We all find ourselves, when trawling the shelves of Morrisons (and trying desperately not to touch anyone), reaching for things we wouldn't normally buy because it's 'two-for-one'. That compulsion is also the schtick (or 'high concept') for Free Radical's much-anticipated shooter, Haze
. Two games in one! You've got your neon-clad, chest-bumping Mantel Troopers in one half of the game and your sincere, filthy rebel types in the other. Two sides of a conflict. Two styles of game-play. Sounds like a good deal, eh?
The basic premise goes thusly: it is the future, the military has been privatised. Operations that are currently dealt with in Middle-Eastern countries by jarheads under the employ of the 'Axis of Goodness' are now dealt with in other Third World countries by jarheads under the employ of multi-national corporations.
Not content with your regular brand of grunt, however, the Mantel Corporation has opted to soup its soldiers up a bit. Because narcotics have been a military tradition since the days of World War I (interesting fact ? cocaine was given to soldiers as a stimulant in the trenches) Mantel has decided to go with drug-based enhancement for its boys.
So it is that we find a bunch of Mantel Troopers off to an unnamed South American country to suppress some pesky insurgents. 'Why?' you may reasonably ask. You're a thinking type. Good for you. But you ain't gonna find out what's up at the start of Haze
As things kick off, you're just going to know that you're in the company of a bunch of testosterone-fuelled meatheads with a seeming penchant for European club-wear (think Christian Bale in Harsh Times
if he liked to thrust glo-sticks around to the sound of mid-90s Rave). After a spot of setup to this effect on the Mantel Land Carrier (like an aircraft carrier, but on land ? very expensive, I imagine) you'll see a plane go down. Off you go to investigate...
I was quickly indoctrinated into one of the features that sets Haze
apart from its first-person shooter brethren ? Nectar, Mantel's performance-enhancing drug.
Nectar grants you a range of abilities lifts you above a regular Middle-American, gun-toting Joe Blow. The most apparent is the way it lights up your enemies. They take on a yellow luminance that makes them easier to pick out amidst the cover scattered around Haze
's various missions. It's neat. It's especially neat when used in conjunction with the impressive zoom that Mantel helmets equip you with. Combining the zoom with even the most rudimentary of weapons to pick off enemies at great distance is satisfying in a psychopathic way.
Other abilities granted by Nectar include increased speed and strength. The strength, unfortunately, is only really evident when you perform a melee attack ? but what a melee attack! Sending your opponent sprawling with a thwack to the head using the butt of your weapon is most pleasing. You'll also find your healing is sped up while under the influence.
Probably the strangest ability imbued upon Mantel troopers by Nectar is the mysterious power to anticipate explosions. This is marked by a ripple spreading from the object that's about to go boom. Evidently, pharmaceutical companies are set to make impressive headway over the next few years in take humanity into the realm of pre-cognisance...