Blame it on Demi!
I shouldn’t have to tell any reasonably intelligent game designer how hard it
is to impress today’s desensitized legions of gamers. We can be a snide, condescending
group of people when it comes to concepts like “originality,” so developers usually
pull no punches with each new and/or improved game engine.
first-person shooter games are concerned, we’re often promised new and fanciful
things; enhanced Quaziplexic NPC A.I., incredible adamantium-driven motion capture,
even real-time shpidoinkle shading – at framerates equal to the speed of light!
Well, developer Piranha Games has decided to throw us a curve ball with their
new FPS, Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza, by giving gamers exactly what they’ve
seen before a dozen times over – weak graphics, inaccurate targeting, and AI
distinctly devoid of the “I.” “It’s a plan soooo crazy it just might work!”
say the developers, repeating what the Turkey told them from the 151 proof
bottle of Bourbon lying empty in their office.
Using the latest version of the Lithtech engine (No
One Live Forever, Aliens vs. Predator
2), Die Hard: NP attempts to recreate the events from the 14-year
old Bruce Willis movie that we’ve all seen a quintillion times. Terrorists have
taken over a 40-story L.A. office building during a party that Mr. Nakatomi
is holding for his friends and co-workers. You, John McClane, New York Detective,
decide that being a cop from another state doesn’t mean you’re off-duty and
it’s one-liners and gun fights from then on.
Sounds like the making for a great game…but it isn’t. For one thing, those
snappy Bruce Willis one-liners aren’t delivered
by Bruce Willis. Alan Rickman’s creepy evil mastermind speeches
aren’t delivered by Alan Rickman. The failure to secure the real voice talent
takes away from the kitsch value.
Die Hard: NP does the Lithtech engine no justice. Textures are bright
and colorful with decent bits of detail, but the character models are very blocky
with low polygon counts and terrible animations. The environments are bare;
furnishings and room designs often repeat. It’s a wonder how No One Lives
Forever was made from the same engine. Die Hard has none of NOLF‘s
I will say the game is consistent in its ubiquity. Many of the events in the
movie are recreated, but the movie is less than two hours long. To make up for
this, there are a ton of added sequences to stretch the gameplay a little beyond
twelve hours. Too bad these additions are just pilfered objective ideas from
other games, like rescuing hostages, escorting other NPSs, disarming bombs,
Puzzles are few and mindless and your wire cutters will solve most of them. Also, make sure to frequently check your Objective window, because the game gives you no indication for mission updates.
Hard: NP‘s only stab at thinking out of the box is its ‘realistic’ movement.
You move like you’re already wounded – which you are – via this sluggish walk
with too much unnecessary camera movement (thankfully, camera wobble can be
turned off). If you run, you will quickly deplete your lung meter (stamina),
leaving you too tired to run any further. Jumping and climbing are now out of
the question until you rest.
You also have Health and Morale meters. Health is obvious, while the latter
is intended to represent how NPCs will react when they encounter you. I would
like to elaborate, but all enemies treat John with the same mild contempt and
lack of initiative. I have seen no deviation, even though the meter does move.
Occasionally, enemies will fire once they’ve spotted you and some will even
give chase or fire around a corner. But usually it’s just stationary enemies
in plain view receiving shots in the back, seemingly unaware. It’s funny for
five minutes, and then you realize only an editor/writer with thoughts on their
paycheck or free games would see this thing to the painful end.
Counterstrike veterans will find
themselves at home with the game’s artillery. Your main crime-stopper is the
MP5, but you will find a Steyr AUG, M60, Colt M4A1, flash & frag grenades, 9mm
pistol and other munitions along the way. The weapons handle fine, although
none of them are as accurate as I think they should be. Oddly (or maybe not
oddly; I’d have to watch the movie again), John is left-handed with no option
to change the weapon model to right-handed. This is frustrating for me, a right-handed
gamer who has always played FPS games with the gun on the right. So needless
to say, the bad AI, awkward character animation and inaccurate weapons make
the firefights far from exhilarating.
Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza is simply a sub-par first-person shooter.
Their first mistake was using a 14-year old movie and not the voice talent that
made it popular. From there, it was all downhill. The poor use of a decent engine
coupled with bad AI and a total lack of multiplayer (!) leads to a game that
spites its namesake and dies easy on my wall of shame.