Haze is a game I’ve thought of a lot as well as a game which I have quite fond memories of. It came out in 2008, 2 years after the launch of the PlayStation 3, of which it was an exclusive. Unbeknownst to me at the time when I played it in 2008, Haze was meant to be THE “Halo-killer”, i.e. a flagship game of the PS3 that would push not only its graphics to the limit but also the gameplay capabilities. Haze was meant to rival the titan of the Xbox 360. That, however, was not the case…
I recently looked up gameplay from Haze in preparation for a completely different type of article, praising the values of these underappreciated games. Still, when the first result I was met with was one calling out the game for its rampant issues, such as bugs, terrible AI, lacklustre and short story, poorly-dated graphics, etc., I realised that I’d fallen into a trap. The trap was the honey-scented nostalgia-driven snare that everyone is susceptible to fall into. It is most commonly known as Rose-Tinted Glasses.
So, what exactly was Haze? To sum it up briefly: Haze is a story set in the distant year of 2023 (yes really) that takes place in the Boa region of South America. The Haze soldiers with their drug-induced cold-heartedness and delusional view of the world are tasked with eradicating dissenters towards “Mantel Global Industries”: a corporation with its own private military. These soldiers are regularly injected with a drug called “Nectar” through tubes in their futuristic wasp/bee-coloured suits. The drug makes them numb to the atrocities they commit, by changing the appearance of their enemies to be more intimidating (sort of like that one Black Mirror episode), as well as making them deaf to the screams of their victims and blind to the consequences of violence: blood, gore, guts, etc. The Haze soldiers are considered the “perfect” fighters, as they feel no remorse for killing what, to them, appears to be clearly evil monsters, but which are in fact just rebels.
The Main Character in the story, unsurprisingly, discovers the truth behind the atrocities committed by the Haze soldiers, when his suit malfunctions and fails to administer Nectar into his system, leading him to eventually join the rebels. The story has a pretty straightforward moral: War is bad, and unfeeling soldiers are badderererer. In many ways, there can be drawn parallels between Haze and the War in Iraq, as it turns out that the reason why the Haze soldiers are sent to fight the rebels, is because the ones in charge of the soldiers, Mantel, want to destroy Nectar factories in the region to maintain their monopoly on the drug. As far as stories go, it is fairly black-and-white and comes off as a sort of anti-let’s-celebrate-war movie that falls into the same predictable tropes nonetheless.
But why did I remember this game so fondly? Truth be told, it wasn’t the story that I enjoyed nor the shooting mechanics, rather, it was the lopsidedness of its multiplayer mode. The Haze soldiers are far stronger than the rebels, as they have access to better weapons and vehicles; they have their Nectar, which not only heals them but also lights up all enemy rebels, so they are harder to kill as a result.
The rebels, on the other hand, have worse guns (mainly experienced through terrible recoil and less damage), but, uniquely, come equipped with a loadout specifically targeting the Nectar system of the Haze soldiers. Through Nectar-coated knives and Nectar-based grenades, the rebels are able to induce a momentary overdose in the soldiers, by making them go haywire. As a Haze player, this is experienced through all characters (friendly and otherwise) turning into black shades with no distinguishable features, making it easy to accidentally kill your teammates. Further, the rebels also have the ability to lay traps and play dead, and thus, their playstyle is centred around a less offensive playstyle and more of a subtlety-and ambush-based one.
Lopsided multiplayer games aren’t anything new today, but it was quite rare back when Haze came out. Perhaps, there were only a couple games that did something similar, as there used to be a preference for complete balance over everything else, such as with Halo, for example. However, that being said, Haze falls short in so many ways, and it is clear now why it never became the “Halo-killer” it was hyped up to be. To mention a few of the reasons: the graphics did NOT age well; the voice-acting and voice-emotes are low quality and repetitive (such as “Merino is depending on us!” constantly being shouted by the rebels); the sluggish gameplay; and the game having a lot of problems with bugs.
The PS3 didn’t really come into its own until Uncharted 2 (2009), and The Last of Us (2013), which really pushed the hardware to its limits, and for most, Haze remains a disappointment or a complete unknown. I’ll always have fond memories of this game, but it will remain in my mind as a stark reminder that sometimes nostalgia plays a trick on us and convinces us the past was better than it truly was.
Have you played Haze? Please share a slice of your opinion in the comment section below! The Cake is always thrilled to read about your thoughts!
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Featured image taken from Brainy Gamer.
“Overdose” image taken from PlayStation.