The year is 2023 and the Mantel Global Corp is at war.
As Shane Carpenter you are a new officer stationed aboard a huge land carrier fighting in a war you barely understand with an army that over stimulates itself with drugs. Welcome to Haze.
As storylines go, this one starts out with a lot of potential. You are fighting against the Promised Hand, who are led by Skin Coat (corporate hype says he wears a coat of human skin). You are new to a combat team that is drugged to the eyeballs with 'nectar'. This drug of choice over-stimulates the body's metabolism allowing you to shoot more accurately, self-repair, and also gain the ability to see in the thermal spectrum.
You can only carry five doses of nectar, but by some unexplained method they recharge over time. You would then think that it's a simple matter of drugging yourself up and charging in; however if you over medicate it can (and does) kill you. Graphically, when you hit the injector there is a sort of a momentary haze effect as you zone out. When not on meds your teammates sound and act like they are on the front end of the worst hangover ever, but after a shot of nectar they are the smack-talking over-hyped, and over-armed soldiers from hell.
The missions take you through various scenarios that are largely scripted and have little ability to deviate from a predetermined course. Combat usually consists of dropping some nectar, entering the zoomed-in target model and popping off the glowing enemies. The enemies themselves sound Latin American and have a tendency to charge at you thanks to mediocre AI.
As you progress in the game you change sides (surprise surprise) and utilise that same nectar to gain the ability to feign death, or to overload the enemy on meds so they pop. There are some interesting seat-of-your-pants type battles; however it's a largely skirmish-travel, skirmish-travel type of game play.
Combat itself is lacklustre and clinical in its feel. You aim, you shoot (head shots being the ticket for a quick takedown), and they drop. There is no 'oomph' to it. Bullets don't seem to pack any power and overall there is nothing about the fights to engage you. There is no carefully crafted combination of sound, sight, and visceral realism to tell you you're in a fight. Maybe this is because most fights are conducted at long range. Even your pistol has a significant zoom capability and through your drugged haze the targets may as well be glowing bunnies rather than some frightening terrorist band.
This is not to say that the battles aren't tough - you can and do die often in the game. This is usually when not in medicated easy mode. Enemies can be difficult to pick out and often you will find it difficult to discern where the fire is coming from. Dying introduces you to one of the most frustrating portions of the game: the reload screen. It's green and yellow and features an uninspiring picture of an aircraft in the corner. You wait, and wait, and wait way too long, till you are dumped back at the last checkpoint. Getting killed in the game needs to be avoided at all costs for this reason alone.
To spice the game up you do get to drive some vehicles and utilise some fixed weapons; however, the vehicles manoeuvre like a tea trolley with a wheel missing. Their cardboard armour ensures a short life span and the uncanny knack they have of getting stuck ensures a trip back to the dreaded reload screen.
At first we thought the audio was going to be something special. The smack talking of the squad mates was earthy (read: coarse language); but after a time it becomes repetitive, sliding quickly into just plain annoying. There is some very good orchestration though, and the soundtrack certainly deserved a better game in which to be heard.
Graphically the game is a bit of a mess. It's stark in places, and in some areas almost incomplete, whereas in other places there has been some real effort put into making the environment come alive. Haze was a long time in development, and this is never more realised than in the inconsistent graphics. It looks as though many different artists had a go throughout its development stage.
We tried to like this game - we really did. The promise of online play, four person co-op play and a potentially gripping storyline all offered some great possibilities. Unfortunately, Haze never really fires the imagination and its numerous quirks ultimately leave you frustrated.