It's possible that at some point in Haze's protracted development the designers intended to flesh out the squad-based mechanics, but the end result is a no-fuss, no-frills system where everyone gets on with what they're doing, which is to say drunken squad-mates frequently stumble right into the path of your bullets, and generally make a complete nuisance of themselves while you do all the grunt work. Hilariously, when they become incapacitated (which is often), you can revive them by wandering up to them and, err, touching their heads. But with so many corners so obviously cut in making a convincing, credible shooter, such moments of clunky nonsense pass you by a blur of farce. There's the side-splitting disco-dancing death animations, the appalling clipping, that flame effect, and the goldfish memory of everyone around you. Having won 2007's most-repetitive-phrase competition with "You dirty thief - I'll have your hand for that!", Ubisoft is back with plenty of new material, like "Remember your promise to Merino!", a promise you're reminded about on a thousand boring occasions but can't recall actually making.
To compound the feeble narrative and utterly sterile gameplay, the game struggles to look as impressive as a late-period PS2 title. It all runs at a native resolution of 576p, and while that really wouldn't have mattered in the slightest if the game world was smooth, vibrant and alive with detail, instead it's encumbered with possibly the worst texturing we've seen on a PS3-exclusive (or a next-gen game full stop, come to that), and blighted by dreadful pop-up, a horrible blur effect and a mystifying glare [surely "Haze" - Ed]. At no point can you step back and admire the view. Not only that, but the generic-looking character models clip into scenery, especially when the pathetic death animations kick in. There's barely anything positive to say about the way the game looks apart from the lack of tearing or frame-rate issues. It's a cigarette paper away from being a total disaster - and this for a company that once appeared to pride itself on great technology and making its games look different from everyone else's. Not only does Haze look generic, but the execution is as half-arsed as we've come across in recent years.
Usually at this point we could point out that, hey, at least it's got decent multiplayer, and to a very small degree Haze does have some features worthy of mention. Drop-in split-screen co-op multiplayer for the campaign mode is certainly something we approve of, but we expect the "drop out" bit will follow pretty quickly: the game simply isn't interesting enough to warrant playing through again with someone else. It's not as if having a buddy in tow makes the dire gameplay any more fun or interesting. Boasting four-player co-op is well worth shouting about, of course, but it doesn't rescue Haze.
Meanwhile, in terms of competitive multiplayer, it's limited to 16 players (not 24 as promised), and, again, barely has enough going for it to warrant any big fanfare. With the regulation Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch in there (with bot-play if you fancy), the basic boxes are ticked, while Team Assault has a little more interest value. Playing on either the Mantel or Promise Hand side, the latter have to fulfill a specific task (such as blowing something up), while the former must simply stop them from doing so. It's hardly going to be tearing anyone away from COD 4 or Halo 3 - put it that way. It'll be surprising if there's an active community playing it a few weeks after release anyway, so it's probably just as well the multiplayer comes across as a little bonus.
You really have to wonder how it all ended up this dreadful, especially after all the time and resource Ubisoft and Free Radical expended telling people the opposite. The combat's weak, the storyline's excruciating, it's technically deficient - Haze really is this year's most significant gaming disappointment. The fact that the creative forces behind this moribund excuse for a blockbuster feel that it is BAFTA-worthy has to be one of the most tragically comic examples of self-delusion we've ever witnessed.
4 / 10