Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Not the words that John Romero would want to see adorning the start of the first review of the full version of Daikatana, but they're the only words that are apt. Daikatana was going to change the world. It was going to be the best first-person shooter ever. John Romero, of Doom and Quake, was behind it. Then came the slippage. And more slippage, until the word Daikatana became a running joke. Now it's finished, and unfortunately it isn't going to set the world alight. At all.
You can see what Romero was trying to do - create an epic. So instead of concentrating on one game and making it the best in the genre, Romero has tried to create four different games in one with the end result that none are up to scratch. Daikatana is spread across four different episodes, or ages, and each one has radically different architecture, level design and feel. The weapons are completely different between ages, as are your enemies and goals. Starting off in futuristic Japan, the game spans ancient Greece, Norway in the Dark Ages, and San Francisco future-stylee for the climax.
Funnily enough (or not if you've actually paid money for the game), the first episode is the worst. Rather than pitching headfirst into a slam-bang battle, you find yourself negotiating horrible linear levels packed with small metallic frogs, annoying dragonflies and motorised crocodiles. We kid you not. It gets better, marginally, and some of the open levels later on, particularly in Ancient Greece, are almost worth battling through to, despite the fact that they still feel sub-Tomb Raider. But not quite. The game features too many design faults, which is ironic considering Romero's reputation is based on the fact that he is the daddy of game design. All we can say is Daikatana must be his illegitimate child.
Take the presentation. The Quake 2 engine was good in its time, but its time was 1997/8 and it hasn't really got a place in the 21st century. It's been enhanced, but Sin was enhanced Quake II and it looks no better. Textures, for the most part, are dull and landscapes angled and very repetitive. There are also inherent problems such as not being able to fire through wide grills (the game engine reads them as solid blocks). Then there's the sound, which is dreadful. Effects range from clanging (when you hit most enemies) to annoying Americanisms and ridiculous taunts. Atmospheric music? What's that then?
You get all this in the first five minutes, which is about the time it takes for you to realise that the Al is on par with the original Doom and Quake. Everything work on two simple triggers. If you damage something it charges at you until you kill it. If you move into the line of sight of anything then it charges at you until you kill it.
Two Short Planks
You can do anything else you want and the guards and monsters in Daikatana will ignore you completely. You can spray weapons around an enclosed room, kill people who are standing right next to their mates, and even take your clothes off and dance around a room butt naked without causing the slightest bit of concern. It's as if Half-Life never existed. If you've played Doom or Quake then you'll know what this means. To progress, all you have to do is startle something, back-off and shoot until dead. Repeat ad infinitum, or until ennui sets in. And the similarities to Doom don't stop there. Do you remember the 'funny' messages that it used to spit out if you dared to quit the game? Well, they're back, and even 'funnier' than ever: "If you leave now I'll start working on summoning a Shoggoth to come and tear you apart while you sleep. Is that OK?" And, of course, if you want to quit the game then you've got to click on yes. Hilarious, John, really hilarious.
Next come the puzzles. And we're using that word in the loosest possible sense here. Press a button and a cut-scene appears showing you the door you've just opened. Sometimes, wait for it, the doors are actually on timed release, so that you've got to press the button and then race back along the corridor before the door closes. If you don't make it you have to go all the way back, press the button again and figure out where you went wrong. Now where did they get that brilliant idea from? Others are even more cunning. There's seemingly a dead-end ahead and two buttons in front of you. You press one and a message is displayed saying 'One More To Go'.
It took us ages to work out the rest. To be fair, some of the later levels pose more serious problems, but only in terms of navigating your way back and forward through various 'hubs'. There's nothing particularly logical and nothing that's going to stump you, it's just a case of wasting time running around until you hit the right path, or the right button.
No Saving Grace
There are other serious flaws in the game as well. Like the fact that you can't save the game without a save gem. We've got nothing against the concept of using limited saves, like in Soldier Of Fortune, where you start off with three saves on each level and choose when you want to use them. It makes the game more challenging and it stops you stopstarting the game every time you go round a corner.
But in Daikatana you actually have to find a save gem in order to save your game. In a game like this, where instant death can be waiting round any corner, it's madness and it means that you end up playing the same part over and over again until you work out exactly how to get through without being slaughtered. Boring? Oh yes. Irritating? Chinese water torture an easy option compared.
The ridiculous thing is that the game's been designed so each level is split into several smaller parts, and there's a split load for each one a la Half-Life. Every time you go through one of these points your game is saved anyway. So, if you know you've just got through a hard bit of the game and you're low on health you can retrace your route and save your game that way whenever you want. It just wastes more time.
To pull a veil over this hideous design fault, Romero seems to have scattered these valuable gems around at random. There's a distinct lack of them in the first episode and then absolutely loads around later on. To make matters worse he's even hidden some of them in 'secret places', so you can see them but you can't actually get to them without running around the corridors and brushing your body against cracks in the wall.
With Friends Like These...
There's worse still to come. Because one of the big new features in Daikatana is the introduction of the sidekicks. NPCs that you can bark orders at, and who fight on your behalf and cover your back. Only trouble is, Half-Life and Kingpin have been there and done this. And we already know, having played these games to death, that the concept isn't actually that brilliant in execution unless you take the minimalist Half-Life route. Daikatana, despite the extra year(s) that it's had, hasn't improved the situation.
In fact, you'll be glad to hear that it has made it worse because when one of your sidekicks dies in this game, your game is over.
Add to this the lack of save games, the fact that you've got no direct control, bar a tew orders -and they often ignore these orders anyway - and that their Al is on the bad side of crap and you've got some serious problems.
Friendly fire has been left on and your sidekicks often get overcome with suicidal tendencies and stray into the path of your bullets. Also, if they get hold of any serious area-damage weapons then you'd better head for the hills because they don't care whether they take you out or a couple of motorised frogs. But, just to show that we're not kicking the game unnecessarily, the sidekicks don't do everything wrong. They can negotiate paths and they don't get squashed by lifts like they did in Kingpin (although they do have a problem getting through doors or leaving levels on occasions).
Which brings us to the final ingredient in any shooter - the weapons. And Romero's certainly used a lot of imagination in coming up with some of the more bizarre creations, you can also look forward to a different arsenal in each episode. Just don't expect them to be balanced. So many of the levels are made out of twisted, claustrophobic corridors, that it makes it impossible to use any of the more powerful area-damage weapons like the Shockwave or the Sunflare. Use them and you or your sidekicks will invariably perish as well.
The weapons that get you through the levels are the ones you can use to retreat and fire at the same time, like the Ion Blaster (the first weapon you find) and the Discus. It might be boring, but it's the one sure-fire way to get yourself through the game. Some of the other weapons are just plain stupid, like the Hades Hammer. Apparently, this is the only weapon that you can use to defeat the giant statues, but we didn't have any problems at all dispatching them with our trusty discs.
OK, there are a lot of weapons, and they're pretty varied, but there's no point having the number if the quality and balance is all wrong. This applies equally to single-player and multiplayer Daikatana. There's nothing like Quake? s Railgun, or UTs Sniper Rifle, and there's no alternative fire mode to play around with.
If it all sounds a bit negative, then that's the way it is. We're not kicking Daikatana because it's an easy target. We were actually looking forward to playing it and proving people wrong by giving it a decent score. But it wasn't to be. We've given it a fair go and the game just doesn't cut it. In our opinion it's no better than Quake or Sin and it's streets and streets behind Half-Life, or even Soldier Of Fortune.
If it had been released on time then it would have gone down pretty well. As it is, we're sure that Eidos and John Romero will be pleased to see the back of it. Our advice? Keep your money in your pocket and wait for the first single-player games based on the new generation of 3D engines. Wait for Voyager: Elite Force and the like. If you've got nothing to play in the meantime then you can always download a good mod for Half-Life from the Internet.
Just don't buy this. Unless, of course, you want a distinctly average, old-fashioned, no-brainer shooter.
Better than the single-player. But still not up to much Daikatana was designed as a single-player game. Only trouble is the single-player game isn't much cop, which leaves this. The plus side? The Quake 2 engine has done the rounds on the Internet and, if you're using a phone line, then you're going to be guaranteed a decent frame rate - if you can find anyone playing it that is.
In its favour, some of the weapons work really well, including the Novabeam and the Ripgun. But just to counteract this you've also got the C4 Vizatergo, which has been designed with campers, like Martin Korda, in mind. It's a proximity explosive that you can scatter around with gay abandon waiting for someone to trip their way through your makeshift minefield. Rubbish.
And the rest is pretty much as you'd expect. Deathmatch and CTF (with security cameras, which is pretty cool) rale the roost and there are no bots, so you'd better make sure you've got a load of mates ready. It's not bad, but it's nothing new and not worth spending money on.
A hot contender for the throne occupied by Quake 2, Daikatamfs extended development period is ample proof of Ion Storm's commitment to making the best first-person shooter around. Beautiful game environments, multiple characters who work together against the common foe (ie roaming hordes of evil monsties), cool weapons and the expertise of John Romero (one of the men behind Doom and Quake) all suggest that Daikatana will be a force to contend with at the end of '98.
The game features four different time zones, each with their own weapons, characters and graphics. We anticipate a game that combines the hectic action of Quake 2, the inventive level design of Jedi Knight and the pure fun of Duke Nukem 3D. PC Zone readers will of course he the first to see the results of Ion Storms efforts when we run our exclusive review in December.
It's all going horribly wrong. Not that anyone's about to admit It, but alter Ion Storm have leaked employees steadily for months, the consensus on their future is that if Daikatana bombs, the explosion will take John Romero and Dallas-based Ion Storm along with it. Even though some commentators are already sharpening the knives, there's little doubt that most gamers are keeping faith with the industry's most conspicuous personality, tven on the strength of the early Beta version it's clear that Daikatana will be big. But the question is: how big?
The first thing to strike us when Daikatana kicked into life was that, considering the code wasn't fully optimised, the game runs incredibly smoothly - more so than even SiN and Half-Life. Secondly, the environments look stunning.
Daikatana is a traditional first-person game in most respects, but by being set in four time periods (ancient Greece, medieval Norway and futuristic Japan and San Francisco), it features more innovative weapons and other game of its type.
However, Daikatana is still in its early stages. Given the amount of time already spent on development this shouldn't be ' the case, and from what we've seen there's still a hell of a lot left to do. The Al is currently well below standard, but we can put that down to Ion Storm having to create stable code to send out. Even so, it seems that Ion Storm's last hope may well have missed its window of opportunity - the release date has slipped to June, which means it will be up against stiff competition from Quake III Arena and Duke Nukem 4Ever. But with their backs to the wall in some respects, Ion Storm are working almost round the clock to get the game into the shops.
Way behind schedule, Daikatana is certainly no Half-Life. But even after the recent exodus of key personnel, Ion Storm still have the talent to make the game everything it's been promised to be. Hopefully Romero and his team can weather the storm.
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Daikatana Screenshots and Media
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