Whachoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?
It's been quite some time since the last Die Hard movie, but there have been no less than fourteen games made about the trilogy. Fourteen! Pretty soon, there will be more Die Hard games than hairs on Bruce Willis' head.
Die Hard Vendetta picks up several years after Die Hard: With A Vengeance left off. John McClane is an aging man with a full head of gray hair. I think the developers were just being generous to Willis. Anyway, McClane's daughter, Lucy, is now in the police force. Piet Gruber, son of the original Die Hard fiend, Hans Gruber, doesn't want to spread terror...just great art. Pshaw, right. Long story short, John McClane gets to play cowboy and chase down another guy with a haughty English accent.
The 12 stages of this first-person shooter will take you all over LA, from an art museum to Mann's Chinese Theater and back to the infamous Nakatomi Plaza. Like the movies, the object is to kill bad guys and solve stupid puzzles.
As a console first-person shooter, Die Hard Vendetta has some control issues to overcome. In most GC games, the C-stick is usually used to control the camera. A quick nudge here, a push there, and the camera slides right into place. But with dual stick FPS's, the control takes some getting used to. There's simply less grip to work with on Nintendo's standard controller. Thus, a Gamecube FPS game needs some extra fine-tuning.
But instead of tightening the controls, Die Hard Vendetta tries to compensate with auto-targeting. The auto-targeting makes it just too easy, locking-in on even the furthest enemies, whether they're in the dark or peeping out from behind a corner. For example, in a hostage situation your auto-aim will hone in right on the perp, turning a potential challenge into a piece of cake.
To combat this, you can increase the difficulty, which decreases the magnetic strength of the auto-targeting and forces you to aim closer to the enemies before auto takes over. But then you have to deal with the extremely touchy control. Turning auto-aim completely off is even worse; you'll be aiming all over the place. And the top R button set to fire simply doesn't have the necessary hair-trigger feel.
There's an attempt to mix in some stealth maneuvers, but it's woefully incomplete. The instances when it comes into play are sharply scripted. McClane can switch from his standard walk to a slower stealth walking. Yep, haven't you heard? The slower you walk, the more invisible you are.
While walking slowly, McClane can sneak up behind a bad guy and grab him. Afterwards, some pre-scripted event will likely occur, such as other bad guys around him surrendering their weapons. How will you know when you need to shift into stealth mode? Trial and error! If you run into a dangerous situation, hostages will be killed, thus ending your game, forcing you to start from the last intermittent checkpoint. The linear structuring of the game and limited alternative pathways are suffocating.
There's also a 'hero' meter that allows McClane to switch into a pseudo "bullet-time." Since when was John McClane the "One?" Besides the fact that bullet-time doesn't fit into the Die Hard world, I think the developers should have spent their time tuning up the actual aiming and controls instead.
The rest of the game has you flipping switches, looking for items and then using them in specific situations. Finding these items and switches is almost like a three-dimensional graphic adventure, replete with a specific list of things you must complete in order and the pain of hunting for items pixel by pixel.
The eye pain doesn't stop thanks to unimpressive graphics with muddled textures and a low-res feel. There are a few worthwhile details, like the way McClane clenches his free hand while steadying his gun or a cat running around, but it doesn't make up for inconsistent framerates and the simplistic character animation.
But what's really dizzying is how McClane can get all up in everyone's face, literally. Normally, a shooter limits how close you can approach someone, but for some reason, Vendetta allows you to stand REALLY close to people. As in close enough where it isn't physically possible. Close enough so the outstretched hand with the gun should actually be piercing people. Visually, it just feels nauseating.
The music is the appropriate Hollywood action movie fare and the sound effects are fitting. Surprisingly, the voices work well enough. John McClane's voice sounds like a stereotype of Bruce Willis - close, but not perfect. What does add greatly to the feel of a Die Hard game is the dialogue, complete with full-on sarcastic cussing (including the F-word).
I really wish the developers caught wind of Metroid's control scheme, which strikes a balance between an auto and a manual aim perfectly suited for the Gamecube's controller. Instead, the controls here are totally unsatisfying. Tack on narrow-minded gameplay and dim graphics and you've got a game that dies quite easily, actually.