Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza Review

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Publisher: Fox Interactive and Sierra (VU Games)
Developer: Piranha Games


Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC
Windows System Requirements: Pentium II 400 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 16 MB video card, 660 MB HD space, 4x CD ROM drive

Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza began its life as a Die Hard movie-themed mod for Half-Life. Fox Interactive became involved and the project became a stand-alone shooter/tribute vehicle based on the original Die Hard movie. The story of the game is the story of the first movie. You take on the role of New York cop John McClane on Christmas vacation to visit his estranged (ex-)wife, Holly. The holiday party at Holly's office goes awry when a group of German master criminals take over the building in order to steal the contents of Nakatomi's vault. John is able to escape early detection by the enemy and sets about disrupting their plans. The game Nakatomi Plaza is different from the movie in two chief ways: (1) enemy leader Hans Gruber brings a small battalion of henchmen instead of the movie's dozen or so men, and (2) the game runs John through building levels not present in movie scenes. Nakatomi Plaza also gives John access to a few more types of weapons, though the submachine guns used by Hans' men in the movie figure most prominently. One of the original movie actors lends his voice to the project – Reginald VelJohnson who played Officer Powell, John's main friend in the movie.

Rating:
Rob de los Reyes


You could certainly do worse than to pick up Nakatomi Plaza, which offers occasionally interesting scenery and inspired bits of gameplay here and there. Unfortunately, those bits are simply too few and far between to be worth the effort for all but the doughtiest of Die Hard movie fans or first-person shooter aficionados. The great virtues of Nakatomi Plaza are the ease of gameplay and the steady flow of targets for your gun fire. Nevertheless, Nakatomi Plaza lags behind its contemporaries in most other respects, particularly in a year such as this one which seems to bring a new game-of-the-year contender every few weeks.

 

Visually, Nakatomi Plaza is adequate, but remains less inspiring than fans of the FPS genre have come to demand. The building levels are actually quite different in appearance, which, while a bit incongruous in terms of "realism", helps to dodge what could have a dramatic problem – how to make an office workplace seem other than small and boring. Over the course of the game, you'll run through construction floors, basements, a parking garage, an R&D lab, a sewer, the roof, cubicle farms, executive suites, even the outside of the building walls, briefly. The character models include a few bursts of aesthetic inspiration such as a cowardly and obese hostage you rescue, but the characters, like the rest of the game, seem a touch behind the times technologically. The weapons range in quality from a sharp-looking submachine gun to an odd-looking heavy machinegun.

Weaponry beyond John's standard pistol and the enemy's submachine gun seem an afterthought since almost no ammunition is available for them. In any event, with the possible exception of the sniper rifle, the other weapons add little functionality beyond increased damage per bullet, rendering them largely unnecessary anyway. The enemy makes fairly good use of flash grenades (a nice touch), but must have shaded eyelids since such grenades are nigh-useless in John's hands. Other useless accoutrements include John's NYPD badge, which, theoretically, may be flashed to prevent the Los Angeles police (LAPD) from shooting at you. Maybe it's an East Coast/West Coast thing, but the LAPD seemed all too happy to shoot first and ask questions later (biting political commentary? Nah...) even if you stand in their faces flashing your badge repeatedly. And if you return fire at the "good guys", your game is instantly over.

Nakatomi Plaza loads smoothly and never crashed, but the in-game mechanics at times suffer from horrible breakdowns. As pictured below, enemies have a tendency to decide early on where you're located and stay fixed on that point regardless of where you move. One level is meant to involve escorting an LAPD squad around the building. My hapless squad got stuck in the first room we entered, never to emerge. On the plus side, their lack of attendance didn't appear to stop them from fighting. Phantom bullets shot by invisible squad members half-way across the level were able to take out a few of John's enemies. (Was the LAPD on the grassy knoll?) Each building level features a fair number of decorative items, but, with the exception of a few specially-marked windows, the environment is almost totally unreactive to John's one-man rampage. Besides shooting the LAPD, you can also "break" your game by shooting Hans too early. Even once he reveals himself to you and turns to run away, a quick shot on your part yields nothing but the "Game Over" screen. Too often, the solution to a problem is found in the Die Hard movie. If you haven't seen the movie, you'll be left without a clue of how to proceed. Worse still, if you haven't seen the movie, you'll be completely baffled by Nakatomi Plaza's slavish reproduction of the movie's dialogue even when the game's "reality" is totally different.

Even if you are fond of the movie, you'll serve your nostalgia better through a rental at your local video store. Nakatomi Plaza has a few flashes of fun and ingenuity as a shooter, but is bone dry as a retelling of the funny and farcical Die Hard movie. There's something to be said for Nakatomi Plaza's easy gameplay and short-duration levels. Not every game need be an epic for the ages. Even so, absent an unwavering dedication to all things Die Hard, you'll likely find Nakatomi Plaza's charms far overwhelmed by its banalities.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on May 19, 2002 6:59 PM.

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