Since its big debut at last year's E3, all we've known about the storyline for the futuristic first-person shooter Haze has been that it follows three days in the life of Shane, a soldier working for megacorporation Mantel Global Industries in the year 2048. By that time in the future, most governments have apparently outsourced their armies to private corporations, with Mantel sending Shane deep into South America to deal with a rebel group calling itself the Promised Hand. Publisher Ubisoft has used its presence at E3 07 to unveil a major new plot twist to developer Free Radical Design's game: It seems Shane won't be completely happy with Mantel and will switch sides to the rebel Promised Hand about halfway through the game.
We sat down with Free Radical Design director David Doak at E3 for a guided demo, and Doak assured us that the side swap won't purely be a plot contrivance. Switching to the Promised Hand will enable some completely new gameplay mechanics, as well as bring up some disadvantages. For those of you who have followed our Haze coverage, you'll know that the soldiers of the Mantel corporation are pumped full of a substance called Nectar, a performance-enhancing drug that bestows enhanced abilities, such as greater resistance to damage and higher speed. It also adds other special abilities, such as a powerful melee blast attack, better perception that allows you to more easily spot enemies, higher focus for easier targeting, and more. However, when Shane finally switches to the rebels, his use of Nectar will stop, which leads to the removal of all the benefits the drug brings.
Although you will be slower and less resistant to damage as a normal Promised Hand soldier, you will also be able to exploit the negative side effects of Nectar on its users to turn situations to your advantage. Playing as a rebel grants players new exploit attacks to use against Mantel soldiers. The first and most obvious attack is to simply shoot the Nectar supply tube that snakes down the back of Mantel soldiers. Doing so will cause the soldier to go into a frenzied, confused state where he'll attack all-comers, including his own allies.
Because one of the side effects of Nectar use is the inability to see dead bodies (apparently a deliberate move by Mantel to "sanitize" battlefield situations for its soldiers), playing as rebel Shane grants the play dead move. To play dead, you simply need to take a few hits from a Mantel soldier, after which the option to lie down and appear snuffed occurs. Once you play dead, Mantel soldiers will ignore you, allowing you to ambush them once they've moved past or turned their backs.
Playing as rebel Shane also gives you the ability to make Nectar grenades. These weapons are made by taking the unused drug from a dead Mantel soldier and attaching it to a normal grenade. When thrown, a Nectar grenade explodes in a mist of green, causing all Mantel soldiers within range to go into a Nectar overload where they'll attack fellow soldiers. Other Promised Hand-only abilities include an evasive roll/dodge move and a special melee attack that strips opponents of their weapons for use against them.
Free Radical Design director Doak took us through a level midway through Haze's single-player campaign, which demonstrated Shane's new abilities. The level took place in a ruined apartment block, where Shane and three rebel compatriots were taking on a squad of Mantel soldiers. The rebel's starting position was on a mezzanine level overlooking a stone courtyard where Mantel soldiers had taken a defensive position. Doak carefully took Shane down the stairs and flanked a Mantel soldier shooting from behind a pillar. However, Doak wasn't silent enough because the Mantel soldier turned and fired a few shots. Doak then used the play dead ability; once he was on the ground, the Mantel soldier turned away, which was when Doak popped up again and shot the unsuspecting soldier. Later on in the level, Doak managed to shoot out the Nectar tube behind another Mantel soldier, who then proceeded to shoot a fellow soldier standing close by directly in the face.
Doak went on to explain that the different styles of Mantel soldiers and Promised Hand rebels plays directly into multiplayer, where you'll be able to choose sides to engage in objective-based missions. These objectives could involve such things as escort missions, stealing Nectar from Mantel-defended bases, and more. Haze will support up to 24 players online, according to Doak.
The introduction of the Promised Hand plot twist in Haze seems an intriguing prospect because it will force players to use knowledge and abilities previously learned in earlier levels as a Mantel soldier against themselves. We're keen on getting our hands on Haze soon to see exactly how different the experience is between a Mantel and a Promised Hand soldier. Check back soon for a full preview.