Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza Improved Edition Review

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Die Hard is one of the greatest action movies ever made. It not only spawned several sequels but also video games. One of them is Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza. A first-person shooter based on the first film, released for PC in 2002. Unfortunately, it’s an awful game and does a terrible job at representing what makes the film so good. Regardless of my opinion of it, there appears to be some people out there that actually enjoy the game or at least want to improve it. Die Hard: Improved Edition is a mod that changes some things in an effort to improve or enhance the experience. I’m going to quote part of the description on the mod’s Moddb page; “Most changes made for more fun, challenging and a bit more realistic gunplay.”

First I’m going to talk about what Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza is, why it’s so terrible, and then I’ll talk about what this mod actually changes. Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza is supposed to be a video game adaption of the first Die Hard film. The story goes that NYPD Detective John McClane travels to Los Angeles to reunite with his family. While attending a Christmas party hosted by his wife’s employer at Nakatomi Plaza, terrorists seize the building and take everyone except John hostage. He makes it his mission to stop the terrorists and save the hostages and his wife. The game adds content that wasn’t seen in the film including new areas, characters, and additional terrorists. I’m fine with the changes and I actually don’t mind the developer’s attempt to expand on what was seen in the film. This is a video game after all.

So what makes Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza terrible? Well it’s janky, buggy, the AI is shit, several character’s don’t even resemble their on-screen counterparts, the voice acting is atrocious, and much of the dialogue ripped from the film is butchered. The gameplay is average at best. Enemies aren’t very bright and will shoot at you with bouts of pinpoint accuracy and boss-type foes are bullet sponges. The gameplay can be very trial-and-error, some of the “missions” (if you want to call them that) are poorly designed, and several levels are confusing. In my opinion, the best thing going for Nakatomi Plaza is the environments. Several areas seen in the film are well represented in the game.

Die Hard: Improved Edition aims to improve the gameplay by tweaking some things. Gameplay changes were made to each difficulty but the mod page indicates it’s primarily designed to be played on Hard. To be clear, this mod doesn’t overhaul the game nor does it change it from being a terrible game to an amazing game. The creator claims it makes the game a bit more tactical. In my opinion, it just makes it slightly more tolerable. Two of the most noticeable changes include reduced recoil and boss health. Other changes include longer bullet distance, increased fire extinguisher “ammo” capacity, longer reach for the wire cutters, and now you can shoot the SWAT guys in the Sewer Level without resulting in a Game Over although I never knew that could happen. I guess I never tried. Regardless, I shot them and confirmed it did not result in a game over. Although, shooting the SWAT guys you’re supposed to escort does. The mod does not change enemy behavior, presentation, or make it any less janky.

The Improved Edition mod page explains how some of the mechanics work and what the changes do. The increased bullet range or distance means you can shoot enemies from farther away. This actually becomes very beneficial when up against any group of foes and bosses. You should still take cover and lean around corners during firefights but now you have the option to engage them from a safer distance. The mod page explains that, in the vanilla game, many of your shots will not connect and the mod changes it so they do. Apparently, you could unleash a barrage of bullets at close range and several of them would just disappear. Ultimately, the mod makes it so shooting feels better in general and that your shots are more accurate.

Despite the improved gunplay, the mod doesn’t save the gameplay from most of its other faults. Because the enemy behavior is unchanged, enemies still act stupid and because of their bouts of pinpoint accuracy, several encounters can still be frustrating. But on the plus side, you can take down the boss-type foes much quicker now because they’re less spongey. The mod does eliminates infinite respawning enemies and the mod page claims most dead bodies will stay on the ground. Not all of them but most. I saw quite a few disappear.

The Improved Edition is a gameplay mod so it does nothing to improve or enhance the presentation. Nakatomi Plaza is still a buggy game and you will want to limit the framerate on modern systems because if it’s too high, you’ll encounter significant mouse lag and it’s unplayable. I witnessed textures stretch across the screen, I would get stuck on things every so often, and I clipped through parts of the environments a few times.

Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza is a mess and it was a bad game even in 2002. I think it would take a lot more than what the Improved Edition does to improve it to the point of reaching the “good game” status. At least in my opinion. However, the Improved Edition mod is not bad by any means. I have no issues with the mod, itself. It just doesn’t change or enhance enough to make the experience that much better. But it does make the gameplay more tolerable and a bit less frustrating. I did play on the Hard difficulty as the mod page recommended and didn’t have any more trouble getting through it than I did during my vanilla playthrough on Normal. So I guess the mod makes the gameplay easier because it rebalances it in your favor. As of this review, the mod is still in beta so maybe there are plans for even more changes.

I still wouldn’t recommend Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza to anyone and the Improved Edition certainly doesn’t make it a must-play now. But the mod, itself, is good and I appreciated the changes made. It just doesn’t change enough to make the game worth playing. If you actually enjoyed the vanilla game then I would absolutely recommend the Improved Edition mod. I can’t say it makes the experience more challenging or drastically different but in my opinion, everything it changes is for the better.

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