If you follow the gaming industry at all, there is no doubt that you’ve already heard about Haze. The PS3 exclusive first person shooter was supposed to be the game that would unseat Halo and pound the final nails into the Xbox 360’s coffin (or, incidentally, the 360’s “coffin;” the box Microsoft sends out to consumers when the system falls victim to the dreaded Red Rings of Death). Well, now that Haze is out, it has been getting terrible reviews, it isn’t the Halo-killer people thought it would be and it has been drawing comparisons to the last flopped PS3 exclusive and the worst game of 2007, Lair. So, is Haze getting a bad rap? Or is it really as bad as the reviews are saying? The truth lies somewhere in the middle; the game has its lumps and it is not, by any means, the best FPS ever as it was promised to be, but it does have its high points and can be a lot of fun. I don’t want to toot my own horn here, but this will, without a doubt, be the fairest, most even-handed, uncorrupted by fanboy nonsense and/or company loyalty review for Haze that you will find anywhere. So… beep, beep.
Lets start with the premise and story of Haze before we jump into the game itself. Haze is a modern to futuristic first person shooter that begins with you, a military man who works for something or someone called Mantel, joining a team of other Mantel troops to suppress an uprising/rebellion on an island where the locals all have cornrows and speak Spanish… sort of. One thing very obviously leads to another, and before long you are fighting right alongside the rebels against your former teammates. The linchpin in the whole scenario is that the troops are all juiced up on Nectar, a performance enhancing drug that seems to be a mix of steroids, PCP and owning every Dave Mathews Band album; Nectar speeds you up, makes you much stronger and more aggressive and from the personalities of the other troops in your squad, also makes you a complete douche bag… but more on them in a minute.
The story in Haze is pretty cut and dry, borrowing lame clichés from everywhere. The supposedly good government is devious and uses lies and propaganda to steer it’s people; military guys are brainless killing machines who are only following ”evil” orders; the oppressed people are always on the right moral side of the conflict; only complete idiots listen to rap… oh, wait. That last one is true, and it is well represented here. Which brings me to my main beef with Haze – the Mantel troops and, in a broader sense, the game’s voice acting and script.
If you have even one brain cell bouncing around in your head, then from the very first second of this game you will HATE the Mantel troops you’re teamed with. I realize HATE is a strong word, but here, it fits. These characters are the most obnoxious, most vile morons that have ever appeared in a video game. Ever. To paint a picture of just how mind-numbingly awful these guys are, just imagine the drunkest brother at a freshman frat party or, if that doesn’t do it, the frat aliens from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The Mantel troops are just like these examples, but worse; they aren’t talking about the Chi Omega mixer or which little girls they’ve clubbed and dragged back to their dorms, they are cavalierly conversing about the killing of others. The most offensive member of the bunch, a skinny guy with a southern drawl nicknamed “Watchstrap (presumably because he is skinny, but it is just as easy to rationalize that his moniker comes from what he is carrying around in his shorts),” is so abhorrent, so offensive to all five senses that it is a white-knuckled struggle not to shoot him in the back as soon as you gain control of your character, rather than wait until you switch sides and the game actually asks you to do so.