It takes a special game to be this legendarily bad. For starters, the marketing campaign where John Romero will make you his ♥♥♥♥♥. That alone warrants a 10/10 on Steam’s recommend this game. Daikatana is a first person shooter, made with the Quake 2 engine. If you’re into Quake 2 and speedy running, muddy textures and great gunplay, then chances are this is the game for you.
Since this is a Quake 2 engine game, you’re able to sprint fast, including turning sprint so its always on. If you want to move slow, you’ll crouch and move. You can jump and you’ll need it for some of the precision first person platforming. You’ll tackle run, gun, puzzles, avoid meat grinders and swim.
I feel the real barrier of entry was the first level or two, because it is a swampy mess of ideas and traps. There are hitscan turrets that will pop up and kill you pretty quickly unless you just run past them. In the second level you’re forced to destroy one, but after running from them, it seemed strange to destroy it. There is a laser doorway that will kill you if you walk through them, forcing you to take an alternate route, but an enemy drops a mega shield that announces ‘you are now protected.’ Yep from everything but the laser door the mega shield is in front of. It just seems like a poor choice. Announce that you’re protected, then have an unprotectable death trap. It just puts me off as a player to go through that level when nothing else is as bad as that. Nothing is as questionable as some of the design choices in the first level. Not to mention the excessively long introductory cut scene. Luckily you can skip it. Heck you can even go into the options to disable it entirely.
Once the game gets going beyond the bug hunt levels at the start of the game, Dai-Katana ends up feeling like crawling complex similar to Half Life 1. You’ll go into air ducts, up ladders, ride conveyer belts, solve underwater puzzles, use wall mounted health machines cleverly named ‘Hosportals’ and hit switches for a lot of things. On the other hand Quake was constant action with no button pressing and minimal searching or story.
Since you’ll be going through a complex, the enemies go from real frogs, gators and dragon flies to mechanical frogs, big mechs, hover drones, ceiling mounted sentries and typical soldiers. The soldiers will chatter before they start firing at you, and they’re not much of a threat. They just stand there and take bullets, in fact everything just comes at you taking bullets. Not only does the AI seem flat, but Quake had frills like enemies being knocked down from gunfire. Those touches to detail feel missing from Dai-Katana.
Outside of enemies, there are plenty of friendly folks just trying to do their job that will either stand there, run away or cower in fear. Those are nice touches that I did enjoy. Not everything is out to get you. You can still shoot them if you’d like. Sadly with poor enemy design and AI come corridor like levels for the most part. Most maps are just hallways and rooms, with one way in and another way out. Sometimes the hallways will go up a ramp or down a staircase. It is all very simple map design.
With lame enemy design and simple rooms to shoot them in, at least the guns are a joy to shoot, but you can injure yourself with every gun. You get to have an ion blaster that will bounce shots off walls, so you can shoot yourself and electrocute you if you shoot it under water. You’ll find rocket launcher, a sticky grenade launcher that explodes in proximity to enemies and yourself, some sort of flack gun that fires 3 times when you pull the trigger once and knocks you back. There is also a seismic bomb launcher that will fire a giant projectile that bounces around and causes massive splash damage that can most likely kill you or your partners, even through walls. The problem with every weapon hurting you is the poorly map design. Enemies are right there when you open a door or turn a corner. You’ll have to shoot a room full of enemies through doorways with doors that open and close. Since every weapon can hurt you, its an issue when the door closes and you’re forced in a bottleneck over and over again. It is not fun and it happens with almost every room.
One thing that makes the game stand out are the allies, including the legendary Superfly Johnson of course. These allies can sometimes be a help and you can command them. You will see them grab guns, shoot enemies and give you hints as to what to do next. They can crawl through vents and go up ladders to follow you. Unfortunately, they move slowly compared to you. When an AI partner dies, its game over. One AI partner is okay, two becomes a chore to manage. You can only command one at a time, so if they’re both stuck trying to run into a wall, you need to command one to stop, then switch to the other and command that one to stop. Then they will turn toward you so you can command them to follow you again one at a time. Wow. Half Life 1 did it so much easier, just target one and ‘use’ button to toggle so they follow you or stand still. Their path finding is awful and you need to exit with them.
Another thing this game has going for it is armor that allows your character to level up. Once you level up, you can put an attribute point to power, attack, speed, acro(batics?) and vitality. Its a nice addition, but doesn’t really feel needed or game changing. All enemies give experience points, even the ones cowering in fear not trying to kill you.
At the end of the first episode, you’re thrown through time into the Greek era and then medieval times. The enemies change to their era themes and you get all sorts of weapons. It might sound cool, but it boils down to 99% of enemies are melee and you have virtually limitless long range ammunition, upgraded damage and health with full armor. So I feel needlessly over powered when nothing can hurt me but lava death traps for 2 full episodes and hours of gameplay. That just isn’t fun, so to amp up the challenge, I use melee weapons and nothing can hurt me on normal difficulty.
Daikatana however has a load time based on V-Sync which seems odd, so if you have V-Sync enabled the game won’t just instantly load on my modern PC like other games will. You need to wait for the audio ticking of the load bar. I can’t seem to find any V-Sync control in the game or options. People have explained its in the 1.3 patch, but why wouldn’t the Steam version include it with this 15 year old game?
Going through the game I’ve found a few bugs and issues, things like bullets hitting things that aren’t there and the hall of mirror effect with untextured walls. Enemies dying a second time if you close and open a door before their death animation ends. Those are just visual, but issues of getting myself stuck in areas like traps are bigger issues that cause me to load the latest save game. I’ve found glitches that when opening doors it will freeze the game for a few seconds and when it opens I’ll be somewhere else in the room. The hover drones cause some sort of error when I strafe, it halts me as if I’m running into an invisible object. The collision detection seems off with the sticky grenade launcher so my grenades will stick to the air and the grenades wait for something to come close to them.
You need save gems in order to save the game. You need to find them. I guess I’m okay with that, especially since it saves you with every loading screen / check point. Luckily the options has a setting to allow unlimited saves.
The game as a whole just feels like poor game design choices with a great game engine like if you have a fast exotic sports car and the mechanic tells you it will run better if we put frogs in the back seat, flatten the tires and put it under water. There are plenty of moments where you might scratch your head not only as to what you’re supposed to do next. From youtube videos, I never understood why this game is bad, but after playing it, I know why its bad.