Sets new standards not only to the visual effects, but also to the depth of the story in FPSs

Anything new under the Sun?

How many times have you read the word "innovative" in connection with a new FPS? It seems that everyone and their grandfathers are trying to bring something new to the genre. Luckily for us players, there are a few games that actually succeed in this challenge.

Haze is one of the so-called next-gen video games coming out in the near future, but it is also coming to PC. Developed by Free Radical and published by Ubisoft, Haze promises many of the same things as everyone else is promising: intelligent AI, stunning graphics and realistic physics. Who hasn't heard also these words before? Well, let's take a closer look why Haze will be a head above all the competition!

Mature themes

Jake Carpenter has given the devil his little finger. Believing in the advertisements of the Mantel Corporation, Jake has said goodbye to his previous life and enlisted into a private army. Mantel corporation is one of the private multinational companies that countries have outsourced their military operations to, and who basically use their armies against whoever opposes their power.

As the game begins, the Corp has outfitted Jake Carpenter with the finest weapons ever made and, with the additional help of some mysterious combat-stimulant known as the Nectar, made him an almost invincible soldier of their army. The first mission in the game introduces a South American country, engaged in a continuous war, where Mantel Corporation has been sent into battle a rebel faction that calls itself The Promise Hand. Jake soon finds out, however, that instead of getting a chance to be a real hero and making a difference in the world, the reality of serving the Mantel Corp is something very different.

Although the details of the plot are still very thinly laid out, it has been revealed that, unlike many FPSs today, Haze will introduce the players to more mature situations and problems to be solved in the game. Among other things, these situations and moral dilemmas include the necessity of killing of innocents and destroying their homes. This is actually one of the aspects of the game that I'm most looking forward to ? no more shiny-eyed patriotic soldiers "fighting the good fight", but actual moral dilemmas and ? perhaps ? even some anti-war sentiment thrown in-between the lines. In any case, the main story has been promised to include emotional adult themes.

What about the stunning visuals, then?

To a large degree as far as graphics are concerned, Haze seems to be fighting in the same class with another upcoming game, Crysis. The visuals that we've seen thus far are utterly stunning, with sunlight shedding beautifully through the jungle foliage and soldiers' bodies flying through the air as grenades and vehicles blow up. And, all the signs indicate that the graphics will not only be pretty, but smooth as well - from the physics to the realistic movement of the soldiers and vehicles.

But will they be smart?

The developer, Free Radical, has stated that they are focused on making one of the smartest AIs that FPSs have seen thus far. As you lead troops into battle, you can give commands to your own team, such as to them to take cover, follow you, attack the enemy etc. The team members should be smart enough to act competently at your side, attacking the enemies and not getting killed (at least too easily) themselves. At the same time, the enemy AI will allow the enemies to work in similarly efficient teams, use flanking manoeuvres and react to your actions and attack you aggressively and lethally when necessary.

This is all achieved through an AI that takes a new approach to controlling the character actions: instead of pre-scripted routines (hide when shot at), the characters will have goals, an assessment of their environment and, above all, plans ? such as getting better weapons, help from other characters for an attack etc.

Final thoughts

The game will include a single-player mode (Yay!) as well as a host of online modes, such as co-op and multiplayer. With the combination of a strong, emotional story and vivid and living environment, both of which serve an FPS unlike we've ever seen before, Haze will probably be one of the biggest things to hit the shelves next year. Haze is scheduled for release on Q1 of 2007 on multiple platforms, including the next-gen consoles, but also the trusty old PC.