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Die Hard follows the plot of the film Die Hard very closely. As John McClane, players can explore several levels of Nakatomi Plaza. Each level has its own theme, similar to the later PlayStation game Die Hard Trilogy - there is an office level, a level where meetings take place (with many tables, like one scene in the film), a rooftop, and even the vault from the film makes it into the game. The game presents the player with an almost open world experience. For instance, the ultimate goal is to disable the vault so that the Nakatomi Corporation cannot be robbed. Every four minutes, in real time, one of the six locks of the vault is open; theoretically the player only has 24 minutes to finish the game. However, the player can go to the roof and call for help (which is entirely optional), or choose simply to attempt to destroy as many terrorists as possible. Different cinematic sequences are triggered depending on what the player does. In that sense, the game's story is malleable, and does not strictly follow the events of the film.
The game starts the player off with McClane's signature Beretta M92F. After killing terrorists, the player can pick up sub-machine guns, grenades and explosives. Health is recovered by drinking cans of soda or snacks, which can be collected as loot from terrorists or from vending machines throughout the buildings. C4 and detonators can also be collected and can be used should the player desire to destroy the vault. Once McClane's health runs out completely, the game ends. Movement is eight-way from the top down viewpoint; that is the player can move at right or forty-five degree angles. Bullets are also fired in these directions.
There are several interesting mechanics in Die Hard. One mechanic is the foot meter, which measures how worn McClane's feet are. (In the film and in the game, McClane takes off his shoes before the terrorists attack and never has the chance to put footwear on.) Walking over glass or rough surfaces will wear the foot meter away significantly. Once the foot meter reaches the lower levels, McClane's movement speed is significantly impaired. The foot meter can be restored by collecting medical packs.
Another mechanic is McClane's line of sight. The player cannot see around walls or through doors or in rooms that McClane is not in. Areas not in the player's field of vision are blacked out. As all action in the game is unscripted, including the appearance of terrorists and their locations in the level, terrorists may often be hiding in dark areas waiting for the player to walk into their line of sight. McClane can use stairs, elevators and ventilation shafts to travel around the building. All the glass windows across the levels are fully breakable, and can be traveled through. As such, the entire world of the game is remarkably fully realized.
As the player progresses further into the game, the terrorists grow savvy to the player's movements. After killing many terrorists, for example, Hans Gruber will order radio silence, making it impossible for the player to be notified of the terrorists' movements.