We downloaded the Haze demo yesterday. At last, we could actually play the game free from all the exclusivity shenanigans; free from the talk of the how's and why's of the delay; free from all the politics - it was just us and the game. Finally. Is it any good? See after the link.
We found ourselves immediately under attack in a dense jungle: bullets flying everywhere, yells from our AI-controlled team-mates and the on-rushing enemies. Being no stranger to FPS', we instantly ran to the nearest piece of cover and made an advance. Seconds later, the tutorial appeared telling how to use Nectar in order to proceed.
Nectar, for those in the dark, is a performance-enhancing drug that increases your accuracy over distance and makes you a little bit harder than everyone else on the playing field.
We hit ourselves up, and the first thing we noticed was that everyone else on the battlefield was covered in a yellow... nectar (strangely enough). We found that we could literally stand there, soak up the gun-fire and pick our enemies off at will. Of course, a nectar shot doesn't last forever and too much dwindling around in open spaces 'sober' will get you killed.
In fact, here's a good time to mention the AI. Hats off to Free Radical in this respect as there are no easy kills here. You enemy uses the environment well, takes cover, rolls out of the way when seen and is generally a worthy opponent. No cannon fodder here.
However, they're assisted by a very twitchy aiming system. It felt a lot like TimeSplitters (funnily enough) in this respect, and to be honest we're hoping that the look-sensitivity can be adjusted in the final version: the slightest movement of the analogue stick felt as though you almost spun round 180 degrees.
Also, the Nectar effect isn't as all encompassing as we'd expected. We can't describe it any other way than to say we didn't feel like we were some kind of drugged-up nutter who could rip-up trees with his bare hands and wrestle elephants and other such super-human feats. Which was a bit of let down to be honest, and hopefully the effect will be more pronounced in the final game.
The campaign is punctuated by real-time cut-scenes in which you're free to look around as you're being spoken to and take in the finer graphical points. Pretty, they are, too.
These in-game sequences are the plot-delivery devices and also serve as checkpoints. No sooner than it's over, you're on the move again - no loading times, no FMV. We liked that a lot: the gameplay was never dampened or slowed at all, and we hear it's like this throughout the whole game.
A few checkpoints later and a little bit more blasting and we found ourselves at the end. In fact, playing on medium difficulty we clocked the demo in just under 15 minutes, so it's very short. However given the nature of the AI, we doubt you'll have the same experience twice, which in itself gets a double thumb-up from us. Also, as we don't have any friends, we couldn't try out the four player co-op, which given our experiences with Halo 3 is always lots of fun.
We reckon the best way to sum up the demo was that we were left wanting more, which is always a positive. However, to fully praise it without pointing out the rather disappointing Nectar effect together with the all too sensitive aiming system, wouldn't be fair. It is also worth pointing out that Free Radical has plastered a disclaimer on the menu screen saying that this version isn't the final one.
So, with all that in mind we'd say it felt like a solid FPS whose story-driven campaign and lush graphics could well take it over and above the norm. However, as with every demo, it's far too early to say.
By Mike Bowden