Insane monkeys and double-barrelled shotguns with some time-travel thrown in for good measure. This pretty much sums up Free Radical’s first console FPS’s, the Time-Splitters series. From a small group of people who left the godfather of console shooters, Goldeneye, they then set off to make a name for themselves. The Time-Splitters series slowly rose to fame and popularity by combining some great heritage, multiple level designs and a brutal and customisable multiplayer mode. So, what’s next for Free Radical? A comic kart racer…um, no.
One of the things you notice about Free Radical is their love for the games they make. Their new game Haze, is no exception. Just to set the record straight, no monkeys, zombies or double-barreled shotguns are in the game. Haze is aiming for a sweet spot which happens to rest fairly close to Crysis and Farcry, or so it would seem.
When someone says they are making a FPS and putting a gripping storyline within, I am always suspect. FPS and story-lines do not really go together that well. You work for a corporation called Mantel and they pretty much own everything in the world, including you. You are part of their private army and you do their work without question. Mantel are not an evil corporation like in most shooters, they are just doing a bit of cleaning-up around the world. Free Radical are hoping they will be able to mix the fun of FPS along with giving you some interesting story-lines and plot twists. The aim is to drag people into the world and get them to question their actions and morals. Tough order for a game that involves shooting things and the FPS crowd are not really fussed about questioning their actions throughout the game. Time will tell if the story side of Haze will be pulled off or not.
Graphically Haze is stunning, but looks alone will not win this fight. The way you look through a mask and the way your gun moves independently from your actions does add a hint of realism. Graphics and animation are top-notch and fill a nice balance between fantasy and realisim. Gone are the days of a FPS with a gun glued to your chin, Free Radical are trying to mix things up a bit more. All of the action is First Person, all of the running and gunning, all of the cut-scenes to expand the story – all first person. Free Radical hope this will draw you into the game instead of detaching you when you go Third Person.
Ok, I will come out and say it; I thought Haze was a Crysis/Farcry clone. When you are shown the first level and you see lovely jungle, fancy trees and not much else, I could not help but see the comparison. While it won’t have the ridiculous twig shooting antics of Crysis, it does display some run and gun jungle gameplay. If that was all Haze could do then I would drop it before it came out. Well, I am glad that Free Radical are making the game since they have promised a good variety of different styles. I am sure a military base, underground complex, genetics lab or some-such will appear, full of weird things to shoot in the face. As long as they have faces of course.
If you have been following some of the Haze information shown before, you will have heard of Nectar. To call it a power-drink is a little misguided. It is a performance enhancing drug that help the Mantel soldiers (You) to do their job – which involves killing stuff with a variety of weapons, grenades, etc. Your Nectar bar sits to the right of the hud and you can switch it on and off when you need a quick boost. Foresight will warn you of danger, even if you cannot see it. If a grenade is thrown, Foresight will show a ripple emanating from the source. Handy skill, I am sure you will agree.
Nectar Vision is not what bee’s have, [Fired! -ed] it is what Mantel Soldiers have to help them see enemies in darker conditions. Think Predator vision modes and you pretty much have the idea. Focus will give you a very steady hand and better aiming precision. Some nasty man getting you down? Focus up and pick the hairs off his scalp with a bullet or two. Melee Blast sounds more like something MegaMan could have, but Haze lets you jack up and punch someone/something with explosive power. Think a boxer with dynamite strapped to his fist and you know what you can do.
The problem with Nectar is that it can get a little addictive. Keep using your powers too much and you can Overdose. With not a hippy in sight, overdosing Nectar can give you bad side-effects. The first is that you cannot tell the difference between friend and foe. Not too bad you must think, just don’t shoot. Ahh, the other bad side-effect, you also become trigger happy and auto-shoot any target. So for those people thinking about jumping online/Splitscreen or LAN to enjoy the 4 player Co-op, just be careful of your Nectar usage. Use too much you become a danger to the group, become a danger and you may just get a bullet lodged in your cranium, courtesy of a fellow team-mate.
Conspire A.I. is the fancy new term Free Radical are giving the A.I. in Haze. With a potential of 4 people running around, it would just be easier to throw more enemies at you. Conspire aims to stop this by just making the enemies evaluate the danger you pose. If you cannot hit the side of several barn doors, then the enemy will soften up a bit, If you can shoot an enemy so hard that his children feel it, then it will ramp up. Hopefully this will make it far more entertaining when you have 4 friends running around, smacked up on Nectar trying to play the game. You get a group of 3 A.I. squad-mates if you cannot afford real friends and they will react as close to human as possible. Well, maybe.
Mix some fancy graphics, an initial PS3 release (360 and PC not 100% confirmed just yet), 4 player action and Battlefield style multi-occupant vehicles, and Haze is looking pretty tasty. With an End of 2007 release being talked about, there is still plenty of time for Haze to be polished and plenty of additional things added. From the makers of Time-Splitters, there is bound to be a vast amount of options and toys to play with for the game, so keep an eye on ConsoleMonster in the coming weeks as we find out more and more information. So much is still not known about the game but we are chatting to Free Radical to get some more juicy info. Stay tuned!
Now you will have to excuse me, I have a date with Nectar and I cannot afford to miss it.
Originally Written By: Barrie Rogers