Some people seem to have taken a disliking to the use of “drugs” in Haze. Nintendo’s Miyamoto (i.e., Mr. Nintendo) was not very pleased at the use of Nectar in Haze, opposite of Cliffy B. who thought the game looked cool. But then again, Cliffy B. would say a goat smoking a stogie while wearing lingerie and holding a 2x4 and a grenade launcher is cool. So he doesn’t count. But anyway, Kotaku brought out a good point about Miyamoto’s own drug related content in Mario games: eating mushrooms to various effects, using "pipes" to get to a “magical” land, and acquiring plants in order to fly or transmute your form. Sorry Mr. Nintendo, you’re just angry that Haze has a downside to their drugs, as opposed to the super-happy portrayal of the drug references in Mario games.
But let’s get one thing straight, Haze’s drug depiction is anything but a glossy guide to substance abuse. Nectar is not heroine. In fact, Nectar, as used in the game, is even less indicative as a reliable, glamorized drug than any over-the-counter prescription drug. That’s why only soldiers use Nectar in Haze, because it’s potent, effective, dangerous and puts a haze on the reality of war. For anyone who wants to pin Haze down as a game that influences the use of drugs, obviously they’re saying so out of ignorance or for the purpose of sensationalizing the facts.
Nevertheless, it shouldn’t come to anyone as a surprise that performance enhancing drugs are used in a game. Duke Nukem 3D didn’t hide the fact that he used steroids (yes, it was an actual bottle of steroids) to heighten his speed and damage inducing abilities. The Warriors, Rockstar’s highly acclaimed beat-e’m-up, relied on the characters being healed via inhaling marijuana. Narc, a not-so-acclaimed game, also relied on various illegal drugs to help the main protagonist.
Now the main difference between the above mentioned games and Haze is that Haze does not fulfill the romanticized view of drugs by imbuing gamers with an always-positive view of Nectar. As mentioned in previous articles here on CB Games, Nectar is something that is as beneficial to the Mantel soldiers as it is dangerous to them. Free Radical's own Rob Yescombe even commented that "Drugs in the game was something that we wanted to be very careful about," he continued on to say that "The over-arching message is that Nectar (the substance in question) is an enormous mistake."
Even more than that, Nectar itself is handled more-so as an idiosyncratic attachment to the portrayal of Mantel soldiers, rather than as a standalone drug itself. You don’t see the rebel soldiers sitting around a rock sniffing the stuff up through their nostrils. You also don’t see Mantel soldiers sticking needles in their forearms or running up to rebel soldiers and asking for a few credits to purchase their next “Nectar hit”.
In fact, had Nectar been a representation of an electrical charge that gave the Mantel soldiers their abilities, and had it not even been considered as a pharmaceutical drug, no one would have said a darn thing about it. But then again, electrical enhancements don’t run the gauntlet of being self-destructive, unless the soldiers activated it while standing in water...or possibly, keeping it activated long enough until they burned themselves to death. But that’s besides the point.
Take into account though, that BioShock, 2K Games’ upcoming shooter game, also uses an alternate form of dealing with performance enhancing abilities. Throughout the game players will encounter characters who are addicted to the “self-enhancing” entities that can be found in the city of Rapture. A perfect example of this is Big Daddy and the Little Girl. To avoid spending two paragraphs explaining this, I’ll just suggest you watch one of the ten thousand trailers found on GameTrailers.com and watch as the Little Girl guzzles down a needle full of altered blood. The point is though, is that BioShock plays on the very same drug addiction concept, only they don’t call them drugs.
So if people are going to throw the gauntlet at Haze for its use of Nectar, you minus well get in line and do the same thing for about a hundred other games out there. Drugs has been in video games for a long time and in far worse ways than how the subject matter of drug use may appear in Haze. This is not to say that drug use, in any way, is a good thing. However, such subject matter can be a provocative angle for storytelling if used correctly (i.e., BioShock). At least Free Radical is taking a mature, original approach to the entire use of pharmaceutical drugs used as performance enhancers for war. The backlash of taking too much Nectar, the unfortunate ability to overdose and the implementation of Nectar being the biggest problem and advantage for the rebels, is already a very interesting concept for Haze.
Now as a bonus for today’s hype, we have a couple of screenshots of the game below, which includes an in-game shot. You can also brush up on your Haze info by clicking on the Haze Hype button icon which periodically appears to the left of the screen. Also be sure to check back in regularly for Haze coverage, as CB Games keeps on trucking down the road to Hype Haze.