GameCity 07; Haze is not 'gold' but still glitters
One of the other big reasons to travel hundreds of miles to Nottingham (instead of going a few miles to London!) was the hands-on Haze demo.
I met David Doak of Free Radical at the event and got my hands dirty with a title that I'm certain will do good business.
Playing initially as one of the 'rebels' on a split screen with another avid gamer, the first thing you notice is that the controls are immediately accessible. Haze doesn't mess with the FPS formula in this respect. Everything you'd expect would be on the buttons and triggers is there, but with a few bells added on.
For example, if you are playing as a rebel you can grab some 'nectar' from any of the Mantel fighters you've despatched and create a nectar grenade. Throwing the grenade at Mantel troops initiates an overdose of the drug in their systems. You can see the individuals who are affected since their armour turns red.
You see, when you have an overdose of nectar as a Mantel soldier you go a bit crazy. You see the Mantel troops going mad and shooting their own people under control of the drug. The nectar grenade also provide cover and, simultaneously, gets in the way of targeting troops on the other side of the fog, so you need to be careful to use effectively.
The controls are fluid, the graphics are gorgeous and the storyline is well-considered. You move seamlessly between action and the occasional story-supporting cut scene but never with that feeling some games offer where the screen goes black and you wait for the FMV to appear. It's all rendered by the PS3, and it all flows.
Playing as the Mantel troops is a lot of fun too. When you administer nectar you have to be careful not to overdose. You also have to be careful not to administer too little either, or the effect won't last long enough for any benefit.
When you are under the spell of the drug, enemies glow. When you're fighting in the jungle and the rebels are using cover, nectar is the only way you can spot them, so it is essential to get the balance of nectar application right. You also run faster under the drug's effects and you gain a slight 'auto-aim' capability which helps with picking off the rebels.
The biggest feeling you walk away with is one of true involvement. The AI is great with enemies taking up good positions and working together (when they're not shooting each other after an overdose) and that helps the atmosphere. The graphics are stunning and the sound seems excellent.
I spent a long time talking with David about the game and the state of video games in general. Some of what David said needs to be in a different story as it relates to the game industry in general. As far as Haze is concerned although the game is slick and plays beautifully, they are still working furiously to give it some extra spit and polish.
Which means to say that the rumours we've all seen about Haze going gold can't be true! However, David was keen to point out that they should still have it ready and available for Christmas. We know from a recent Ubisoft financial report that Haze is one of the three new titles they are to release between now and next March but I personally think we'll see this one hit in late November.
Many thanks to David and Free Radical for a great session with Haze. I for one can't wait to play the final product. Whilst the PS3 has many FPS options, Haze is certainly a stand-out title and deserves it's place in anyone's collection.
[Photo by Jon Jordan - thanks Jon!]