John McClane is my hero. I know it’s almost a joke now, how Die Hard has become the new Christmas classic film, but I really do love this series. The first and third rank pretty high on my favorite movies list—no, don’t ask me about whatever this prequel nonsense is they are supposedly working on now—and I have played all the other available games based off of the franchise, but I somehow missed Die Hard: Vendetta. How did this happen? Well, probably because I don’t think most people knew what to make of it, and the good parts are quickly outweighed.
Oddly enough, at the time of its release this game was actually considered to be canonical with the movies for a while, at least until the game fizzled and Twentieth Century Fox decided to make another entry. Okay, so they probably wouldn’t have cared anyway, but somehow I still find this scary. See, the plot to this title takes place after Die Hard: With a Vengeance, following an aging John McClane, who is pulled back into action when his police officer daughter, Lucy, is involved in a hostage situation. I kind of like the idea that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. There is more to this plot obviously though, as the other person involved is the son of John’s greatest enemy.
Piet Gruber is out for revenge against the McClane family, and he has a lot of henchmen for our hero to shoot his way through. I have to admit that the setup, script, and even the dialogue actually doesn’t sound any worse than the last couple of movies. With that in mind, I was interested in getting deeper into this game, but was completely sold upon realizing that one of my favorite actors, Reginald VelJohnson, took time out of his busy schedule to come back and reprise his role as Sgt. Al Powell, one of the best characters in the movie. Sadly, he was the only original actor dedicated enough to his art to come back for this.
Developed by Bits Studios, this 2002 title probably had some promise. I mean, I’m sure someone was looking forward to it. The franchise is good and the movies lend themselves well to making a fun action-packed game, but no matter how simple it sounds, that does not seem to be the case. I know I am about to tear this game apart a little bit, but Die Hard: Vendetta does have some neat tricks with its environments, frustrating but thoughtful puzzles, and the ability to talk to almost every NPC in the game. I even found myself getting pulled into some of the level scenarios, feeling like it would be a cool situation to see John McClane shoot and curse his way through, and I wish I had more good things to say but…
Great, all of the background characters in the game have something to say, but sometimes missing one or not listening to them ramble long enough will mean getting stuck on a level for a while, which will kill the pacing in a game about shooting terrorists. The graphics unfortunately just aren’t good for the time. This isn’t just that they don’t standout or match up to the top sellers that year, but the odd looking character models, sunk in eyes, and in-engine cutscenes just give off a feeling that this could have been done better. This is one of the few titles in a long time I felt like I was actually turning my nose up to visual presentation, like that aspect wasn’t good enough, and I hate that. It is a hard feeling to shake though, and the length of those boring cutscenes made it worse. The sound is also weak. Bad music and lackluster voice work is one thing, but I personally hate that the weapon sounds are bland and fizzle into the backgrounds, making killing an enemy just not as satisfying. I will say though that this game has some of the most cursing in it I have heard in a long time, and something about it was refreshing.
Controlling McClane is jerky and almost uncomfortable, making movement feel sluggish and a pain on the quick turns, but it is the assisted aiming that turns many parts of the game into easy mode in close quarters combat and spray and pray when the bad guys are at a distance. There is a ‘Hero Mode’ that slows time while playing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Something I did not even realize was in the game until hours in and still barely used, because there are not a lot of times it is needed. Nice touch I guess, but it doesn’t actually help or flow with the game. The stealth is what kills gameplay though. It is difficult and makes navigating hostage situations a horrible chore. I had to actually look up how to approach one on the SECOND stage just to progress. I had a friend I was playing with at the time and even he was confused, because it was so damn specific. This was infuriating and those sections only kind of get better. Developers, please do not try stealth if you aren’t going to weave it in to the gameplay well. The levels are pretty standard and fit the plot, but become overall confusing the further in we go and the game will not help the player at all with this. These last two points both make it so easy to get the dreaded “Objective Failed” over and over again, which is partially why I got pretty far in my second attempt, but never finished it.
I guess for players who don’t mind spending most of their time dying, or care that a game doesn’t have much to draw anyone back in for multiple playthroughs, this could be worth someone’s time. I don’t currently have it in the Wilds Collection, but wouldn’t mind getting a hold on one of the European copies for PS2 and XBOX, because that version came out later with a multiplayer function. North American only received the Gamecube version, and I can’t find a reason I really ‘need’ it. I think I wanted to talk about this game though because it seems a lot of fans of the movie franchise like myself that didn’t know it was out there or had forgotten—now that I think of it, that was probably for the best
Update: I found a copy for my collection, but it’s for Gamecube. Don’t think this means I’ll be beating it though.