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We were lucky enough to be invited by Free Radical and Ubisoft to a Haze event in London where, along with playing through a considerable chunk of the campaign in four player co-op, we got to know the ins and outs of this not too distant future world. Follow the link for new details on the game’s characters, vehicles and weapons.

Set in the year 2048, governments of the world have dissolved their national armies and outsourced to fulfil their militaristic needs.  It’s too expensive and politically complicated to employ your own army, so why not rent one?  Mantel Global Industries takes on this mantel; responsible for the peacekeeping efforts of the UN, NATO and dozens of national armies.

You play as Shane Carpenter, a newly enlisted soldier seeking fulfilment and thrills by fighting for a good cause. He’s a sound guy that’s looking to help make changes to the world and bring suffering to an end.  Until he joined Mantel he didn’t know what to do with all his good will. Now, Mantel has provided him with a gun and the opportunity to “help others through affirmative armed action”.

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Yes, Mantel offers its soldiers everything they want, from a high-tech arsenal of vehicles, deadly weaponry, to the performance-enhancing drug Nectar.  You see, Mantel are a smart media savy company.  They don’t want bad press or low morale, so they make their army invincible and the war invisble to its soldiers. To perform this impossible task Mantel developed a “nutritional supplement” called Nectar.

Nectar improves a soldier’s sight, aim, speed, and strength. It also enables them to endure – and even enjoy – any personal injuries. Perhaps most famously of all, Nectar increases each soldier’s awareness of their surroundings in combat, allowing them to “predict” impending danger.

What Mantel doesn’t tell its soldiers is that Nectar also filters their world.  War is like a game to them.  There’s no blood, no screaming, no death and no bodies.  As a Mantel trooper, you’ll just be shooting targets while on a massive high.  This experience is so vivid, that the soldiers describe it as a “sixth sense.” Of course there’s nothing supernatural about it, it’s simply a case of stimulating the right parts of the brain.

Now, in the year 2048, a problem has arisen in the Boa region of South America. A dangerous guerilla faction called The Promise Hand, led by a vicious maniac known as ‘Skin Coat’, are on the rampage, trying to overthrow governments.  These rebels are scum, especially ‘Skin Coat’, who earned his alias by skinning those who opposed him and using their skin as a makeshift leather  ‘coat’.  Thankfully, in typical fashion, Mantel has sent in a sizeable force to send the Promise Hand to their graves.

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You must fight this vicious rebel faction, the Promise Hand, with the following Mantel team by your side, whether as computer AI or joining you via your online/offline friends:

- Sergeant Morgan Duvall; Carpenter’s equal in rank and age, Duvall is known for partying hard, and fighting harder. Better educated than most of his contemporaries, Duvall is respected by his fellow soldiers and hence they look to him for guidance not only in the field, but in their day-to-day lives.

- Lietenant Corporal Adrian Teare; A little bookish, Teare has been known to let his intellectual inspirations get between him and his fellow soldiers. However, he is an adept soldier with award-winning combat skills.

- Corporal Francis Peshy; A star quarterback in Highschool, but a less than stellar student, Peshy graduated by the skin of his teeth. With his parents’ blessing, he joined Mantel Corps and found his niche. He wakes every morning with a smile on his face – knowing he’s doing what he does best.

- Corporal Bobby ‘Watchstrap’ Daily; A Good Ol’ Boy, born and bred, his skinny physique earned him his odd nickname. Happy to follow orders, what Watchstrap lacks in brain power, he makes up for with enthusiasm.

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As you fight your way through a war-torn country, the vicious Promise Hand rebels will challenge you in a number of guises:

- Infantry; Carrying the ‘Lobo’ Assault rifle, these soldiers are all-rounders, which makes them unpredictable and extremely dangerous.

- Shockers; Favoring the ‘Oso’ shotgun, the Shockers are fast and agile, allowing them to get up close to use their weapons to deadly effect.

- Suppressor; Armed with the ‘Hand of God’ minigun, these trigger-happy maniacs are not the kind of guys you want to get into a firefight with. With a massive capacity for damage, they are high effective both and short and long range.

- Incinerators; ‘The People’s Dragon’ flamethrower has long been a favourite of this elite unit. Tactically, they tend to lie in wait until their target is within striking distance – then unleash the fury of the Dragon.

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At first you’re embedded in your Mantel mission to destroy the rebels and bring order to the world, but quickly things begin to change.  Everything is not as it seems. In uncovering the truth you’re going to have to break away from Mantel’s manipulative grip and join your former enemies, the Promise Hand.

Naturally, since your enemies are now your friends, your former friends are now your enemies.  You’re going to have to make some tough decisions when you switch sides, and letting go of Nectar is going to make it ever harder to join the rebel life.  You will also be pitted against the craze Mantel soldiers who find war as fun and joyous as a roller coaster ride:

- Regulars; Regulars carry the world famous BlackSaw, and boy do they know how to use it. Their highly aggressive tactics are enough to get any local tough guy sh*tting his pants. In short: don’t mess.

- Assault Troopers; These heavily armoured guys travel in packs, and are rather partial to using the Donkey Puncher. What’s more, with all that body armour to protect them, they like to get in close for some serious Nectar-powered face mashing with the butt of their shotguns.

- Fire Support; They say some guys have all the fun – and these guys might just be them. Sporting a combination of heavy armour and a Hard Candy, these folks like to keep their distance and pepper the bad guys with rockets until they look like cheap pâté. If they’re in the mood to get closer, they’re also packing a Diplomat, and they ain’t afraid to use it.

- Scouts; Armed with the B72 Sniper rifle, the Scouts use plenty of Nectar to ensure the perfect headshot on any stragglers. Their standard armour is more than enough to keep them snug as a bug in a rug.

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In the heat of the battle all that will matter to you are the weapons at your disposal.  So what exactly will you be yielding as a drugged up trooper, on an agile rebel?  As a Mantel trooper you’ll get your hands on a this collection::

- The ‘Diplomat’ (D6 Pistol); The ‘Diplomat’ is the side-arm of choice for the smart Mantel trooper. It’s got the kind of stopping power that makes the bad guys feel like they were hit by a steam train full of anvils. It’s especially good at close range “when negotiations fail” – hence its nickname.

- The ‘BlackSaw’ (B72 Assault Rifle); The ‘BlackSaw’ is the standard issue rifle, but there ain’t nothing standard about it. This baby fires rounds made from depleted uranium, meaning that not only do you kill your opponent, you give them radiation poisoning too. Yee-ha!

- The ‘Donkey Puncher’ (D118 Combat Shotgun); As painful as it sounds, this high-end shotgun is more than enough to kick any ass presented to you. At close range, it’s a one shot kill affair.

- The ‘Hard Candy’ 387L (Rocket Launcher); The Hard Candy is a state of the art rocket launcher, capable of blowing the living sh*t out of any armoured or unarmoured target.

- B72 Sniper; This classic sniper rifle couples the ultimate in armour-piercing rounds with a projectile velocity powerful enough to rip right through the sternum of any Promise Hand soldier. Tasty.

- ‘Spring Cleaner’ SK3 (Fragmentation Grenades); Despite their sweety-pie nickname, these grenades are as tough as they come. Based on the classic dead man’s switch design, these time-operated babies are perfect for crowd clearance.

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A life without Nectar means the Promise Hand need to use their wits and skills to create the perfect weapon against Mantel troopers.  This results in ingenius modifications to items as simple as grenades – tie Nectar to them and watch as your enemies become their own worst enemy:

- The ‘Razor Tongue’; This classic hunting knife can be used to slash or throw. The rebels will smear the blade in Nectar while making a Nectar Grenade. With Nectar on the blade, the Razor Tongue will cause any Mantel trooper to overdose.

- The ‘Lobo’ (Wolf); The Lobo is the standard rifle for most militia groups across the world, and with good cause. With a quick-load double-ended magazine and a large clip size, it’s the ideal weapon for both attack and suppression.

- The ‘Oso’ (Bear); This shotgun may be a little rough round the edges, but it still packs a punch. With a slightly larger clip size than its mantel counterpart, the Oso’s extra cartridges can make all the difference in a close-quarters firefight.

- The ‘Mano del Dios’ (Hand of God); A massive bullet capacity and surprisingly light weight makes this minigun the stuff of nightmares for anyone up against it. Not to be messed with.

- The ‘Dragón de la Gente’ (The People’s Dragon); A practical, portable flamethrower with a comparatively long reach, a few sweeps with this fiery weapon can be enough to clear a room in a matter of seconds.

- The ‘Pinpointer’; This sniper rifle carries fewer rounds than the Mantel equivalent, but what it lacks in number it makes up for in power. A deadly piece of hardware.

- ‘MalFruta’ (BadFruit); Old school, but that doesn’t mean they don’t hurt. Filled with a combination of steel chippings and high explosives, these grenades are just as dangerous as Mantel’s own.

- ‘Nectar Grenades’; Made on-the-fly by strapping a Nectar Administrator onto a standard grenade, this explosive spreads a thick cloud of yellow Nectar gas across the area. Any Mantel soldier caught in the cloud will overdose.

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You’ll need a ride if you’re going to get around the vast environments that will stage this war.  Both sides have a bunch of vehicles, though you won’t necessarily get behind the wheel of all of them:

- The ‘Boxcart’; Fast, manoeuvrable and all-terrain: a combination that has made the ‘Boxcart’ invaluable to Mantel troops in the difficult jungle landscape. Its lightweight frame is thanks to a notable absence of armour. So, whilst it can transport quickly, in combat it certainly can’t guarantee a safe arrival – hence its fragile namesake. Still, the fixed JM90 HeavyGun turret is a good reason to get out of its way.

- ‘Mrs. Mantel’;  Earning its alias by carrying soldiers in its ample belly and ‘birthing’ them on the battlefield, this dropship uses a combination of movable rotary engines and miniature kerosene afterburners, making it a true vertical take-off and landing craft. This motion arrangement gives the craft the means to both fly at high-speeds like a jet, but also to manoeuvre like a helicopter when at low speeds – as such, it is the perfect machine for rapid combat insertions.

- The Dumpster; This chunky Mantel truck is fuelled by a diesel-electric hybrid power train and is used to transport troops and supplies. Its dense plate armour will stop most ballistic fire in its tracks.

- The ‘BigBoy’; At a mere 35 Tonnes, the ‘BigBoy’ tank is light in comparison to its ancestors even when fully loaded. This new low-weight version allows for fast-response tactical deployment and a reliably swift track speed. Its primary weapon – an electromagnetic coil cannon – functions like a rail gun, using magnetic forces along the barrel to propel its shells at a dangerously high velocity.

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The Promise Hand aren’t ones to be stationary either – they’re always on the move in their nippy vehicles, trying to stay ahead of those duped up mad men:

- The ‘Macho’ (Stag); Like most rebel equipment, the ‘Stag’ (pictured below) is cleverly salvaged, constructed and repaired on-the-fly – resulting in a patchwork appearance. Subsequently, it is well modified for the harsh jungle environment.

- The ‘Mula’ (Mule); The ‘Mule’ (as seen in the title image) is nothing if not ideal for jungle warfare – able to go where bulkier Mantel vehicles cannot reach, it is fast and versatile. The driver is virtually guaranteed a bumpy ride (hence its alias), but with the room for an additional passenger to fire in their defence, this vehicle is perfect for two-man smash ‘n’ grab missions.

- The ‘Palo Hueco’ (The Hollow Bat); This helicopter has a small advantage in manoeuvrability over Mantel’s ‘Mama’, thanks to its marginally smaller size and weight. Naturally, its armour is a pale comparison to its Mantel counterpart, but its mounted miniguns ensure it is deadly to ground forces.

- The ‘Diente de la Serpiente’ (The Serpent’s Tooth);  This mobile missile launcher carries a rare second-generation nuclear missile, modified for a direct attack on the Mantel ‘Land Carrier’. The launcher itself is over 26 metres long, and is driven by two 1,800hp diesel engines with a maximum speed of just 40km/h.

- The ‘Pecho del Rhino’ (Chest of the Rhino); The ‘Rhino’ is a heavily modified civilian truck. To ensure a functional speed, every conceivable extremity has been stripped off, save for the heavy armour around the driver’s carriage. Whilst this means that it is ideal for transporting non-explosive cargo, like food and medical provisions, on the frequent occasions it is used to move troops, the unfortunate soldiers in the rear find themselves without any protection.

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And with that your initiation is complete.  You have all the information you need, apart from images of the battlefield you will be fighting on, and the wise words of somebody who’s been there before.  Don’t worry though, my review of the game will be revealed very soon.