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by Sierra Studios

ss_flashbang_01_lg-01.jpg (3736 bytes)If you haven’t guessed it by now, Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza is a first person shooter based on the movie Die Hard. While Die Hard is quite possibly the greatest action movie ever made, Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza fails to deliver the same intensity and adrenaline pumping action of the movie.

ss_weapons_11_lg-01.jpg (4760 bytes)The storyline in DH:NP is identical to the movie. John McLane goes to Los Angeles to attend his wife’s Christmas party and try to save their marriage. The party is taking place on the upper levels of Nakatomi Plaza until terrorists bust in and take everyone hostage. McLane gets away undetected and sets out on a one-man war to save the hostages. Many of the famous scenes from the movie are re-created in real time using the game engine and they look kind of cool. Much of the dialogue from the movie, including ALL of the swearing (can I get away with a "yippee kai yay motherfucker" in a review Shawn?), is spoken. Sounds great, but it’s more fun to watch on the big screen than it is to play it all out on a PC.

ss_weapons_12_lg-01.jpg (6101 bytes)One of the things that make DH:NP different from other first person shooters is the addition of the morale and stamina meters that appear in the lower left corner along with your health. The morale meter is affected by how accurate you are, and how quickly you can get from objective to objective. If you run wildly around the levels shooting everything in sight, your morale meter will go down. The morale meter, in theory, will change how the enemies and hostages will react to you. If you morale is high, the terrorists will be more likely to fall back rather than attacking you. I didn’t really notice a change in the A.I.’s behavior no matter what my morale meter was indicating. It is a nice idea, but wasn’t executed very well here. The other meter, the stamina meter, is a bit more important. In Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza, running all over the place drains your stamina so you have to stop and rest every once in a while, or at the very least walk for a few minutes rather than running. This makes the game play a bit more realistic, but slows the pace of the game down to a crawl. When I first heard about the stamina and morale meters I thought they were a great idea, and I still think they are, but they weren’t used very well in this game.

ss_fire_03_lg-01.jpg (6115 bytes)As far as first person shooters go, Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza is average at best. While there were only twelve terrorists in the movie, you’ll kill about a hundred of them by the time the thirty or so levels are said and done. The firefights are pretty exciting, but they are few and far between. Every time you enter a new area, there are two or three guys to take care of and then another two or three come along whenever you complete a puzzle. I would have liked more combat, to be honest. Whenever you do come across an enemy, it is usually an easy affair as they stand there while you fill their chest full of lead. It almost always took the A.I. a few seconds to react to me, but by then they were usually just puddles on the floor. Occasionally they will toss a flash-bang grenade at you, which will completely blind you for about twenty seconds unless you hear it hit and turn away, but they rarely take advantage of your temporary blindness.

ss_zippo_02_lg-01.jpg (6300 bytes)The levels are modeled after their movie counterparts with a few side trips added on. Since the movie only takes place on a few floors, a lot of the levels you’ll explore in Nakatomi Plaza are brand spanking new territory. The handful of levels that were ripped straight from the movie are dead on reconstructions and look great. Just like in the movie, the levels that feature uncompleted floors have power tools lying around along with the stacks of drywall that you can turn on in order to create a diversion while you make a hasty retreat. There are puzzles scattered throughout the levels, but none of them are too brain taxing. They consist of using an axe to knock down boards blocking a doorway, using wire cutters to snip wires and open doors, using your trusty Zippo to light up dark passages, and finding access codes for doors and then finding the corresponding door. None of them are too hard, but it should be noted that you’ll be using the wire cutters a lot.

ss_terrorists_06_lg-01.jpg (6839 bytes)A big part of first person shooters is the guns and other goodies you can pack around to wreak havoc. In addition to inventory items like the wire cutters, there are several realistic weapons to use including the HK MP5, the Colt M4A1, the belt-fed SAW, and the Steyr AUG assault rifle. The MP5 is ripped straight out of the movie and is what all of the terrorists used. However, since the MP5 is what almost every character in the game uses, that is all the ammo you’ll find. Ammo for everything else is pretty much limited to the ammo that was in the gun when you found it. All of the guns have a realistic spread and recoil, but there is a big problem with the MP5. In the "real world", the MP5 is widely considered to be the most accurate machine gun in the world, but in DH:NP, the recoil is so severe that it is actually quite a chore to keep it on target. In a game striving for realism, omissions like this only serve to spoil the atmosphere.

ss_weapons_04_lg-01.jpg (7321 bytes)The graphics in Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza are pretty rough. DH:NP uses the latest LithTech 3-D engine but not nearly as well as other recent releases No One Lives Forever and Alien vs. Predator 2, both of which also use the LithTech engine. The environments range from decent looking fully furnished offices to stark unfinished hallways. Big blocky low resolution textures give everything a blurry appearance that seriously suffers when compared to first person shooters released within the last six months or so. Similarly, the character models are simple and look rather ugly. Their movements are very stiff and seem unnatural, especially their facial movements. Strangely enough, despite the fact the graphics are rather crude looking, the frame rate suffers when there is more than one guard on screen. This was a severe problem as the game would get so choppy it was unplayable. Lowering the resolution helped somewhat, but the fact that the game ran this poorly on a 1.8GHz Pentium 4 with a GeForce 3 is unacceptable. Bad graphics are one thing, but a bad frame rate to go with them is a frustrating combination.

ss_terrorists_01_lg-01.jpg (7469 bytes)Sound wise, DH:NP is actually pretty good. Rich orchestral scores perfectly match the action and sound like they are straight out of the movie. Each of the characters also speaks nearly every line of the movie, and the voice acting is acceptable. John McLane sounds sort of like Bruce Willis, close enough for me. Hans Gruber has a fake sounding German accent but, again, it was close enough for me. Most of the main characters are this way, not perfect, but close enough.

Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza is a very average game. Imperfections in poorly implemented features like the morale and stamina meters are magnified by the less than stellar graphics. I will admit that it is somewhat satisfying to play this game and relive some of my favorite movie moments. Once you get tired of the cruddy graphics and less than stellar A.I., which should be rather quickly, there is nothing here to keep you playing. The lack of a multiplayer option and the poor overall performance keep Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza from being recommendable to FPS fans. 

Eric Qualls   (04/29/2002)


Ups: Action-packed like a blockbuster movie, sort of; good sound; some interesting ideas being tried.

Downs: No multiplayer; graphics; AI; innovations don't really work out in the end.

Platform: PC