reviews\ Dec 10, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Die Hard: Vendetta - GC - Review

John McClane has a knack for finding trouble. Or maybe it is that trouble has a knack for finding him.

To get an understanding of the premise of the GameCube release, Die Hard Vendetta (a release from Sierra and Bits Studios), one has to backtrack to the original Die Hard film starring Bruce Willis. In that movie his wife, Holly, was held hostage with the executives and employees of the Japanese company she worked for in the Nakatomi Towers. The perpetrator was a thief named Hans Gruber (splendidly portrayed by Alan Rickman), who was under the guise of terrorist. All he really wanted was the vast fortune contained in the tower’s safe. In the end, Gruber fell to his death from the towers, McClane saved the day, and the movie industry had embraced many memorable characters.

Die Hard Vendetta takes place many years after the original movie. McClane is much older and has, in fact, a daughter (Lucy) who has just joined the force. She is on patrol at the Townsend Museum, her first assignment, during the unveiling of a priceless work of art. The artwork had been stolen, then recovered by Piet Gruber, son of Hans. His seeming goal is not to make up for his father’s transgressions, but to restore a valuable piece of art to the world collective.

Yeah, right. Lucy stumbles upon thieves removing some pictures during the ceremony, fires a shot, which her father hears while watching the telecast of the presentation ceremony.

Richard Thornberg, the television reporter, in classic overreaction hails the single gunshot as a maelstrom of bullets and blood.

John, hurries to the museum, guns at the ready. Captain Al Powell (from the original film and subsequent incarnations of the series) informs him that hostages have been taken. John, undaunted by the warning to be careful, focused on the rescue of his child, enters the museum. An explosion to the entryway seals him inside. From that point on it is up to McClane to save the day.

He will have to work his way through a bevy of gun-toting bad guys, rescue hostages, and pick up ammunition as he progresses through the museum to the big gun battle ­ only to see a helicopter fly off with main bad guy aboard. Los Angeles doesn’t really seem big enough to hid this thug, and McClane vows to track him down.

That’s the premise of the game in nutshell. This first-person shooter does have some very good features, but it also borrows rather liberally from other groundbreaking games like Max Payne.

The game’s sound is perhaps the biggest disappointment of this game. While boasting the usual array of henchmen shouts ("There he is!") to the realistic sound of guns, flame-throwers and bombs, the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired. Only one of the movie actors makes an appearance here ­ Reginald VelJohnson as Capt. Powell ­ and his voice is a welcomed relief from the tired, emotionless bantering of the other characters. Without Bruce Willis’ sarcastic inflections, the one liners lack punch or pizzazz. The repetitious phrases used by the training officer in the game’s tutorial level quickly become annoying. The special effects, such as the distant sound of the helicopter in the opening level that gets louder as you get nearer, or the sound of footsteps — which can be used to gauge how far away someone is — are well done.

Graphically this game is a bit of a mixed bag. The characters have aged, and perhaps the rendering isn’t as sharp nor the motion as fluid as it could be, but shooting victims do fall well and the special effects (with the exception of blood, which doesn’t look very realistic at all) are quite well done. Only one character bears any real resemblance to his movie counterpart and that is Al Powell. Of course, the familiar voice may have something to do with that.

The environments are interactive and if you put a bullet hole in something, it will stay there. Bodies litter the floor and don’t fade into oblivion moments after you shoot them.

The game introduces some special features for McClane, the primary one known as "hero time." When McClane does good deeds, like rescue hostages, he accrues hero time. Triggering it gives him a distinct edge on his enemies ­ liken it to Max Payne’s "bullet time."

Controls of the game are designed for ease of use, but some of the innovations do seem to hamper rather than help. For example, McClane will auto-jump off an edge, which is all right if that is what you are meaning to do. Auto aim doesn’t always seem to target the right thing ­ you can hit walls instead of perps, especially if you are trying to squeeze a shot in with the sniper rifle ­ and if you disable it, your weapon bounces around and it is extremely tough to target the enemy. The line between crouch and crawl is fine indeed.

There are collectibles along the game path, not only ammunition but med kits, which aid your health status.

Overall, Die Hard Vendetta is an action packed game that could have been much better than it is. The movies offered a great array of characters, and the flat dialogue of this game doesn’t translate that feel too well. Sure, the language does try to emulate the films, but it comes off as ineffectual. The audio track, control setbacks, and average physical graphics combine to make this an average first-person shooter.

This game is rated Mature for blood, strong language and violence.


Gameplay: 7
Some of the gameplay is structured around dialogue. For example, in the opening level, you know you have to go into the museum but can’t do that until you have a well-rounded conversation with Powell, which more or less reiterates the level’s mission statement. The cutscenes, which propel the story, are not as fluid as they could be.

Graphics: 6.8
The special effects are very good, but some of the polygonal characters are poorly rendered. A lot of the henchmen (a.k.a. target practice) are clones. The animation does look a little stiff, and there seemed to be some frame-rate jumps. McClane is standing next to Thornberg, hears bad guys coming and is suddenly five feet from where he was without triggering hero time.

Sound: 6.8
The vocal characterizations, for the most part, are disappointing. When you have a familiar icon like John McClane (Willis) you expect a certain style to the phraseology, which isn’t there.

Difficulty: Medium
There are three difficulty levels, Die Hard, Die Harder and Die Hardest. The latter two definitely provide a healthy measure of challenge. Some of the control elements increase the challenge.

Concept: 7
The game does have some very nice points, but also some detractors. It is very nice to have a FPS that realizes that one shot, appropriately placed, is all it takes to put down the enemy. The game does snag a few of its ideas from previously released programs. One nice element is that there is more than one way to move through a scenario. You may arrive at the same finishing area, but you can take alternate paths to get there.

Multiplayer: N/A
This is a single-player only game.

Overall: 7
Considering the characters, this is a game that could have been so much better rather than just an average shooter. The action is intense, and the weapon array is excellent, but the tiny drawbacks mount to hamper the experience.


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