multiplayer gameplay depending on which landscape you choose to fight in.

2. The script brings people out of retirement

Carlos Riera, a Spanish star who plays Gabriel "Skin Coat" Merino (the leader of the rebels), apparently came out of retirement to do the voice acting after having read the script. Of course, we gleaned this fact from scriptwriter, Rob Yescombe...

The voice talent also includes Rupert Evans, who has been seen in films such as Hellboy and on the sci-fi TV series Lexx.

3. Spanish people love Haze

The acting for the various rebel soldiers was performed by a group of Mexican actors who happened to be in the UK performing Shakespeare at the time when Free Radical were recording the voices.

Consequently, the accents and inflections are spot on, and that's one of the reasons the Spanish press seem to have really latched on to Haze.

4. The single-player campaign will take you about 8-10 hours to complete

Like that other great FPS title, CoD4,the single-player campaign could be seen as a relatively short experience.

However, just like that other FPS, it is an emotional ride with a great story and a real sense of involvement. The main difference between the two titles is the switch from one distinct style of fighting (when playing as the dosed-up Troopers) to another (the nimble and resourceful rebels).
Of course, this is only in Normal difficulty. Hard is particularly challenging and completing the game in that mode unlocks Extra Hard, in which you die... a lot!

5. Separated at birth

"Skin Coat" looks remarkably like one of the Directors of Free Radical, David Doak. Take a look at the pictures and decide for yourself.














Don't have your copy on order yet? Pre-order Haze and have it delivered to your doorstep on launch day...

[UPDATE] Our Haze competition is now live - go win yourself a signed copy of the game and more!

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