Both marketing and PR are big money, especially in the games industry. They exist to create hype for upcoming games and as gamers we are bombarded on an almost daily basis by videos, images and promises of "the next best game since the last one."
The problem is that such a deluge of information often leads to information overload and gamers will start to ignore or even ridicule new information about a game – Duke Nukem Whenever Forever anyone? It's a very fine line between building up anticipation and building up the hype so far that nobody believes it.
Haze, a game developed by UK-based Free Radical Design, has had its fair share of hype – it's been described as the first "must-have" title for the PS3 – and some of it may actually be warranted. After all, the company is made up from some of the people who worked on GoldenEye and Perfect Dark as well as its own TimeSplitters franchise, arguably some of the best FPS games ever to grace a console.
So, is the hype surrounding Haze justified? Will it go down in a haze of glory or will it get shot down in a shower of lead, another casualty lost in the fog?
War. War Never Changes
You play the part of Sergeant Shane Carpenter in 2048, a new recruit to Mantel Global, a huge multinational pharmaceutical company with a private army involved in a war in South America against guerrilla forces called The Promised Hand who stand accused of ethnic cleansing.
So, yes, the parallels with current day conflicts are none too subtle, and your compatriots talk of "freeing hearts and minds" with such over-zealousness that the implication is that perhaps Mantel isn't in this war for purely altruistic reasons.
As a rookie soldier, you are thrown in the deep end and introduced to Nectar in the field. Nectar is a "nutritional supplement" developed by Mantel that turns its soldiers into virtually unstoppable killing machines. As one of your colleagues tells you, it stops your mind from feeling pain and, more importantly, it stops your mind from seeing what you do. In essence, it turns you into a gun-toting and unquestioning zombie controlled by Mantel.
Later, you do get a chance to see the effects of Nectar on your body and there are a few clever tricks used to help you appreciate just what Nectar is doing to your perception of reality, but to go into that in too much detail would give the game away.
Your mission is simple; you are sent to chase down Skin Coat, the guerrilla leader of The Promised Hand who is hiding out in a decrepit copper factory. It's here that you finally realise the thuggish behaviour of your fellow soldiers as they cut off the finger of Skin Coat as payment for stealing a shipment of Nectar.
Then, as one suggests cutting off both his hands since one finger doesn't make up for the amount of Nectar taken, you decide to stand up for Skin Coat. A brief firefight in the belly of the helicopter you're in causes a crash landing and suddenly you're free of Nectar and fighting against Mantel for the resistance.
Now you really discover why Mantel is fighting the guerrillas and who the bad guys really are. As twists go it’s pretty obvious and early-on, but never mind, eh?
Haze is really a game of two parts: at the beginning, you're fighting for Mantel with the use of Nectar and the advantages that it brings; but for the bulk of the game, you're fighting for the rebels without the benefits of Nectar. You'd expect that this would lead to two wildly unbalanced sections of the game, but you'd be wrong.