Haze was announced just over a year ago at E3 in 2006. Since then the TimeSplitters team's next-gen debut has been firmly kept under wraps. Leading on PS3 but also in development for Xbox 360 and PC, Haze is trying to bring with it a strong story to the world where just shooting stuff up is what it's all about.
At Ubisoft's recent press event in Paris Free Radical's main man Dave Doak was on hand to walk us through the finely-textured jungles and tell us what Nectar is all about.
Haze has been in hiding for over a year now. Remind us what it's all about.
Dave Doak: Well Haze is our new first person shooter and we started building the tech about three years ago. It's a war game but I think we're doing something exciting by telling a story which has got some real character. It's got some nice commentary on the world around it and the fact that war isn't all black and white, like Ghost Recon (laughs).
With a game that has only human enemies, how do you keep the combat interesting?
Doak: Something happens in the narrative of Haze that effectively changes the way you play the game. Rather than just trying to 'step it up' we go for different situations. An example of that is the vehicle combat, which is quite impressive. Sometimes you're in an arena where you fighting against many enemies until you're dead or you break through.
There are some weapons and evolution in there too and that's how we introduce different elements to the gameplay. But we've tried to keep the weapon set reasonably controllable. The industry has so often in the past got caught up with 'well, how many guns has your game got?'
I guess the Nectar is almost a direct response to that. We've tried to make something that's not only an interesting weapon but is an interesting gameplay mechanic that isn't just pointing a gun at someone. The Nectar provides a risk-reward and it's also a huge part of the story.
You're putting a lot behind the story but do you think people will actually care about it? Don't they just want to shoot people?
Doak: I think people are always going to want to just shoot stuff and that's one of the reasons you'll want to play this game. We don't want to get in the way of that but the story has always been absolutely critical to us because it's the thing that keeps me playing a game. And we've got a story that has an interesting exposition right up to the very end.
What are you thoughts on the FPS genre as a whole?
Doak: It's hard because I think the world tries to put games into a box and unfortunately the games industry also puts itself into a box. It says 'oh, not another generic first-person shooter' but that's what everyone queues up to do. We've become our own worst enemies in that respect. It's like we're taking tiny steps. Haze has to remain faithful to being a good arcade-shooter but on top of that we're trying to make the gameplay more interesting and we're trying to make you get into it more when you're playing.
Is Haze multiplatform? You only mentioned PS3 last night at the conference.
Doak:So we're going to be on 360 and PC but at the moment our big focus is PS3. Part of that is the company's heritage of working on PlayStation 2 with the TimeSplitters franchise, and just wanting to do something new. I think that launching a new brand on PS3 is a good place to do that.
Do you see Haze getting lost in the noise of Halo 3 and GTA IV on 360?