Daikatana Demo Review #2

This review was published on 3DGaming.net on the 26 April 2000, nearly a year after the first Daikatana demo was released. It took a year for the second demo to make its way online, to coincide with the launch date for Daikatana – which hit shelves on 23 May 2000.

Bake me a Daikatana? That wasn’t funny the first time you said it, and it isn’t funny now.

Daikatana. It’s a word that makes me very happy when I think about it. And then I think about the half-baked multiplayer demo that was released last year and I wonder why it took so long to make another demo and complete the game. I’m not certain I’ll ever know. But at least I have the recently released demo to sink my teeth into. There’s a great many reviews already on the net that bash it and put it down. I’d like to express a different point of view.

The Single Player Experience

I guess I’ll begin with the single player, since that’s a big part of Daikatana. The single player in the demo is somewhat laughable. Things just happen because they can. There’s very little narrative cohesiveness. If I gave this to Roger Ebert to analyze he’d probably throw his book of movie rules at Romero and inflict a massive paper cut upon him. Things should happen for a reason, not because two people are stuck looking for one another while speaking horribly trite accents.

Although, I will say this much: the demo for Jedi Knight was supposedly horrifyingly bad, and look at how awesome that game turned out to be. Due to my faith in a stable final product, I’ll reserve a final judgement until I obtain a copy of the full game. Storyline aside, the cutscenes, which are rendered via the Quake II engine in-game, are absolutely breathtaking. The Catacomb level has a stunning opening cutscene that I found myself wowed by.

The single player missions are definitely disjointed, since there’s no cohesiveness between the levels. Wheel of Time pulled this same trick with their demo, which in turn caused the demo to be nowhere near as good as the full game. Nonetheless, it still turned out to be a fantastic game.

The Levels

Getting back to the topic at hand, there’s a decent bit of exploration to do in single player mode. The entire game felt like series of ‘find the switch and get out’ missions, and I don’t mind this sort of gameplay if this is how the entire game will play out for one giant reason: Variety-akimbo. This sucker is the most diverse fps I’ve seen in a long time. Between the Kyoto time period, Greece, and Norway, I found myself stopping and simply getting a feel for the different weapons and dropping my jaw at the level design, which really does deserve a round of applause. The levels, which are broken up into hubs, are radically different and are dripping with atmosphere and ambiance.

The Weapons

The weapons are a welcome change of pace from pathetic gun, middle range gun, rapid-fire gun, big damn gun, and rocket-launcher-clone gun. Each weapon suited the age in which it was presented. And the weapons are really really fun. I love the Discus of Daedalus; it is such a cool weapon! Believe me when I say that you’ll be using this quite often in the Greek levels. It’s too fun not to!

The Silverclaw is also a very fun weapon. I didn’t think it would work initially, but having it leave little scraping marks upon the wall (which the Daikatana does as well), plus the motion and damage it does, makes for a really fun weapon. Supposedly it’s the only weapon that can kill werewolves during the Norway jaunt. That seems to have changed, at least in the demo, since anything can kill the werewolves, who are absolutely gorgeously modeled. It’s been a while since I’ve seen werewolves in a videogame. I’m proud to say that they’re very well done, as are most of the enemies in the demo.

The Graphics

What about the graphics? I like them. I really like them. More so than Kingpin, more so than Soldier of Fortune. I’d place the graphics in Daikatana right underneath Heretic II, which utilized the Quake II engine better than any other game. Sorry John, you’re number two. On a side note, I’m anxious to see whether or not Anachronox will take the Quake II engine to new heights. It’ll be interesting to see how it turns out. Regardless, the graphics are absolutely adequate for the style of game that Daikatana embodies.

While it’s perfectly fine to argue that Romero should have used the Unreal engine, I couldn’t care less. The level design is all thumbs up; each time period oozes with atmosphere and the music perfectly compliments the already well established tone of each time period. It’s a perfect mixture that could have been great on Unreal, LithTech 2, or Quake 3, but it works perfectly well on the Quake 2 engine. Considering that Soldier of Fortune just came out using the Quake II engine and no one’s complaining, I see no reason to complain about the graphics in the Daikatana demo.

Models and Animations

The various layers (that seems to be the only way to describe it) that detail the models are wonderfully modeled. The models are also well detailed, although they are a bit blocky. But then, this is the Quake II engine, and it does have limitations. That’s not to say there’s no room for improvement. Apparently someone fed the sky crack, because the clouds fly by much faster than normal clouds are supposed to. I guess real life clouds must be on large doses of Ritalin.

The weapons are all superbly modeled and don’t seem the least bit boring; at least, not to me. There’s really not much to say here other than whomever was hired to skin the weapons and models did a fantastic job. Props to the environmental FX team as well; the rain was very well done, as was the fog and snow. Overall the effects in the game are really well done and deserve a large pat on the back (or the ass if you feel that they’re really special).

The Multiplayer Experience

What about multiplayer? I can sum it up in two words: Very nice. Now allow me to expand upon that thought. Quake II deathmatch, especially Chaotic Quake II, remains one of my favorite types of deathmatching experiences. I also enjoy a good match of Quake 3 or Unreal Tournament from time to time, but I haven’t enjoyed myself the way I have in Daikatana for some time. It doesn’t top Quake II DM, but it’s pretty damn good nonetheless.

The combination of different time periods, a diverse range of weapons, fast paced movement, well designed levels and background music all make for a wonderful experience. I would like to have seen some CTF or Deathtag in the demo, but all it offers is deathmatch. At least it’s an improvement over the previous demo. I highly recommend jumping onto a server playing in the Catacombs level, simply so you can play with the Discus of Daedalus, which is essentially a flying guillotine. It’s really cool! The weapons and the design of the level make for a really fun match.

Music and Audio Production

The music deserves some attention as well for being so damn cool. Will Loconto, Al Chaney, Will Nevins, and Stan Neuvo wrote the music. And it’s damn well written. I’d say this has to be the best videogame music I’ve heard since Wheel of Time, and I listen to this music while working. Yes, it’s that good. The interface is also pretty cool. No real complaints in that department, although I’ve been told that the interface bears a striking resemblance to Forsaken.

RPG Elements Ahoy

Another noteworthy aspect of Daikatana is its role playing stats. Yup, you heard me. To add some depth to Daikatana, rpg stats were added to the game. There are several different stats: power, attack, speed, acro, and vitality. You can build up your stats as you play on a server and over time as your level and stats increase, become a foe to be reckoned with, but when you log off the server, your stats drop to the default level.

So What’s Wrong With It?

So what’s wrong with Daikatana? I’m sure all you cynics and pessimists have been waiting for this. Yes, it has bugs, yes, they’re annoying and yes, I dislike them a great deal as well. All the textures are 256 X 256, but then, I can’t tell a texture that size apart from one that’s larger unless I look really closely at it, which I don’t do, since I’d prefer to play the game than have a staring contest with a texture.

The Voice Acting

The voice acting is also cringe inducingly bad. Is there a voice acting company that specializes only in videogames? I’d like to know where their office is so I can go gun them all down and hire new actors who actually know what they’re doing. It’s apparent that whoever hired the actors who supply the voices of Hiro, Mikiko, and Superfly was on something, because the characters sound like cliches and say absolutely annoying things. Did you know that Superfly Johnson is homophobic? Yup. And Mikiko is a man-hating lesbian. At least, that’s the way the script portrays them.

There’s also the lack of a variety in character animation. Sometimes in multiplayer games, it seemed as if characters were floating on the ground rather than running. It’s not a large complaint, but it’s still something I noticed. There also seem to be some issues with lockups that people are experiencing trying to play online. I’m not entirely certain who’s to blame for that. Outside of that, there’s not much to gripe about.

Enemy AI

The enemy intelligence is lacking. Enemies love to blitkreig me, like that damned werewolf. So I just kill them. Kill them dead. It also would have been nice to have the mouths move when characters talked. Half-Life made it possible in 1998, so I expect Daikatana to make it possible in 2000. A skeletal system would have also been nice. More skins for multiplayer mode would have been nice. And why do the robot animals attack me and only me? What did I do? It would have been nice to have an opening video explaining the story, rather than pasting a screen with text on my monitor.

Back to the Voice Acting, Though…

Let’s talk about character voices in a bit more depth, since I’m anal about this sort of thing. Bad voice acting can absolutely crush a game for me. The voice acting in this demo is absolutely horrendous and ear wrenching, but then, this is a videogame, and I have high expectations that Daikatana didn’t succeed in raising itself to. Hell, it’s not even my standards; it’s universal standards. This sort of dialogue I expect to hear in ‘The Collected Works of Roger Corman,’ not in a multi-million dollar videogame. Welcome to the year 2000.

Let me ask a few questions:

1. Why does the main character, Hiro Miyamoto, have an English accent?

2. Why does Mikiko Ebihara speak like someone from an old chop-sokki kung fu click produced by a crack smoking Jackie Chan?

3. Why the hell does Superfly Johnson sound like an extra from a 70’s blaxploitation flick?

Shaft went out of fashion more than twenty years ago, and nothing, not even that freak Tarantino, will resurrect that era of cheesy b-flicks. Really Ion, this should be common sense. And I have to listen to this through four different time periods? Maybe it’s time to start playing games stoned again. (Editor’s Note: These are not necessarily the beliefs of 3DGN, or… anyone for that matter.)

And for the record, I don’t mind the save crystals. I had no problem proceeding through the game and rarely used them. That’s not to say that everyone else feels the way I do. I’m sure this will upset many buyers who’ll want to save the regular way. Aliens vs. Predator had a similar option, and that was eventually removed and replaced with a regular save game option.

The AI for Mikiko and Superfly isn’t all that bad either. They follow me when I move, they don’t fall off cliffs, they actually fight… sometimes. But it’s not all that bad, although it does cripple my ability to wander around levels alone to some degree.

The Fear Factor

One of the complaints leveled at Daikatana is that the enemies simply aren’t very scary. Well, Daikatana isn’t a horror game; the monsters aren’t meant to be scary. People seemed to have been expecting something that would displace Half-Life as the best fps shooter around. It seems that people had the wrong expectations.

I found nothing wrong with the enemies. They are cool to fight though, except when they gang up on you in droves and you can’t get through them, then it’s simply frustrating. I can only kill a robotic frog, alligator and mosquito so many times before I begin getting a bit annoyed. Besides, who in their right mind creates robotic insects? The main baddie of this game must truly be one screwed up individual.

I don’t know what the deal is with some of the issues people have had with the demo, but I haven’t had a single issue with it, and I’ve downloaded it twice just to be certain. People are having tons of problems with the game though, and it just can’t be ignored. John, if you’re reading this, fix it, because the worst kind of fan is an unhappy one.

Bugs, Man – Freakin’ Bugs!

After considerable thought, I decided to reduce the score a point due to the undeniably huge amount of bugs that people have been experiencing. Poor Lowtax nearly lost his sanity (what’s left of it anyway) trying to play this demo. He’s not the only one. Hopefully a fix of some kind will be released by Ion to alleviate the demo of its bugs.

I’ve read a great deal of commentary from a variety of different sites, Evil Avatar, Something Awful, and others. Most seem to be fairly negative. While there are some truly outstanding bugs with this demo, that won’t stop me from focusing upon all the good points.

In Summary…

Here’s a demo that has five different maps, a variety of different weapons, fun deathmatch, good music, good graphics, and innovative ideas. The least this reviewer can ask of his readers is to enjoy the demo for all the positive aspects of the game.

The Goods
Size: 102.5 MB
Pros: Great level design, fun weapons, diverse levels, semi tolerable single player missions, fast paced deathmatch, good music.
Cons: Voice acting that should be banned by law, disjointed single player missions, touchy AI, show stopping bugs, too many biased detractors, Stroke 9 should have songs in the soundtrack.
Bottom Line: For 102 MB, there’s a good bit to be enjoyed here.

Worth It?
Download Factor 4/5
Overall Fun 3/5
Overall 3/5

Daikatana Demo Review #1

Originally published on 16 March 1999 at 3DGaming.net, this was the first of two Daikatana demo reviews (there were two demos, so – two reviews).

And this is what we call double the pleasure for double the fun…

Oh. My. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m the official “it” boy for Daikatana at 3DGN. Hell, I wrote a 13 page feature on it. And now I get to play the damn thing, and atleast it’s the demo, and damn if it isn’t a really cool frickin game. This game is multiplayer only, so if you aren’t interested in multiplayer games, please take a number and await your turn, and I’ll get someone to help you as soon as I can. Anyways, what was I saying? Oh yeah, the demo, it’s pretty cool. Read some of the stuff I typed below and you’ll see what I wrote. It makes sense. Sometimes.

Initial Impressions

After spending something near 3 straight hours playing the demo, I have to give Romero some credit; the weather effects are spiftastic, and the rocket launcher’s speed is equivalent to that of Quake, but there are some problems. I want praise first though since this game is all I wrote about for nearly a month. The speed. I love Quake II’s speed. Nice and slow. But Quake’s was too much. This seems to be right in-between the two. Not too fast, not too slow. If anything, it should be modifiable. For small, enclosed levels, make it slow, for the wide-open levels, make it fast. And make it a client side modification.

The Weapons

The weapons. The Sidewinder (the equivalent of the rocket launcher) is a fun little toy. Two rockets at once provides for a new twist. Very nice. The explosion is somewhat lacking, although it has earned the nickname of pitchfork of death amongst my community of friends. Yes, it does look like a pitchfork, but when it’s this good, I’m not going to care. Have a brownie.

The C4 Vizatergo. A camper’s dream weapon. My nightmare weapon. I know my editor is going to enjoy this weapon. I don’t. He’s felt my pain though. It’s a helluva lot better that the Quake II bomb gun thingy from hell, but it’s also a lot worse. What would improve upon this weapon? There should be server and client side based code that monitors every single mine, so that if a person steps over his/her own mine they don’t get hurt by it. Why do I say this? Because there are already retards killing themselves with their own mines.

The Ion Blaster. Wow. This is such an amazing weapon. I love using this bad boy. It’s like flubber as an offensive projectile. Super Jello. Wow! Anyone caught in my crosshairs with this weapon automatically knows the silence of death. And it’s green too!

Next weapon is the Disruptor Glove. Not quite what I thought it would be, but not as bad. This sucker still does a great deal of close up damage. I was hoping for some kind of disintegration effect, but I can live without it. Two to three direct hits and the opponent is bloodied and unmade.

The Shotcycler 6 is the odd child of the brood. I can understand the whole idea of reloading, but it takes too long and is a bit underwhelming simply because of that. It’s a powerful weapon, but the reloading is obnoxious. It felt as if though I fired 6 shots and then had to reload. How paltry. Either fix it or get rid of it, but don’t change the amount of damage it oodles out. The weapons aren’t bad, but they could be better. My main gripe is that with the exception of the Shotcycler 6, they all have the same color scheme. This bugs me. And I’m going to whine until it’s fixed.

The Bad Things

Now, onto the bad things. Sadly, there’s a lot that’s wrong so far.

I’ve spent a great deal of time contrasting the changes in deathmatch between Quake II and Daikatana, and the most prevalent problem is the sheer power of the weapons. Even the disruptor glove can frag someone in 3 hits. There’s something wrong with that. The reason that the multiplayer aspect of games such as Quake II and Half-Life work so well is that each and every weapon has its own strengths and weaknesses. The gauss gun is powerful, but only if you don’t miss. The sniper rifle is great if you don’t miss, but it also has the non zoomed firing option. The rocket launcher is powerful, but people can see the red dot and thus avoid it.

In Quake II the railgun is a great weapon, but it’s firing time is slow enough to not become a god weapon. The same holds true with the rocket launcher; it was slowed down to balance it out. Unfortunately, Daikatana seems to have foregone all such logic. It seems as if skill is no longer required. Just drop bombs all over, use the sidewinder, and collect the armor and health, and you own the game. There is no balancing. In addition, the weapons are simply too powerful. One direct hit from the Sidewinder can easily kill anyone. All the weapons are simply too powerful. It practically screams “No Newbies Allowed!”

Respawning and Internet Connectivity

Outside of that there are no real problems other than strange little bugs that weren’t eliminated, such as respawning and not being able to see the weapon being held, respawning with the weapon that was held just before being fragged, and an odd lag everytime someone is gibbed. Strangely enough, this last problem was encountered on many different machines, including my own K6-2 400 on a cable modem and a friend’s P2-400 (with 16mb TNT) on a T3 connection. I hope this will be alleviated by the time the full game is released.

Let’s move on to the maps shall we? Come on, I’m not waiting for you, I’m not the energizer bunny, that would be my editor Rick.

The Levels

The levels are the strange beasts here (although I suppose that my John Carmack skin for Quake II falls under the same category). The first deathmatch map, Gibbler on the Roof, is a blatant camping map. Someone could camp off the roof, off a railing, anywhere. It’s so utterly wrong and evil. And it’s only worsened by the amount of darkness prevalent in the level. Never before have I had to turn my monitor brightness all the way up to 100% to see what was going on in a level.

This level needs street lamps… or maybe a few skanky whores that Hiro can pick up after deathmatching, perhaps even some decrepit cars on the street to make the level look more interesting. And somehow make it harder for campers to camp. Once that is accomplished, then this level will truly rock. Until then it’s kinda annoying.

The second map, Storm Sector 7, is absolutely stunning. It’s reminiscent in atmosphere to that of BladeRunner and is my favorite of the two deathmatch maps. Whereas Gibbler on the Roof is very large and has many hiding spots, this does not. The map is very circular and much better lit. The rain effect is absolutely stunning.

And while I’m sure a rain mod can be downloaded as a mod for Quake or Quake II, what makes this map unique is that it’s not a mod. Someone implemented this into a map, and they did it incredibly well. And instead of being placed in the level for a graphical effect, it actually enhances the level. There’s a simple way to tell. Imagine the level without rain. And then look at the level as it is. It does make a difference. It adds to the atmosphere of the level, which is what’s important.

The Sound

The sound is about average as well. Infact, it could be a great deal better. Even though it’s been clearly stated that there is no 3D sound in the demo, with all the rain that falls in Storm Sector 7, I imagined that when I walked in the outer corridor, I would be sloshing through water. Instead I heard nothing of the sort. It’s unfortunate since I’ve come to believe that it’s the small things that make a game great. Hopefully when the full version of Daikatana is released, I’ll visit this deathmatch map again and hear the echo of dripping water and rain splashing on my boots. Until then the level lacks a certain ambiance.

It’s nothing revolutionary. But then, it was never intended to be. It’s supposed to be fun. Nothing more. And atleast it’s a helluva lot more fun than the Half-Life demo. At 34.5 MB, the demo has a fair amount of replayability if you happen to love deathmatching. Beware though, this is a deathmatch only demo. There is no single player to be found anywhere. That will be the determining factor in the download.

In Summary…

What do I say to those of you who rarely play multiplayer? Well, 5 weapons, 2 levels, and MPlayer. Not exactly a winning combination. If you want some pain, slaughter, mayhem, and hamsters, look no further than the Daikatana demo. But if you crave an immersive plot, stay the hell away. For those of you who ask whether or not it’s better than Quake II. No, it’s different. The whole feel is different. I enjoy both. But until the weapons are reduced in power, I’m shying away.

The Goods
Size: 34.5 MB
Pros: Nice level design, interesting weapons.
Cons: Mplayer only, weapons too powerful, no 3D sound, Mplayer only.
Bottom Line: After years of waiting, John Romero finally revealed a piece of his much-hyped game Daikatana. Except we can only deathmatch. While this may make deathmatch fans jump up and down like little schoolgirls, the single player people are left out. Without any really interesting maps and overly powerful weapons, the demo lacks the punch that would have made it much better.

Worth it?
Download Factor 4/5
Overall Fun 4/5
Overall 4/5