During the summer of 1996, I read a review for a Playstation game called Die Hard Trilogy and immediately knew it was the culmination of gaming existence.
Die Hard is by far the perfect action film that all others strive to be, but few come close. Being a Sega Saturn owner at the time and having no access to the internet, I did what you did in those days; I grabbed a phone book and started making phone calls. Now anyone who has ever called a store in reference to a video game will tell you it doesn’t normally go well. And it didn’t. I was first told that it was a Playstation exclusive (it wasn’t), while another guy denied a Playstation version even existed. Finally, an employee at Electronics Boutique (now GameStop) gave me the answer I was looking for: it was being released for the Saturn in December of that same year. Score! A Christmas with a Die Hard game — what more could I have wanted?
The closest I’ve come to playing a decent Die Hard game was the Super Nintendo version of True Lies, which was based on the James Cameron film. I would record scenes from the movie via my Home Alone talkboy and then play them over the game audio, thus creating a worthy Die Hard illusion. Come December, I would finally be able to play a real Die Hard game. As most know, the Saturn version was not as polished as its Playstation counterpart, but at the time, I never saw the latter version so I was content. To this day, it is one of my most anticipated holiday releases of all time.
So I now present to you a brief history of Die Hard inspired video games. “Welcome to the party, pal!” To fully experience this article, please play Run DMC’s classic “Christmas in Hollis” as loudly as you can. Thanks.
Released in 1991 for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Die Hard was a top-down single-player shooter that was not very good. Even as a ten year old, I recognized broken game design, like a busted field of view that made it difficult to dodge oncoming fire and resulted in just running around and blindly firing til you got a kill shot on a badly rendered 8-bit European terrorist “with feet smaller than my sister.” Speaking of feet, the only thing I liked was an inventive foot meter that would drain whenever John walked over glass. If it reached zero, he would walk noticeably slower til a medkit was used. A novel mechanic, and true to the film.
Released in 1992, Die Hard 2 for the Atari ST home computer and Amiga is the only game on this list that I have not played. In lieu of playing it, I watched others experience this game via YouTube. From what I watched, it appears to be a poor man’s Operation Wolf, and that’s not exactly a bad thing. Compared to the NES Die Hard game, this one was pretty colorful and had decent sound effects and music. The game featured some of the standout set pieces from the movie, including the Annex skywalk shootout and the final showdown on the wing of the plane. Pretty cool for its time — I recommend all Die Hard fans check it out.
Then the Die Hard license laid dormant until the 1996 release of Die Hard Trilogy. In my opinion, this is the best Die Hard game ever made, and it incorporated the first three films broken down into three parts. Part one is a slightly top-down third-person action game that is similar to the original NES game but infinitely better, with solid mechanics that still hold up today. Part two is a first-person light gun shooter with the most blood and destruction I have seen since the original Soldier of Fortune PC game. Rounding out this amazing recreation of Die Harder are the game’s awesome sound effects — some of my favorite from a light-gun shooter since Hogan’s Alley and the original Lethal Enforcers. Part three is probably my favorite of the three. It’s a Burnout-style race-against-the-clock driving game, complete with a blood-stained windshield that can be cleaned with a windshield wiper button. Yup, all pedestrians are fair game, and a great stress reliever for those unable to play Grand Theft Auto.
Released in arcades in 1996 and on Sega Saturn home console in 1997 was Die Hard Arcade, another guilty pleasure of mine. This game has nothing to do with any of the films, and even the 3D model of Detective John McLane barely resembles that of Bruce Willis. But the combat, oh the combat, and many fun options to dispatch terrorist! It was the amount of weapon pickups you could use to destroy whoever stood in your way, and it had destructible clothing before Arkham Asylum made it a thing. Also, its great use of quicktime events way before Resident Evil found out about them were a nice change of pace. And in a twist ending similar to Double Dragon, you are forced to fight each other to the death; the winner gets the honor of rescuing the President’s daughter.
Released in 2000 for the Playstation, Die Hard 2: Viva Las Vegas was basically a re-hash of the first game but set in the city of sin. As a whole, I’d rate this as the second worst Die Hard game due to its dated graphics, “been there done that” feel, and overall bland story. Note to franchise: get John McTernian back! The only change made to this game’s formula was the action, as shooting and driving segments were split up, letting you jump from third person to a driving game to an on-rails shooting gallery. Oh, and the plot had something to do with a convict escaping a prison and releasing all of his fellow inmates while a party was going on that John was invited to by a friend and who cares.
Released for the PC in May of 2002 was Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza. I remember being really excited for this game due to the coverage I had been reading, and it featured real voice work from Actor Reginald Val Johnson, aka Sergeant Al Powell from the first two games. Sadly, this game is essentially a recreation of the films two-hour running time, but padded out to take 15 hours to complete. Awesome, right? Unfortunately no — this first-person shooter was just all around generic and boring when compared to the previous game adaptations. It tried to be more grounded in realty, with certain game mechanics like flashing your badge to non-terrorists and simple puzzles to solve to get from point A to point B. Problem was, it just wasn’t any fun.
Also in 2002 was the final release of the Die Hard games with Die Hard Vendetta for the Nintendo Gamecube. It was also a first-person shooter that featured a ton of dual-wielding weapons and the synonymous Ode to Joy that would play whenever you triggered “Hero Mode.” Like Nakatomi Plaza, it also featured the voice talents of Reginald Val Johnson, who must have been hurting for money at the time or tired of waiting for a Family Maters reunion. This game was deservedly ripped apart by critics, but for some reason I dug it. The end of the game was anticlimactic but somewhat funny, and involved John punching out a Hollywood executive, which must have been a commentary on the state of the entertainment industry when this game was released. Funny thing is, it still holds up. Kardashians, anyone?
Hopefully you learned something new, or maybe were reminded of a forgotten Die Hard memory or two or three with a vengeance. Allow me to leave you with some John McLane wisdom. Always remember: if your estranged wife invites you to a work party in a skyscraper during the month of December, bring some comfortable shoes with you just in case. Or at least some crocs.
Happy holidays to all of you Laser Timers. Live free, and have a Die Hard new year!
Article by contributor Moan4Stallone.
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