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PC Review - Die Hard : Nakatomi Plaza

by Rainier on April 23, 2002 @ 2:10 p.m. PDT

Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza combines the exciting elements of the original blockbuster movie with a pulse-pounding adventure game set in an interactive 3D environment. This single-player game features an event-driven storyline that follows John McClane in his life and death struggle to overcome a group of greedy terrorists, and in the process, save his wife, the other hostages, and hopefully himself. Staying true to the original story, the entire game takes place in the 40-story Nakatomi Plaza office building on Christmas Eve, with our hero "accidentally" called upon to thwart a large scale burglary attempt by a band of trigger-happy terrorists. Whats the verdict? Read more and find out!

Anyone who hasn't heard of "Die Hard" must have been living under a rock for the past 15 years! The original movie, "Die Hard Nakatomi Plaza" was released in 1988, had 2 very successful sequels ("Die Harder" and "Die Hard With A Vengeance"), and they made Bruce Willis, as John McClane, a household name (and garnered a minor degree of recognition for Alan Rickman, playing terrorist leader Hans Gruber). Bruce Willis was already seeing loads of dead people back then!

New York cop John McClane has just arrived in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve. For the past six months, John's wife Holly and their two kids Lucy and John Jr. have been living in Los Angeles without John. In New York, Holly had a good job that turned into a career, and Holly was promoted to a powerful position in the Nakatomi Corporation. The promotion called for Holly to move to L.A. to work in the Nakatomi Plaza, a 40-story skyscraper where the uppermost floors were still under construction. John stayed behind in New York because he didn't think Holly would make it in California; he figured that there was no reason to pack his things and move, if they'd have to move back shortly after. A limo driver named Argyle drives John to the Nakatomi Plaza, and John heads to the 30th floor, where a Christmas party is being held. John gets into an argument with Holly in the office of her drug-using co-worker Harry Ellis, because Holly uses her maiden name Gennero instead of the name McClane on her nameplate in her office. Holly leaves the room to give a speech. While he's by himself in the office, John is wishing that this argument hadn't happened. A few minutes later, a group of German terrorists, led by Hans Gruber and his right-hand man Karl, enter the building and take everyone hostage on the 30th floor. John is able to avoid capture because Hans and his men don't even know that John is in the building. Hans takes Holly's boss Joseph Yashinobo Takagi to an office, where Hans demands that Takagi give him the computer code key that will allow Hans and his men to start opening the building's safe so they can steal the $640 million in negotiable bearer bonds that are in the safe. Takagi is murdered when he refuses to cooperate with Hans, and John witnesses the execution. Hans then tells his technology expert Theo to start working on getting the safe opened, and after John alerts LAPD Sergeant Al Powell about the situation, John is forced to kill Karl's brother, Tony. Now, Karl wants revenge, and John must keep Karl off his back and work to rescue the hostages from Hans, because other than Powell, the LAPD is not much help.

What does this have to do with the game, you ask ? EVERYTHING, of course! The game is based on the movie so we've heard and seen it all before the characters say it. BUT ... have you ever been able to get into the skin of John McClane and kick some Gruber ass? A-ha, you haven't! I'm sure by now everybody realizes I'm a big Bruce Willis fan ... so what? :P

Die Hard Nakatomi Plaza (hereafter referred to as DHNP) started out as a side/hobby project about two years ago as another Half-Life mod. After going back and forth, Fox decided to sign Piranha Games to make this a full game, using the well-known Lithtech Engine. Knowing that it was initially a Half-Life mod, it would be safe to guess that this game is a first person shooter. If you cross-check this guess with the bio's of the Piranha developers, you'll see more evidence: among the favorite games for half of the staff were Counterstrike, Half-life (what a shocker), Quake3, Unreal, Tribes, Jedi Knight, and a few votes for Everquest. Yup, they sure know their shooters!

Let's get onto the game now, shall we?!

The game installs like a charm, without too many options or tweaking needed. It clocks in at a little over 800mb. Knowing that the game is based on the first "Die Hard" movie, it is no surprise that it's filled to the brim with in-game movies and cut scenes, and for THAT, the install size is pretty darned small! The game begins with a movie that introduces John McClane arriving at the Nakatomi Plaza, courtesy of the funny limo driver, Argyle. The first level (if you can call it that) is pretty short, but it's tricky. You arrive in the building, talk to the security guard to find out where you wife is, take an elevator, watch some cut scenes, refresh yourself in the bathroom, and the actual game starts when you hear a gunshot. You walk out to the hallway and see that it's crawling with bad guys and plenty of guns. The tricky part is ... you cant shoot them because no matter how good you are, you'll end up dead. The trick is to just run to the door across the hall. Yes, you've reached the end of the first level ... was that short, or what? Luckily, the REAL action is about to begin.


Armed only with your badge, pistol and lighter, you need to face the first few terrorists and get your hands on their MP-5's. The variety of weapons in the game is pretty limited, but after all, this isn't some full-scale Special Ops game. At least it has a few more weapons than the MP-5 they mainly use in the movie. You can select from the standard 92F pistol, the previously-mentioned MP-5, M4, AUG (me personal fave), M60, an axe and a fire extinguisher. The badge, Zippo lighter and the CB radio are non-combatant items, but trust me when I say that ALL of these have their specific purpose in the game and WILL come in handy.

The inventory for the weapons is pretty simple, you only got 2 options being numbers "1" and "2". "1" usually holds your small weaponry like your pistol, wire cutters etc.. while the "2" has all the big guns. The lighter are badge are regular keyboard controls. Can it be any simpler than that? The only things that might take some getting used to is the way to select between the various weapons under each option but then again, you can only shoot with one weapon at a time anyhow.


The necessary health packs can be found in strategically-placed First Aid cabinets, so keep an eye out for them. Besides ammo and health you also have to keep an eye on two health-related parameters, "physical exertion" and "morale." What the hell are those? Quite simple ... As you run and your physical exertion goes up, you get increasingly tired, and your health decreases, until you can't run any more. So keep an eye on that because in some levels you will HAVE to run to make it (like the bomb level in the demo). Also, the morale factor is there for a specific reason. The decisions that you make will influence your morale. For instance, if you shoot a friendly or you need 10,000 shots to kill an enemy, your morale will decrease, and your aim will get worse and the enemy will become more aggressive.

One of the few things you will notice right away is the low "gore" factor in the game. There is some splattering blood when people get shot, but it, just like the dead bodies, slowly dissolves into floor and walls. This was intentional on the part of the developers so the game would appeal to a "general audience," but with game companies trying to outdo each other in terms of violence & gore," I am NOT sure that it was a wise decision. It's a very minor flaw, but I believe that the overall feel of the game could have benefited from it, because the actual movie is filled with blood, dead bodies, profanity and other fun stuff!

Level Design/Graphics

We all know that Monolith's Lithtech engine is a good engine, but you still need the skills to put it to good use. Although the Lithtech is not the latest and newest, you will notice right away that Piranha Games did an outstanding job in creating good looking maps/levels. Some of the animation, especially when people get shot and die, could have been better, but the character skins are so well done that you might not notice! Big rooms, small rooms, under water scenes/effects and even looking down from the 30th floor to see the Plaza being surrounded by cops, people and all kinds of items. Graphically, the game is very well put together.


It also deserves a separate mention that DHNP uses SoundMAX SPX's "Animated Audio." Basically, Animated Audio is kind of like a dynamic sound regulator, forever altering the sounds to ensure that you don't hear the same old noises/effects over and over again. The sound and effects adapt to the environment and circumstances you are in (such as your footsteps, which never sound the same).


What also has been appearing in most up scale First Person Shooters lately is the "lean and peek around the corner" option. You never know who or what is waiting around the next corner and thats why the "lean" controls come in very handy! It not only makes you a smaller target to hit, but it also lets you shoot at the same time, in case you spot any enemies. It would be much too easy if only the player could use this option, so of course, the terrorists also have free reign with tehe "lean and peek" move, finally bringing us around to a discussion of the AI. No game as of yet has waterproof AI, but lately the games have been focusing on improving the NPC (Non Player Characters) Artificial Intelligence, an effort that can be observed in DHNP. A few times, I was able to sneak up behind the terrorists without any reaction at all until I popped the first shot (on one occasion, I was able to sneak up to a terrorist, by staying crouched in front of him). Overall, the overall performance DHNP's AI was pretty solid. The terrorists put the "lean and peek" move to good use: they'll hide or roll for cover, fall back and wait for you, use their flash bangs properly or get into a better firing position.


Without a doubt, the highlight and the biggest disappointment of the game are the voice overs. All the jokes, clich├ęs and one-liners that made Bruce Willis and the "Die Hard" series so outstanding are incorporated in the movie, including the legendary "Yippee Ki Yay." Unfortunately, this is exactly where the major flaw comes in -- the voices are clearly not those of Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia (John McClane's wife Holly) or Alan Rickman (Hans Gruber, terrorist leader). The only member of the original cast who actually lent his voice is Reginald Vel Johnson, who played the funny cop (Sgt. Al Powell). According to Piranha Games, there were just too many legal issues and not enough money to overcome this. Very very Sad! The replacements do an excellent job and come quite close to the original, but they are still only replacements.


A very solid game (apart from a few collision/map glitches that surely will get fixed in an upcoming patch) from mod-gone-game creators Piranha Games. The game may not bring anything new and innovating to the FPS genre, but the game is fun, contains lots of action, good AI, good level design/graphics and a game every self-respecting Die Hard fan simply HAS to get. Did I mention that the game will be sold at half the price of some of the big titles? I saw it for $19.99 at some places, which makes this ... to Die for!

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