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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

Sierra / Fox

 

Developer

Piranha Games

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

April 22, 2002

 

 

- Captures the feeling of the movie with a few extra scenes thrown in

- Best “lean” feature out there

- Good graphics and voice acting (for the most part)

- Very accessible for veteran players

- Three “health” bars are a good innovation

- "Yippy-ki yay, chicken pluckers!"

 

 

- Boards that are invulnerable to gunfire

- Ammo is plentiful, unlike

the movie

- If you haven’t seen the movie some sections don’t make

any sense

- Unintuitive inventory management

- Not really that much to set

itself apart

 

 

Review: Unreal Tournament 2003 (PC)
Review: Halo (XBox)

Review: Metroid Prime (Gamecube)

 

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Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza

Score: 7.0 / 10

 

It’s almost a given that anyone who picks up Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza (NP) will have at least a working knowledge of the original Die Hard film starring Bruce Willis.  But just in case you need to be brought up to speed here’s the gist of the film: John McClane, one of New York’s finest, fly’s out West to Los Angeles to meet with his wife in an attempt to save their marriage.  He arrives at his wife’s Christmas party taking place on the upper levels of Nakatomi Plaza where things quickly turn for the worse when armed gunmen take over the building in an effort to loot the vault.  McClane manages to elude detection (at least initially) and wages a one-man war on the heavily armed robbers to free the hostages – a few “Yippy-ki yays!” later McClane saves his wife and the day.  It’s also the plot of NP.

 

nakatomi-plaza-1.jpg (56726 bytes)          nakatomi-plaza-2.jpg (51310 bytes)

 

The shortest review that can be given of NP is that it’s a solid first-person shooter with some hours of shooting fun with at least one odd design decision.  While the one-line review is simplistic it gets the point across and sums up everything I’m about to go through.

 

NP has two aspects that I really liked and actually affect gameplay.  The first is the “lean” feature.  In most first-person shooters you come up to a corner and have to duck out and expose yourself to potential danger when scouting an area.  NP is allows you to lean around corners making you a smaller target.  While playing on the lower difficulty settings you don’t have to worry much about barreling around corners with guns blazing.  But playing on the higher settings, like “Die Hard with a Vengeance”, the cautious approach wins out over dumb heroics every time.  Another aspect that I initially thought was completely useless are the three “health” bars: one for your health, one measuring stamina, and one showing your morale level.  These need to be carefully monitored in order to have any tactical advantage.  McClane can’t run forever and when he’s totally out of breath he can no longer run.  Stopping to rest somewhere allows him to catch his breath and continue on.  This leads to moments so often seen in action movies where the protagonist has to cross a loading bay using boxes as cover, often stopping to catch his breath before diving forward under a hail of bullets -- lots of tension.  Big points for both of these aspects.

 

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Each Diggle has a complete set of statistics (and inventory), which have to be monitored for efficient movement through a level.  You can set the amount of time each Diggle spends working and how much leisure time they get.  It’s during the leisure time that they take care of the essential things like sleeping, eating roasted hamsters, and walking on their hands.  You can make them work non-stop but the results aren’t pretty.

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Levels are modeled after the movie counterparts with a few side trips not seen in the film, like the parking garage where you have to help limo driver, Argyle, get to safety or confrontations with members of L.A.'s SWAT team.  Challenges during the course of a level don’t make much sense if you haven’t seen the film.  At the start of each new area hit “O” to see what the objectives are, otherwise you have no idea what you should be doing.  Puzzles are not mind taxing.  Much of them are electricity based meaning you’ll be using the wire cutters often.  Though above all else, the action prevails.

 

There are lots of small touches to each area – like the floors that are still under construction with various power tools lying around – that add a sense of “movie realism” to the game.  Actually the half-constructed areas were my favorite except for one glaring point – boards that are bulletproof.

 

After blasting various bad guys I knew I had to get through a doorway blocked by three boards.  Unloading two full clips of ammo into the boards did no damage.  I attempted various solutions but I was stuck – that is, until I figured out that a fireman’s axe about halfway through the level was the solution.  Three whacks and the boards were gone.  While it annoyed me that bullets couldn’t bring down three flimsy-looking wooden boards, it brought to light the inventory system.

 

Most shooters let you walk around with enough hardware to make Rambo blush.  NP is no different but the inventory management is convoluted.  Instead of sticking with the tried and true "1 - 9 weapon slots" NP's weapon and item inventory is handled with 1 and 2, and switching the guns takes practice.  Changing to another item, such as the wire cutters, isn’t intuitive and when time is a factor or you’re being fired upon this can result in many deaths. (Try attacking a bad guy with the wire cutters – it doesn’t work.)  The items and weapons themselves all behave the way you would expect them to and some items can be picked up but are immediately dropped upon switching back to a gun, like the fireman’s axe. 

 

nakatomi-plaza-3.jpg (55706 bytes)         nakatomi-plaza-4.jpg (57370 bytes)

 

The graphics and animation are good (especially the flashbang effect), but there are instances of strange clipping.  It doesn’t turn up often (or maybe I just recognized trouble spots and avoided them) and any future patches would probably take care of any niggling details.  Cutscenes closely follow the movie (to a point) and the voice acting is surprisingly good (for the most part).  Some of it sounds like it has been ripped directly from the movie, but there are instances of the terrorists sounding like employees from H.A.R.M. (the villainous organization of No One Lives Forever fame).  The actor for Mclane nails the movie lines and is entirely convincing even after hearing him shout, “Locked!” for the hundredth time as he tries to open a door.  Fans of the movie will be pleased to know all the profanity is included, even the oft-quoted “Yippy-ki yay!” denouement.

 

Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza is a good first effort from the mod creators turned game creators at Piranha Games.  While it may not revolutionize the genre, fans of the movie shouldn’t be disappointed.  The ability to lean around corners and the addition of the three fatigue levels adds another dimension to the game but the straightforward shooting nature doesn’t stray much from convention – but that certainly doesn’t mean you won’t have fun.

 

- Omni

 

Omni's Note: There are a couple of things that make me suspicious that Nakatomi Plaza will be ported to the console world.  There are only 5 save slots (minus the auto and quicksave slots) and there is no multiplayer -- how do you compete with Counter-Strike and Tactical Ops? -- but coupled with the inventory system operated by two buttons, NP seems console band.  Keep in mind this is complete speculation.

 

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