Their role in your four-man squad is also a point of interest. Last year, at E3, Doak and Yescombe were promoting the AI heavily, but Doak tells us that things have changed somewhat. "We're not taking it as obsessively far as we were going to. A lot of effort has gone back into concentrating on the Nectar system and things," he admits.
"That said, you're often dealing with four-on-four or four-on-six kind of firefights, and I think the AI gives a very, very good account of itself." Vehicles, which you'll take control of in various places, allow you to team up with a gunner on the back. Foresight helps you pick out mines on the road ahead, the vehicles will accumulate damage, visually, as bullets riddle them and bits fly off. And, to get back to the AI, the bastards can drive. "The driving AI is something that's gone in very recently and you really don't want to be trying to run around on foot when they're driving, because they're sliding the vehicles into you and stuff like that," Doak says. He hopes the vehicles will come across as a natural part of the game.
That's also true of the co-operative modes, where it seems every effort's being made to obfuscate all the backroom calculations. It's "drop-in", which in this case means that up to three of your friends can join your single-player game at any point, and you theirs, and that the overall group can be composed of split-screen, LAN or Internet hook-ups, and indeed any combination. Xbox Live's already shown us, to some extent, how this can be done with games like GRAW and Gears of War. That smooth experience is Doak's hope for PS3, too, which he says is "working really well" for them online. "The four-player co-op is a thing that we really wanted to do from the start. The whole structure of the squad in the game - they've always been there as seats for playing co-op," he adds.
In the scenarios we see - a running jungle battle, striding through a bombed-out village, fighting through a quarry in a pair of co-op-controlled cars, and gunning through a gun-metal grey factory - there's an inevitably heavy emphasis on combat, but it won't be relentless, despite the lack of loading screens. "The pacing is punctuated by things like dropship pick-ups and stuff that take you somewhere else, and then there are talky bits, so that's where we do a lot of the plot development and the character development," Doak says. What's more, the gameplay itself should be as varied as the 12 different but narratively coherent locations the game explores. "What you're doing is not always just going gung-ho, smashing some rebels in the jungle. There are times when you are being pressed by overwhelming numbers, there are times when you have a distinct thing like some escort stuff to do; there are even times when you don't have a gun."
Often when we finish an FPS, most recently Half-Life 2: Episode One (again), the desire is to immediately dig further into events. With Haze' emphasis on story, perhaps that'll be the case here. But replaying the game immediately isn't always the most appealing option when the credits are rolling. Fortunately Haze will let you continue the fight, in some sense. Talking about multiplayer, Yescombe confirms the "24-player" figure for online, and drops more hints. "I can tell you this - we don't just have deathmatch and all the traditional modes. We do have those, but as well as that, the multiplayer missions are narrative-led, objective-based missions. So they will affect your understanding of things that are happening in the single-player. The two are related to each other."
As is development on multiple platforms (I know, I know - what a practised segue). That "leading on PS3" business is mainly a business thing, according to Doak, although while Free Radical's main belief is that a PS3 focus is good for energising those consumers, that's not to say they don't like the hardware. On the contrary, "the machine's a very capable machine" according to Doak, "and I think we're - in terms of development - pretty well placed to take advantage of it, because we've got the history on PlayStation 2, so we're not frightened by the things causing people a bit of alarm." Judging by the Haze demo, they're not worried about deviating heavily from fun-loving TimeSplitters, either. Indeed, we expect Haze's grittier approach to march up your most-wanted lists as Free Radical better articulates the game in the months ahead.
Haze is due out this year on PlayStation 3. Other versions are in development.
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