Hazing ritual

"Our problem so far with Haze," said Rob before I could finish shaking Derek's hand, "has been that everybody has been focused on the story and nobody has seen any of the gameplay. Nobody has had a chance to play it yet and see the cool things we're doing."

Meanwhile, Derek was starting up the game on the nearest PlayStation 3 and explaining how this was actually a good thing in some ways.

"We're almost got too many features to show off, so everybody has focused on the most obvious and easiest thing; the story. Nobody has asked what it's like to play, which is what we want to show you today," said Derek, re-emerging from behind the TV.

Still, for the benefit of new readers, I'll recap a little and try to put Haze in some sort of context.

Set in the near future, Haze tells the story of Shane Carpenter over three days which will change his life forever. In the world of Haze there is no UN or NATO, only the massive private army of the Mantel Corporation, who police the world for the apparent good of mankind and which Shane is a Sergeant in.

Haze: Exclusive Hands-On Preview Hazing Rituals Haze: Exclusive Hands-On Preview Hazing Rituals
Click to enlarge

Of course, you can see the twist coming here and it quickly becomes apparent to Shane that Mantel isn't as friendly as it first appears. Throughout the game, players will find themselves switching sides to the rebellious Promise Hand faction, who oppose Mantel with guerilla tactics.

"That much is pretty obvious from the start," Rob and Derek agreed as the game booted up. "It's not really a spoiler and we have many more twists and things along the way."

When Haze had booted up, Derek handed me the controller and encouraged me to have a go. Immediately I was plunged into a jungle environment, both massive and beautiful. I instantly recognised the location from the game's trailers and could see rebels in ragtag uniforms in the distance, hiding on the tree-line. On my left and right, slowly advancing closer to the enemy were three Mantel squad members.

So, I was being put in at the first part of the game, where Shane's allegiances still lay closely with the Mantel Corporation.

A number of smaller gameplay aspects immediately became obvious, such as the weapons system which only allows players to hold two weapons at a time.

Haze: Exclusive Hands-On Preview Hazing Rituals
Click to enlarge

I was playing on the PlayStation 3 version of the game, not the PC version which is planned for release sometime later (again, nobody would give a specific date or month, though I got a chance to see it running hands-off later in the day), so it took me a while to get used to the controls. The PlayStation controller isn't something my massive man-paws have ever been particularly comfortable with, but soon enough I was into the swing of things and I found the default configuration much better than a game like BioShock, which suffered somewhat from requiring a lot of different buttons.

The game controls are just as you'd expect - one stick for aiming, one for moving with shooting and melee attacks on the right triggers and grenades and skills on the left triggers. I'm using the rather ambiguous 'skills' term here, as Shane's selection of abilities change a little throughout the game.

When playing as a Mantel trooper, the left trigger controls the administration of Nectar, a chemical Mantel troopers can inject to give them better performance (more on that later). Later in the game, playing as a rebel, Shane learns a few new moves and the left trigger allows him to play dead to evade enemies.
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October 14 2021 | 15:04