That time John Romero made us his... what was it, now?
Rejoice, for old-school first-person shooters are back. But there's a curious absence in the throwback line-up. Almost every true FPS classic has its contemporary equivalent. Duke Nukem 3D has Ion Maiden. Heretic has Amid Evil. Quake has Dusk. But where's the reverent spiritual successor to the last true classic shooter, Daikatana?
Every element that defines the classics of the genre is exhibited by John Romero's magnum opus. Large levels rammed with deviously-hidden secrets. An eclectic selection of weaponry. A ceaseless onslaught of mechanised frogs. It's all there. Yet, the game is a laughing stock. An industry joke. It's completely unfair. Totally unjustified.
Okay, it's completely fair and totally justified. The game is a mess. It's a fifteen-hour escort mission and your protectees seem so determined to meet their maker it's like you're babysitting lemmings. They'll run into walls and just stand there like it’s the end of Blair Witch, they'll leap gleefully into industrial mincing equipment, they'll offer a game thumbs-up and winning smile as they slot explosive rounds into their own faces. What I'm swinging at here is that they are not smart. They are dumb.
Your offensive hardware is more likely to harm you than anything you point it at. The Ion Blaster – the game's standard pistol – launches green lasers that ricochet off any surface, including the floor. The previously-mentioned onslaught of mechanised frogs requires you to shoot at the floor almost constantly. Also, using it underwater causes heavy damage. The first two levels in the game are a swamp and a sewer. The next tool you acquire launches C4 that is allegedly context-sensitive but generally explodes the instant it leaves the weapon, killing you. Then you get the Shotcycler, a shotgun that fires six times every time you pull the trigger, with massive recoil. Then you get the Backwards Knifle, a rifle that fires knives backwards. I made that one up, but it's pretty believable in the context of Daikatana.
Yet – I do like Daikatana. I have always liked it, despite everything. Despite its greener-than-St.-Patrick's-Day visuals, despite its appalling sound design that effectively amounts to a constant droning Texas Chainsaw Massacre buzz, despite the A.I. who gib themselves like a suicidal Thanksgiving turkey. Why?
Because it's unique! It offers me an experience that's outlandish and outright bizarre. A spectacle. Insight into tortured development, design hubris beyond imagination. Again, a ceaseless onslaught of mechanised frogs. It's absolutely fascinating. Isn't that more interesting and entertaining than yet another boring ol' good game? You know that bit in every single film ever made where the team walks into a warehouse full of corpses and the guy says "What the hell happened here?" That warehouse is Daikatana.
In conclusion, Daikatana, while not perfect, is the perfect game and I strongly suggest buying as many copies as possible. I'm up to three.