Monday, July 29, 2013

VGR Nakatomi Plaza

It's time to go back to the Nakatomi Tower.

This time from a First Person Shooter's point of view!

VGR: Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza
From Piranha Games/Fox Interactive/Sierra Entertainment      
Played on PC
Also available on /

Type FPS
Year 2002

Originally started as a mod for Duke Nukem 3D by Creative Creations, Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza was simply at first a total conversion of the movie into a heavily modified Build engine.

Along the way their project got more ambitious. They ported the maps over Half-Life's engine before simply pitching their project at Sierra/Fox Interactive directly. 

Fans that had been following their project feared the worse when their entire website was shut down... Before their comeback as a proper game studio as Piranha Games.

Nakatomi Plaza was now a 100% official licensed Die Hard videogamae adaptation. Now running under the much more impressive Lithtech engine.

The early 2000s marked a long time since the last Die Hard film, but that didn't stop 20th Century Fox from keeping the brand alive. Two separate videogame releases hit retail stores in 2002, with absolutely no link between those two.

Nakatomi Plaza was finally released in 2002 for PC around the other console-exclusive game.

For better or worse, it took half a decade to finally get Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza properly running. Did it lose some charm in the process? Read on...

Unlike previous games, Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza is neither a simple summary of the films nor an original story. Instead it offers a complete adaptation of the original 1988 Bruce Willis classic.

The player takes control of John McClane during the events of the film.. 

Everyone should probably already know the story, but here goes anyway: John's a New York cop that came out to the Coast to see his ex-wife Holly now living in L.A. with the children. Arrived at the Christmas Party taking place in the titular Nakatomi Plaza, taking out his shoes, John thought the flight was the only probably he would have to face this evening. 

Little did John McClane knew that a bunch of trained terrorists would be attacking the massive building and taking hostages.

John McClane will have to use his smarts and stay on his toes if he wants to save everyone and reach their leader, Hans Gruber.

One would think knowing or watching the movie would offer the solution for this kind of game... but the developers took some serious liberties with the plot. And it's not simply an hour-long story that you will have to go through but an expanded storyline.

Nakatomi Plaza is really... a mixed bag at first glance.

On one hand you have a bunch of talented creative guys that clearly had a lot of love for the source material.. on the other, they were quite inexperienced at the time and I doubt Fox Interactive did a lot to help them.

The story is told via both the first person perspective and some rather awkward badly animated cutscenes. 

While the graphics are fairly decent at the time, the game suffers from some shortcomings that detracts from the nice work that went into recreating the building/the real life Fox Tower in detail.

The game uses photo-realistic textures (given the technology available at the time).

The first thing you'll notice is that nobody looks anything like the actors in the movie. Fox didn't bother trying to get the right to use most actors. Very few characters actually look like the actors. Mister Takagi looks like he did in the film, Holly sort of in a Monday Morning-kind of way. But the annoyance douchebag-hostage Ellis or most of Gruber's men absolutely don't. To the point it's almost awkward watching these cutscenes and you would prefer skipping them to stay invested in the game itself.

Hans Gruber looks more like Jean Reno than Alan Rickman for some reason...

Nobody looks the part. Let's not even talk about Special Agents Johnson & Johnson's white washing...

While they got some imitators for the main actors' voices, Reginald VelJohnson reprised his role as Al Powell in a very nice little surprise. Which does a tremendous work at bringing some actual DH nostalgia through.

There are some similarities with the acting but my favorite is probably the new Bruce Willis imitator they got this time. Michael Blanchard is probably the weakest Bruce Willis impersonator I've heard playing through all these past Die Hard games. But he brings a sort of silly charm to the whole thing. He tries to say all these classic lines, quotes and catchphrases and never sound right never once.

Gameplay-wise it's a pretty classic affair.

It plays exactly how it's supposed to and that's where the strength of this game comes from.

It's a fairly classic FPS. With several weapons to find through the game. A limited arsenal I might add. But given the purpose of the plot you won't find lots of ammunition and there won't be that many choices of firearms obviously.

The game is a 38-level long action adventure.

As the bare feet John McClane you will face hordes of terrorists through the building, from top to bottom, back and forth.

It's nice to finally have a playable leftie character for what probably is the very first and only time in gaming history! Like Willis and the McClane character, you will handle the weapons with the left hand. Which can come quite unusual to some detractors but being left-handed myself I was glad they kept that intact.

John has access to his Zippo lighter to see in darker areas as well as inside the many air ducts you will explore.

There's also a Motorola radio which is not only some obvious on-screen advertisement but also the mean to both listen to Gruber and talk to Al.

Nakatomi Plaza offers a pretty unique health system composed of three elements, always present on screen via the HUD menu.

First there's the actual health represented by your heart ratio. It represents how many hits you can take. Then there's the stamina, aka the lungs ratio. It represents how long you can run and do other more physical actions. Finally there's the brain ratio, which represents your resolve. A unique system of accuracy. With kills comes more confidence, and you will become a worse shot under gunfire or taking damage too often this fear materializing by a decrease in the brain ratio.

All these stats can be taken care off with elements found in the various health packs hanging around the walls in bathrooms, etc.

To expand the story beyond the hour long film the game features a lot of additional scenes which allow the play to witness what John was doing at several points of the film off-screen.

Those were probably meant to expand the plot but they end up feeling like unnecessary filler material.

You'll find yourself longing to have the plot go back to the actual scenes from Die Hard instead.

They detract a lot from the plot and require a lot of suspension of disbelief.

The movie gave this impression that time was previous and running out. Yet here John apparently got the time to play in the parking, escape from the SWAT in the sewers nearby, save an architect from a fire in the building and even start one on another floor at some point.

The actual scenes from the film look brilliant though! Playing from John's perspective, they mange to get just the right tension during those moments.

Nakatomi Plaza is essentially Die Hard 1 "with extra cheese".

Never as serious as the original film, and often hilarious.

The game looks kinda bad until you actually start playing it.

The end of the game even looks pretty impressive without lights on several floors. It even brings a nice change of pace and a different look at some levels you already explored previously.

There's some places you will go through several times. Like the sub-basement and some other specific floors.

The music is also a big part of both the immersion and the cheesy aspect. It never truly recaptures the film and sounds more like the soundtrack of a B-movie ripoff. This original music was composed by Guy Whitmore.

John McClane will face a whole lot more than just 11 bad guys in this Nakatomi Plaza.

There are some bosses every now and then. They often offer several alternatives to defeat them by other means than simply pure firepower.

Overall, it's a pretty decent enjoyable "bad game".

It simply too bad they didn't go for a more open/simulation-vibe similar to the old NES game. It would have made Nakatomi a much better memorable game...

For all its shortcomings there's actually a fairly decent FPS game beneath all this - limitations at the time aside.

It's a game that also seemed much more impressive back then. Sure, it's a bit silly and ridiculous by today's standard, but still quite enjoyable despite its many, many flaws.

I even wish we could get all the other Die Hard films remade with this engine, yes even the new ones. Made with these same graphics and this same John McClane voice actor. Heck, remake all and any Bruce Willis film like this, even the comedies! Can you imagine a FPS!Unbreakable or FPS!Whole Nine Yards? I believe I do!
I give it:
2.5 / 3 Quacks!

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