“The Name is McClane. John McClane.”
Die Hard, Die Harder and Die Hard with a Vengeance are for sure one of the most well known action trilogies around. The recent rumours about a fourth title in production mobilized the fans of ex-cop John McClane and it was only a matter of time that the industry reacted and some Die Hard games began to appear.
Die Hard: Vendetta is the newest title from the Die Hard franchise and the first title from the series for the Nintendo GameCube. The PR people at Vivendi Universal and even Nintendo worked hard on promoting the title – if the game can live up to the hype this review will try to tell.
You are John McClane, ex-cop, terrorist slayer and hostage rescuer. Having problems with rules and authorities never stopped you and you are a one-man army that has “solved” critical hostage situation that even the FBI couldn’t handle. “Solving” a problem normally means increasing the percentage of lead in your enemies to a lethal level - not much puzzle solving involved here.
Die Hard: Vendetta plays some time after the third movie. McClane has quit active police duty once and for all (again) and his daughter Lucy just graduated from the police academy. Her first job is to watch over an art gallery event - risk free it seems, just as her dad would like it – and of course it does turn out another way. Things get messy when terrorists (no they are not Islamic fundamentalists – if you want to know something about those go to our review of Al Qaeda Hunting 3D) take the visitors and Lucy hostage. Now take a guess what her daddy, John does when he hears about the hostage situation on TV... yes lots of shooting is involved. We will take a break here - more of the story will be only revealed to you if you play the game yourself...
The first thing you always encounter when starting a game are the graphics so let’s start there too. Be warned though - graphics aren’t the strong point of Die Hard: Vendetta.
I have to admit I perhaps expected too much. The graphics are perhaps not that bad but knowing what can be done with the GameCube’s graphic power, I have to criticize the result. While the levels and environment do offer the degree of detail and quality you can expect from a first person shooter these days, the models don’t. Not only is there an extreme lack of different models but they don’t look realistic or nice as well. Only two different policemen models (black & white) for the hundreds of policemen you encounter during the game (they even share the same name if you look at their tags) are just not enough, and only two or three different (and reused) enemies and / or civilians per level are neither. The texturing used for the faces isn’t up to date as well. The noses are too broad. There is no facial expression to speak of and your reporter nemesis Dick Thornberg looks like he was beaten up seriously (in situations where he wasn’t). The best graphical feature is in my opinion the water, because at times it looks nearly as nice as in Morrowind. Obviously, a game can’t rely completely on water effects to impress gamer’s, and that’s why Die Hard doesn’t score too well in that department.
Like I stated before graphics are a little weak in Die Hard: Vendetta - but let’s see what else the game has to offer and let’s take a look at the game (play) itself.
In the start Die Hard seems to be your ordinary FPS. FPS on consoles always gave me a hard time because I couldn’t react quickly enough. Knowing this (obviously they read my posts on various message boards requesting a keyboard and a mouse for my console) the developers offered some features that make my and other Console FPS player’s lives easier. First an auto aiming feature - I know many of you will now cry out “aagh so lame” but the developers balanced the game quite well taking in credit this feature – and besides you can turn it of if you are think you’re that good. One snag is that when using the auto-aim feature you don’t actually need to zoom in with a sniper-rifle, because the auto-aim is so accurate that you can easily hit with the least accurate pistol imaginable, from miles away even.
The second feature, which may not be quite as handy, but still useful, is the auto-jump ability. If you run (run not walk) to an edge McClane will jump at the right moment reducing the amount of actions you have to do at the same time.
The third feature is something named hero-time, which is something you accumulate when rescuing hostages. When using it you get an affect that’s identical to bullet-time in Max Payne, but after having played through the majority of the game I never actually needed to use it. Speaking of Max Payne; once in a while, when shooting a terrorist, the game decides to zoom in and go slow-motion as the bad guy falls to the ground. I don’t know why the developers chose to include two features that are obviously copied from Max Payne, but I guess some will appreciate their entertainment value.
Die Hard’s audio is somewhat better than its visuals, but it leaves some to be wanted. Instead of using Bruce Willis’ voice, John McClane’s voice-over is done by Michael Blanchard, who was also used in games like Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza, Aliens Vs Predator and No One Lives Forever. All the audio was recorded at Asylum Studios, and most of it sounds well. Not using Bruce Willis’ voice is somewhat annoying, but the rest of the cast is diverse and usually fairly appropriate to the person in the game.
The game in itself is 90% action and 10% stealth and puzzle solving. I hope everyone knows what to expect from the action part so I continue to the stealth and puzzle part. At the lower levels of difficulty you can mostly neglect the stealth part if you want (expect for some levels of course). Just kill everything and everyone in sight and be happy. If you want to take a more challenging approach, you can try to arrest as many criminals as possible. To do so you can sneak behind them and grab them – with a gun at his sleeve even the most evil crime lord gives up. Capturing important members of a gang can be very useful, because if their men are willing to listen to them they will all give up dropping their weapons. So with a little stealth you can earn a lot of points and ammo and keep your health safe at the same time.
The puzzle part of the game is mainly the need to defuse a bomb from time to time by means of entering a code; a deciphering device you can pick up tells you – a.k.a. hit all the buttons displayed on the screen on your game pad before the timer runs out – else “Terrorists win”.
Die Hard Vendetta is a first person shooter with some interesting ideas and a good story but an outdated graphics engine. Fans of the franchise and people who don’t care that much about graphics may want to take a look.