Die Hard Trilogy

die harder.jpg

“Not my day”.
Two terrorists behind the taxi. POP POP. Another runs from the right, behind a police car. POP.
“Get outta my way!!”
A terrorist by the airport entrance. POP. Knifeman behind the police officer on the right. POP.

It’s amazing that after 15 years, my muscle memory can still remember the beats of the opening level for Die Harder, the light-gun game included in the excellent Die Hard Trilogy on PS1, Saturn and Windows. I even found myself mouthing the barks from the terrorists and civilians as the action played out.  “Hey, cop!”. POP.

The game was sandwiched between Die Hard, a fairly average third-person shooter where you rush through Nakatomi Plaza in a hostage hunt and Die Hard with a Vengeance, a fun driving game where you hunt for bombs hidden around New York in various vehicles. The package felt like amazing value in 1996 and as the game is very common and cheap to grab today, feels essential for collectors or even for those who are just curious.

I actually returned to the game in the search for inspiration for a Christmas themed article. I played around 20 hours worth of different games, mostly from the 16-bit era, but landed on Probe Entertainment’s movie tie-in for the most amount of time. To be frank, it was one of the few games in my research I enjoyed, both when it was new and today. I realise there is open debate as to whether the movies are in fact Christmas movies and by extension - the video-games. All I can say is “Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho!”.

As a site that focuses only on games we enjoy, the opportunity to talk about movie tie-ins isn’t going to appear too regularly. Probe Entertainment were frequent guns for hire in throwing together licensed titles. Mostly with horrendous results, unfortunately. When working with major properties, a studio can face many restrictions from the IP holder which can make developing a great game very challenging. With the Die Hard licence, you get the feeling that Probe were given the chance to let their hair down.

Die Hard Trilogy is ridiculous. It is also ridiculously violent. Although killing civilians isn’t encouraged in any way; Their bloody, slapstick deaths when collateral damage occurs is cause for great entertainment for those who are slightly disturbed like myself. A stray bullet would turn the typically white-clad hostages’ clothes blood red, arterial spray gushing everywhere, their insides creating a crimson pool as they scream and flop around. How does the game’s Bruce Willis impersonator respond to this tragic error? “Sorry, pal”.

Running down a pedestrian in Vengeance would cause them to smack against the windscreen like a thin bag of guts. As their corpse eventually peels away from the glass, your windscreen wipers politely kick in to clear away the mess. At the end of each level, your hostages saved bonus is counted by showing them all on screen at once, blowing up the ones you didn’t find. Your health bonus is presented in the same way, except with dozens of John McClane clones exploding to represent your damage taken. GTA had all of the attention, but it had nothing on Die Hard Trilogy in terms of gratuitous violence. It was clearly tongue-in-cheek fun, but it caught the attention of the German age ratings board, banning the game before release.

Collateral damage is a theme throughout. You are rewarded for avoiding it, but the fact this statistic exists at all reveals that accidents are an inevitability. So assured were the developers that bullet hits, explosions and car crashes in all the wrong places were going to occur, that an incredible amount of detail was put into the destruction of the environment. Practically everything can be burnt, crushed or have holes punctured through it, in a manner that is very impressive considering the hardware it is running on.

For a game that features running and gunning, lightgun shooting and driving games on one disc, there is a good few hours of fun to be had. Although Die Hard Trilogy’s three parts are far from the best in class in their respective genres, the action is fast and controls well, without pretending to be anything more than a bloody mess of guns and explosions. A product of its time, we could never see a product like this today. Although the settings and characters are in place, there is no story to be had. I actually applaud the fact that it is assumed that you have seen the movies and are placed in those worlds to go crazy and put yourself in John’s shoes (or bare feet) for a few hours. Never in today’s HD era could we see a licensed game like this throw narrative to one side and just let the player loose.

Due to the success of the game, a sequel, Die Hard Trilogy 2: Viva Las Vegas was released around three years later. The same three game format was used, with the exact same genres. Alas, rather than pushing the concept further, or improving the gameplay, the game was inferior to the original, most likely due to the fact that the original team were not given development duties. Stick with the original version of the game.

One thing worth noting if this article has made you want to look through eBay for a copy of your own: be aware that light-guns for PS1 and Saturn do not work on modern televisions, they will only work on CRT screens. The PS1 version is also not compatible with the G-Con gun, but it is compatible with the PlayStation Mouse if you don’t fit the above criteria.

ReviewEarl Bakerretro