Haze

Multiplayer. The perfect drug?

We've already brought you our hands-on impressions of the single-player and co-op modes in Haze, so now it's time to sink our teeth into multiplayer in Free Radical's upcoming PS3-exclusive shooter.

Given how often the - perhaps unwelcome - comparisons with Halo have been pulled out of the bag in the past year, it's to Haze's immediate credit that its multiplayer is distinct from Bungie's opus. Helpfully, it's also got very little in common with the present occupant of the FPS throne, Call of Duty 4. In a genre that's crowded with far too many me-too games, that's a huge plus point.

Much of Haze's distinctive flavour comes from the two opposed forces in the game - the Mantel Troopers (who you play for the first part of the single-player) and the Rebels (to whom you defect for the rest). Rather than simply having different models and weapons, these two sides actually come with radically differing abilities, strengths and weaknesses.

Mantel Troopers are arguably the more conventional of the forces, in FPS terms. They're armoured, so they take some killing, and they have a fairly powerful, useful zoom mode built into their helmets, and a strong melee attack. In addition, they can dose up on Nectar, a drug which makes them faster, stronger and tougher, and makes enemies glow bright yellow on their display.

The weaknesses of the Mantel Troopers are, in general, where the strengths of the Rebels lie. Mantel players need to be careful not to overdose on Nectar - you have a slowly replenishing supply, which you inject by holding L2. Ideally you'll just fill your Nectar bar, but inject too much and you'll go crazy and start shooting wildly, even at your team-mates. Many rebel abilities focus on using Nectar overdoses to gain the upper hand.

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So, for instance, Rebel players can shoot the Nectar pack on a trooper's back for what isn't just a one-shot kill, but actually an opportunity to cause some collateral damage with the cloud of Nectar that sprays out. Similarly, if you kill a Mantel trooper conventionally, you can steal the Nectar pack from his back, stab it with a knife and strap it to a grenade, and throwing this grenade will create a cloud of Nectar. Any Mantel player stumbling into that cloud will run the risk of overdosing and going berserk. Helpfully, you can achieve the same effect by hitting someone with the throwing knife you used to stab the pack.

Arguably the most interesting of the Rebel abilities, however, stems from the fact that Mantel Troopers see a slightly edited version of reality - where blood stains don't exist and, more importantly, where corpses fade away after a second or two.

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Rebels can take advantage of that by feigning death. When taking fire, you simply tap R2 to throw yourself to the ground and stay perfectly still - and on the screen of the Mantel player who was shooting you, your "corpse" will disappear. It's an extremely powerful ability for the rebel side - although the game doesn't allow you to leap up and get straight back into the fray, as you'll be momentarily disoriented as you stand up, which should hopefully prevent rebels from simply bouncing up and down from feigned death constantly.

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