Haze is the upcoming project from Free Radical, the studio responsible for the beloved Timesplitters series and the underappreciated Second Sight.
In the first of a series of exclusives for this PS3 title, we got to talk with Derek Littlewood, the outspoken project lead for the title. We grilled him about the game's unique gameplay features, as well as details on the cooperative campaign.
GameSpy: Why two sides in a single game?
Derek Littlewood: Because we are frankly insane and doing one game wasn't nearly enough work for us so we thought we'd do two instead!
The idea of playing two very different sides against one another just really appealed to us. The TS games feature an enormous diversity of characters but they all play pretty much the same, apart from basic differences such as speed and height, and that's something you encounter in a lot of shooters. With Haze we thought it would be really interesting to create two very different, yet still evenly matched sides that would allow players to not only take on a different appearance, but also play the game in a completely different way.
GameSpy: Did the decision to have the sides be asymmetrical begin in multi- or single-player design? Or somewhere else?
Derek Littlewood: It was a multiplayer decision first and foremost, although at the same time there was this idea floating around of having a story that explored the idea of presenting the player with the dilemma of "Maybe you're on the wrong side of this war," which clearly worked well with the idea of having two very distinctive factions in the game.
GameSpy: Does the game address turning on people who trusted you? Even if your co-op squadmates turn to the rebels with you, there must have been someone you got along with in Mantel, right?
Derek Littlewood: Yes, the game definitely deals with the consequences of Shane turning his back on Mantel on a personal level (as well as from the more obvious military perspective). In fact in some ways the finale deals more with the personal impact of Shane's decisions throughout the game as it does with the bigger picture. I think that's one strong aspect of the narrative in Haze: it's about the people first, the war second, not the other way around.
GameSpy: How does the game's difficulty scale as you add players in co-op? More hit points for the enemies? More of them? Is it a different process for the two sides?
Derek Littlewood: We've employed a variety of approaches to ensure that co-op players will enjoy as much challenge as lone players; one thing we didn't want was for four players to just be able to walk over the opposition. Rather than simply introducing more enemies into the mix we've concentrated on adjusting their behaviour and attributes, which on a mundane level means things like additional hit points, but the more interesting thing is that you'll see their tactics and intelligence alter too. For instance, Mantel troopers will dose up with nectar more often if they feel more under threat, so against four Promise Hand players you can expect them to be dosing up with nectar far more than against a single player.
GameSpy: How will the AI differ between the rebels and the Mantel troopers?
Derek Littlewood: The troopers are generally far more aggressive than the rebels, particularly when they're dosed up on nectar. Because they're heavily armored and more invulnerable to damage thanks to nectar, they're very partial to headlong charges at their target, which as a rebel player is often pretty terrifying!
The rebels thrive on a more cunning approach, so you'll see them flanking and using cover far more than the troopers. I've found myself surprised by rebels jumping out of jungle undergrowth on far too many occasions!
GameSpy: What can Free Radical fans expect to find that's familiar in the gameplay?
Derek Littlewood: I think the feel of the controls is very close to that of TS, although Haze is definitely slower paced, and with the additional abilities feels more involved. I'd also say the higher difficulty levels -- particularly extra hard -- will remind people of TS as well, as it's pretty brutal!
GameSpy: Is there any other appropriate nickname for the Mantel troops than Bee Troopers? Or Evil Bee Troopers?
Derek Littlewood: One guy christened them "Banana Troopers" at one point, but I think that's a bit too cuddly for my liking!