Features

Haze

TimeSplitters and Second Sight confirmed them as an old gen force... now Free Radical's Derek Littlewood tells you why their 360 shooter Haze will deliver big

IT HAS ENEMIES WHO CARE ABOUT LIVING
If you think about real people, fighting real battles, they spend a lot of time running for cover. It's a natural reaction to a dangerous situation. So I don't really mind saying that, yeah, you will find characters in Haze running and ducking for cover a lot of the time! They're still going to be smart opponents, of course, but I think when we talk about great AI, more than anything else we're talking about AI that convinces you it's real. So, whilst you will be seeing the characters in Haze doing plenty of smart stuff, often the smartest thing for them to do will be to run and take cover.

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IT'S GOT REAL EMOTIONAL DEPTH
The entire game has been planned from the start as an emotional journey, and that doesn't just mean the narrative; every element, from the enemies to the weather, time of day and the colour palette being used to depict the level, will help you feel a particular mood. The game explores big moral issues on several levels. There's a gameplay-related mechanic that enables us to ask some really interesting questions of the player about the reality of what it is we do when we play at shooting people. I can't say too much about it at the moment, but it all revolves around the way that games traditionally depict war.

IT INTRODUCES 'NECTAR'
For every soldier, Nectar is a godsend. It doesn't just make them stronger and better fighters, it makes them feel good whilst they're doing it! It's natural, side-effect free and administered directly to the bloodstream via an armour-mounted nectar backpack. Nectar does give you cool abilities, but I think the really interesting thing about it is in the themes and situations it allows the player to explore. When I talk about introducing emotional and moral depth to the experience, Nectar is the tool that does that.

IT'S A CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE
To date, the only way games have ever been able to offer a 'movie like experience' is to simply offer the player a movie; lengthy cut sequences where the player has little or no interaction. So, we're saying that Haze offers a movie-like experience because it explores themes much more commonly associated with cinema than gaming. It's a disappointing fact that most FPS' have an emotional depth on a par with an 80s action film. Yet cinema has moved on, so why can't gaming? One simple example of how serious we are about the level of immersion in the game is that we've worked really hard to ensure Haze is a completely continuous experience; there are no loading screens or mission select screens in there. Once you're in, you're living the role of Jake.

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IT REIMAGINES MULTIPLAYER
As you probably know from TimeSplitters, we're big with the multiplayer love! So yes, you can play Haze co-operatively online, with up to four players. We're still working on the details but ideally we'd like this to be completely dynamic, in other words allowing other players to drop straight in and out of your game with no interruptions - provided you invite them! We also have a range of multiplayer modes, of which I think the most interesting are our Team Assault modes. Now, previously, multiplayer modes have always been this completely separate thing to the 'main' Campaign mode. They might utilise the same maps and even gameplay mechanisms, but they don't add any narrative or emotional value. Well, in Haze they do. Each Team Assault scenario has its own miniature narrative, and each of those narratives links back into the main story of the game. This will add extra depth to the main narrative, as you see things from other angles.

IT'S LIKE GOING PAINTBALLING
Perhaps the biggest influence on the direction of the game though wasn't a film or game at all, but a company outing to a local paintballing site. The vast gulf that still exists between the intensity of being shot at in reality (even if it is just with paintballs!) and the experience you have when you play an FPS was illustrative of just how far FPS' still have to go - and a massive inspiration for making the game.

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