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Platforms: Playstation 3
If there's one thing the critical reaction to Haze proves, it's that if game reviewers enjoy the juicy steak of a great AAA title, they love the taste of an overcooked turkey even more. Free Radical - the team behind TimeSplitters - promised us a game of cinematic visuals, a rich, revolutionary storyline and innovative gameplay. Instead, after numerous delays, we have a game that looks unworthy of a next-generation platform and that features some of the least progressive gameplay of any FPS so far this year.
Haze isn't quite as awful as some of its worst notices might claim, but by no benchmark is it a great 3D shooter. Nor does it succeed in its more lofty ambitions. If this was supposed to be the action game that made you think twice about what you're doing in action games, then bring back Marcus, Dom and the cheerfully brutish cast of Gears of War.
The first disappointment comes with the graphics. When I first saw Haze running, I thought we might have the PS3's answer to Crysis. Now it doesn't even look a match for Halo 3. The jungles you might have seen in the demo level are arguably the best environment in the game. Throughout, the character modelling and animation is more fit for comparisons with B-listers like TimeShift or Turok than A-list games like Half-Life 2 or Gears of War.
Haze can and does look good, when the lighting comes together and the textures look convincing in the heart of a peasant village or the shattered remains of a hotel. Yet much of the time the graphics flitter between mediocre and plain awful as an engine tuned down to run at 576p presents us with some of the most wretched, low-detail surfaces you've seen on an HD console, and some of the blandest, brownest scenery you'll have witnessed since the not-so-glory days of Quake 2.
Still, eye candy isn't everything, right? Well, trust me; Haze's gameplay does not make up for the lack of it. It soon becomes apparent that the feature you've all heard about - the fact that you're a futuristic soldier, working for the sinister Mantel corporation and empowered by the use of a performance boosting drug called Nectar - is a red herring.
Using Nectar produces one of the game's nicer visual effects - blurred vision, glowing enemies and distorted colours - but its impact is fairly minimal. You can see enemies better, you can sense the impact zones of grenades, you heal faster and your melee combat attacks are tougher, but that's it. If the exosuit in Crysis made you feel like you could face the North Korean army single-handed, Nectar leaves you with the vague sensation that you might have a better chance of surviving a rough night out in Nottingham - a bit like a red bull and double vodka, then.
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