Haze first look

Haze is a new, next-generation first person shooter from Free Radical, who previously worked on the Timesplitters series. Those games were on the lighthearted side, but this isn't - it's a gritty, balls-out shooter with a furturistic world that's serious as a heart attack.

In the brief non-playable demo we were able to take in, the game began with a helicopter ride over a South American jungle. The detail inside the chopper was intense - soldiers lolled about, the commander shouted and we could see the lush rainforest sliding by underneath it all.

These soldiers aren't the US Army, though - they're the forces of Mantel, a mega-corporation that, in less than 20 years' time from today, has captured a huge proportion of the market for essential components of every kind of technology. Most important are drugs and military research and forces. Mantel's most crucial innovation is Nectar, a drug that bulks up soldiers - lets them fight harder and longer - and seemingly makes them addicted to battle as a side effect.

Even if you don't care about this bizarre conspiracy - it's obvious one's brewing if you keep your eyes open - you'll care about the gameplay and visuals. The jungle our soldier found himself in was packed with foliage, bursting with life. The large level contained a variety of different, realistic features such as rocks and logs to hide behind - and the enemy was doing just that. We saw an enemy dive forward to avoid a shot and then spring back up when the player in the demo came around to clip him - too late, though. The animation of the characters is as lifelike as the backgrounds were detailed.

Unfortunately, as the game's too early to play, we can't bring you any reports on the control or the different weapons - we saw a futuristic machinegun and grenades. What we did see, however, is a game that shows the promise to be as good a futuristic military shooter as any of the competition - presented with a dark and ironic story overtop of it. If it shapes up, it might even take shooters in a whole new direction.

May 10, 2006