Die Hard was one of those 80’s films that defined the era, a story of greed, corporate excess and heroism, where one lone cop can bring an army of Armani suited terrorists to justice. Bruce Willis made his name as an action hero in this 1998 film, and set the tone for a career playing tough loners battling to defeat the system, including 3 (to date) Die Hard sequels.
Die Hard wasn’t the first action movie to be converted to a video game, there have been many popular films that have suffered at the hands of the video game industry. It is rare to see a video game that captures the feel of a film, with many being based loosely on the plot and not really conveying the essence of the film. Early conversions from the 80’s would often be rushed into development without any access to movie assets such as the artwork or the original score, and in many cases the programmers would not even see the film itself, just a plot summary. It is no suprise then that many gamers would rush out to buy the tie-in to the latest action film, and be dissapointed with the result.
Fox Interactive’s 1996 game bucked this trend, having been released 8 years after the original Die Hard film, and included all 3 of the movies in the popular series. The idea of packing three films into a single video game was a novel one, where previous movie licenses had tended to focus on a single movie with key scenes featured in the gameplay. Die Hard Trilogy managed to captured the essence of the movies in 3 entirely different genres – 3rd person adventure, on-rails shooter and driving game, all in one package.
The first game in the series is based on the original film, Die Hard, and sees you scaling the multi-storey Nakatomi building to defeat the terrorists and rescue the hostages. Set in a third person 3D, your vantage point is from above and behind, viewing the maze of corridors on each floor through the missing ceiling, and allowing you to spot other characters which could either be avoided, rescued or attacked and killed. Starting in the basement car park, you can only see a part of the current floor, and have to clear each section of bad guys before you can gain access to the lift and rise to the next level. As an added incentive a bomb would be triggered after the last bad guy was taken out, and you had to reach the lift before it detonated.
The Playstation’s 3d graphics were put to the test by this game, as the entire level rotated around you as you moved, and walls became transparent in order to view your character as he entered rooms and passed along corridors. There were also some great sound effects, with digitised speech from both John McClane and the badies who would scream as you shot them.
Make it all the way to the top and you have to clear the roof of enemies and battle with a helicopter to complete the game.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder
The second title in the trilogy is a complete departure from the first, being a first person on-rails light gun game, set in the location of the second film, that of Dulles international airport, where you must foil yet another terrorist plot. As hero John McClane you have to defeat wave after wave of armed attackers in order to progress through the varied levels. Die Harder played very much like the Time Crisis or Virtua Cop arcade games, but it managed to get across the feel of the second Die Hard film, revisiting many of its set piece action sequences. The game was quite a touch challenge, requiring you to battle multiple enemies on screen at once, whilst avoiding taking out innocent hostages, and progression to later levels was not an easy task. The game was also incredibly violent, with terrorists running around on fire being offered a blessed relief via a bonus “mercy shot”, and copious amounts of blood on offer as your screaming victims die in agony. The scenery in Die Harder was also destructible, meaning that in certain sections of the game the screen would often erupt in a riot of explosions, human casualties and breaking glass. Of the 3, Die Harder has to be my favourite game in the trilogy and would have worked as a standalone title.
Die Hard 3: Die Hard With A Vengeance
The final and arguably weakest game in the trilogy is a driving game loosely based on the plot of the movie Die Hard with a Vengeance. Terrorists have placed bombs in strategic locations around the city, and it is your job to drive your taxi around the narrow streets of New York to try and reach the bomb and defuse it before it explodes. As such it plays a bit like Crazy Taxi but without the passengers and varied environments, and once you have played a few times the lack of variety in the game starts to grate. There are some neat features, like the handbrake turn, and the radar system which guides you to the correct road on the New York grid network. There was also a fair share of violence on offer in this final Die Hard game, with innocent pedestrians being mown down without penalty and blood splattering on the screen as you hurtle to your next objective.
The game was also released for the Sega Saturn, using the Saturn’s native lightgun. A sequel to Die Hard Trilogy was produced for the Playstation, entitled Die Hard Trilogy 2 (what else?) but this failed to generate the same level of excitement as the original.
Playing the Die Hard Trilogy Today
The Die Hard Trilogy is now much more difficult to play due to the lack of light gun compatibility with modern LCD TV’s, so if there was ever a reason to keep an old CRT TV in the house then this is it – along with the other great Playstation shooter Point Blank, and Namco’s conversion of the Time Crisis arcade game.
Even though the game is now more than 15 years old, it is still great fun to play today. In spite of the many games that have failed to recapture the essence of the movie on which they are based, if any game can lay claim to being a great movie tie-in, then Die Hard Trilogy is it.