Sadly, we’re finding ourselves having to get used to big budget, high profile games being underwhelming by the time we finally get our paws on them. At the end of last year, UbiSoft – the same company that publishes Haze – unleashed Assassin’s Creed on the world, for instance. And while it’s sold well, it wasn’t anywhere near the game we were hoping for.
Disappointingly, neither is Haze. Arriving many months over schedule, and available exclusively for the Playstation 3, the game is a first person shooter set a couple of decades into the future, where the governments of the world outsource their military operations to third party contractors (known as private military corporations, or PMCs). Intriguingly, the game then plops you in the shoes of a young, new soldier, who initially signs up for duty with one PMC but over the course of the game – and across numerous battles – finds himself switching sides
It’s a potentially fascinating idea. On the one hand you have the fact that it’s future combat anyway, and so have every right to expect some quite dramatic firepower (which you don’t really get). But the idea of upping sticks and going to work for someone else has its own appeal, and you can hardly say it’s something that the FPS genre has explored too much in the past.
Yet, sadly, it’s nothing without a quality game to support it. And while Haze is no disaster, the hard truth is that it simply sinks in the midst of a well-populated genre. Considering, for instance, that this is from the same development team that previously delivered the wonderful TimeSplitters 2, it’s staggering just how ordinary the action feels, whether in the FPS segments or in the occasional and unwelcome vehicle work.
It doesn’t help that the visuals can’t hold a torch to the likes of Call Of Duty 4 (and that’s being quite kind), and that the level design is resolutely unsurprising. Nor does it help that the game is relatively short. For Haze, in spite of its prolonged development time, simply doesn’t feel like a cutting edge action game in any real sense.
Apart, perhaps, from one: the ambition of the narrative. There’s a wealth of cut-scenes to work though, and while the storytelling is far from perfect, there’s a least some incentive to sit through the assorted video. Also wrapped around the game’s setup is the drug Nectar, that is sometimes available in the game. While not to be overdone, a dose of Nectar improves the performance of your soldier notably, and it weaves well into the narrative of the game, too, with some interesting permeations.
Haze is, ultimately, a game that does have a few moments (with some occasionally terrific sequences), and is certainly no disaster. But it’s still a let-down, and isn’t the kind of exclusive PS3 title that you suspect Sony thought it was getting. At best, you’d have to say it’s a rental, or one that needs to find its way to the bargain bin before you should be tempted to buy it. And that – given the potential and pedigree here – is a real pity.