The story of Free Radical Design begins with one of gaming's milestones, and after almost nine years it ended with the studio's blood on several publisher's hands. Founded in April 1999, the Nottingham-based studio created the much-loved shooter series TimeSplitters and third-person psychic drama Second Sight during the PS2 era. But Haze, the company's final game, received a critical mauling, sold poorly, and shortly afterwards Free Radical entered administration.
In 2009, after slipping into administration following the failure of PS3-exclusive shooter Haze, Free Radical Design was bought by Crytek and renamed Crytek UK. The Nottingham studio then set upon work on the multiplayer portion of next year's Crysis 2.
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.
It's hard to think of a more hostile environment for a game's launch than the one Free Radical's Haze faces. On one hand, it's viewed as a flag-bearer for the PlayStation 3, a console whose vocal detractors aren't afraid to come out in force online to criticise any weakness. It's also got the misfortune of being billed (although not by its developers) as a Halo-killer (well, it's a first person shooter where some of the characters wear funny looking helmets, what did they expect?) and it's launching at a time when the world's FPS gamers are still in the midst of a torrid love affair with Call of Duty 4.
Another good thing about Christmas is that you can kiss people by holding a twig with leaves above their heads, made all the more likely by the enormous vat of incredibly pungent mulled wine stewing in the kitchen. Similarly smile-worthy is that yes there are games on PS3 to buy this year, despite what James with his rival console says in the comments section while picking his nose and flicking it at his equally spotty friend.
Of all PlayStation 3's forthcoming releases, the most interesting and significant is neither a game nor for sale. Home, Sony's more structured, sanitised and solid attempt at a Second Life world might seem innocuous enough but with the screenshots of its cinema space and the implied possibility of fully downloadable movies, there's the chance it might eventually outgrow even its host platform in significance.
Haze is Free Radical Design's first big push on next-gen, and a recent demonstration at UbiDays suggests it's got more ideas than most. Having talked about how the game itself is put together in last week's preview, today we're offering up the rest of our chat with David Doak, during which he deals with everything from PlayStation 3 and Halo 3 to making games more emotional.
We've overdosed on games before, but we don't usually overdose in games. And clearly for good reason: mainline a bit too much of Mantel Corporation's soldier-buffing war juice, Nectar, and you can't tell friend from foe, and everyone who crosses your sights eats lead whatever buttons you're pressing. Fortunately you go bright red, so people can pick you out. "Five seconds ago he was their best friend," says Free Radical Design's Rob Yescombe, chatting along to a four-man demo of upcoming FPS Haze during UbiDays. "But suddenly he's their worst enemy." There'll be tactical issues to consider in these situations: do you kill your squad-mate? Rob Yescombe looks like he'd kill his squad mate.