Die Hard Trilogy
Yippie-Ki-Yay! is a phrase bound to be uttered in every single review of Fox Interactive’s brand-spanking new Die Hard Trilogy compilation. So I thought I’d get it out of the way first. Worry not though, there are still plenty more movie clichés and bad puns in this review, after all we wouldn’t let our readers down. As an example of how a prominent film licence should be handled, and truly done justice, Die Hard Trilogy stands head and shoulders above its peers. I’m sure that if, any other software publisher attempted a movie-to-game conversion of the highest grossing action trilogy of all time, it would no doubt have been a lame, side-scrolling platformer. As with the incredibly successful Alien Trilogy, it’s obvious from the moment the game loads that the programmers and developers are real fans of the source material and not just out to make a fast buck. But with three separate, highly individual, games on one disc, has developer Probe got all the bases covered? Or are they merely hedging their bets with a collection of popular genre romps? Let’s take a looksee…
Sticking closely to the events in the first movie, Die Hard sees New York cop, Detective John McClane, taking on a whole barrel load of tough-as-nails Eurotrash terrorists who have seized control of the high-tech Nakatomi Plaza. The villains (fronted by Has Gruber, alias Alan Rickman) plan to steal millions of dollars worth of negotiable bonds stored in the building’s maximum security vault. Of course, they’ve reckoned without the sudden appearance of McClane whose gung-ho antics causes them more than a few headaches.
Although this section of the game may bear an uncanny resemblance to Telstar’s Lone Soldier, I can assure you that the similarities definitely end there. For a start there’s no awkward crosshair/ movement control system to get to grips with, instead players are left to swiftly guide McClane through 24 challenging polygonised levels, picking off bad guys with pinpoint accuracy, dodging hostile fire and rescuing terrified hostages. Once a certain amount of terrorists have been dispatched a bomb is armed somewhere within the section and must be deactivated before progression to the following level is allowed. Free enough hostages and players are whisked off to the rooftop bonus stage where extra rewards may be earned.
Initially only armed with a standard police-issue 15-shot automatic pistol, McClane can boost his arsenal by locating weapon crates scattered throughout each section, or by claiming extra firepower and demolition devices from fallen enemies.
Die Hard’s third person perspective not only provides players with the optimum angle with which to explore their potentially explosive 3-D environment but it also places gamers right in the thick of the action courtesy of some neat graphical tricks. Walls smoothly dissolve as McClane passes by, his eerie x-ray-type vision enabling locked rooms to be given the once over before entering, and your view is hardly ever obscured by annoying scenery. It’s worth noting though that this initial section of the Trilogy only allows players to interact with a small fraction of the scenery. Yes, there are some cool graphical touches to be found, such as blowing up cars in the garage thereby activating the sprinkler system, but why can’t you riddle office walls with bullet holes, destroy computer terminals and generally redecorate the place with lead? In Die Harder everything can be shot – wall panels, ceiling tiles, fire extinguishers, the lot.
Another puzzler is that when a terrorist has been shot, their body vanishes leaving no evidence of McClane’s exploits behind. No blood-stained wall, goresplattered carpet or bad guy leaking like a sieve. Weird. However, minor gripes aside, Die Hard offers a cracking blend of traditional shoot-’em-up elements, smooth 3-D environments and the kind of play mechanics that have made Probe a household name, second only to Bullfrog. As a stand-alone title, this would have been worth the price of admission alone but the best is yet to come…
Flying by air is supposed to be the safest form of travel. Of course whoever said that obviously never met John McClane! The second Trilogy title switches into high gear with a first person Virtua Cop style shoot-’em-up that blows away its Sega rival, and the lame Horned Owl, with the kind of explosive action you’d expect from a conversion of Die Hard 2: Die Harder. This time poor Brucie finds himself tackling even more terrorist types at a snow-covered Dulles Airport. It seems the sneaky swines have concocted a devilish plan to liberate a notorious South American drug lord travelling to the US to stand trial. Only visiting the airport to meet his wife, McClane is called upon to do his hero bit once more. How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?
I’m sure it would have been an easy cop-out for Fox to just give players a sub-standard, on-the-rails shoot-’em-up but what we’re treated to instead is infinitely superior. Interaction is everything in Die Harder and players are given free reign to destroy absolutely everything on-screen. Blow up harmless taxis in the car park, take out those annoyingly tacky gift shops in the airport lobby and leave innocent civilians wishing they’d travelled by coach instead. In fact each level can take so much punishment that players can leave a once pristine area decimated beyond belief.
As with the first segment of the Trilogy, McClane begins the game with his trusty pistol but soon triples the body count by collecting MP5 machine guns, rockets and fragmentation grenades. Freeing hostages bumps up the old score, and shooting coke machines provides health at strategic locations. However, avoid hitting the bad guys for too long and McClane takes a hit, indicated by an enemy’s crosshair view and a sickly rippling effect.
The game moves you through each level, stopping at certain terrorist-filled points and allowing players to smoothly guide the on-screen crosshair to its designated target. Die Harder is a little more forgiving than many games of this genre as the player’s view actually extends beyond the screen’s pre-defined borders giving the impression that gamer’s are actually controlling more of the action themselves.
Comedic elements abound in this second shooting section, from hapless tourists getting caught in over-the-top crossfires, to terrorists being reduced to charred skeletons. McClane’s unconvincing cries of “Sorry pal!” merely add to the black humour, although many of the trademark ‘Willis’ catchphrases can get a little repetitive when heard ad nauseam. Shoot-’em-ups are known for their repetitiveness and so some gamers may be tempted to skip over this section of the game. Don’t! With a multitude of on-screen enemies to dispatch, virtually no slowdown and finger-blistering action packed into each and every level, what could have been the weakest segment of the game hits players like two colliding 747s!
The most popular section of the Trilogy, at least according to your ever reliable PLAY team, is without a doubt Die Hard: With A Vengeance. Obviously with plenty of amazing racing games already on the market, you’d expect this climactic finale to be something rather special. As indeed it is.
Set in the crowded, litter-filled streets of New York City, our eponymous hero faces possibly his toughest case yet. In revenge for the death of his barmy brother (played in Die Hard by the wickedly evil Alan Rickman), supreme nutcase, Simon, has planted a serious of bombs throughout the Big Apple and challenged McClane to locate them before they detonate. With an unwilling civilian at his side (Samuel L Jackson) and the clock ticking away, McClane has to drive a variety of vehicles through each level, locate the devices and ram into them, thereby saving the city from fiery destruction.
The sheer thrill of hurtling through a busy intersection, ramming cars out of the way, mowing down citizens and just making it to the bomb in time is almost indescribable. New York City itself is a hoot but wait until you switch to the incar view and begin ploughing down joggers and pigeons in Central Park! Blood splatters the windscreen before the wipers do their job and restore visibility. Brilliant stuff.
Each of the 15 vehicles, accessible by stopping off in a nearby parking lot, handles superbly and even poor drivers will be taking 90° turns at high speed, tyres screeching and faces grinning. Navigating is made simple thanks to an on-screen indicator that shows where the next bomb is located. Useful pick-ups this time appear in the form of extra time, points and an erratic turbo boost (use this for some real high-speed pursuits, but be warned, it’s got a kick like an aborigine’s armpit!). One element that’s obvious by its absence is the lack of a two player mode, Okay so both Die Hard and Die Harderwere single player affairs but with good old Sammy sitting in the passenger seat, Fox has passed up on the opportunity for some cool Chase HQstyle shooting/driving action. With one player driving and the other leaning out of the window, blasting away at the bad guys, this section would have scored even higher.
Although some of the visuals may appear a little rough in this section occasion glitches are forgiven as each level is based on an existing movie location. Attention to detail is staggering whether it’s the non-repetitive layout of the streets or the truly impressive explosions that wash over the surrounding area as a bomb is successfully detonated. Probe has definitely saved the best for last and ended the whole package with an explosive finale worthy of this great action film series. Top stuff.
So there you have it, three superb games that, individually, are thoroughly enjoyable and challenging, but combined make a monster movie hit. Whether you’re a fan of the films or simply looking for a grade A PlayStation title to test the mettle of any action fan, Die Hard Trilogy delivers the goods. Fox Interactive has an adrenaline pounding title on their hands, and are guaranteed to make a barrel load of cash and keep happy punters busy for months to come. Live fast, die hard!