Movie-licensed games have never been received very well in the video games industry. These games are often tied in with a popular movie franchise to rake in money from the recent cinematic success story. Die Hard with a Vengeance launched to much praise in 1995 and the year thereafter it was time for a game to tie in with it, but this was one explosive experience that came out of nowhere and blew the suggestion that all movie tie-in games are rubbish, right out of the water.
Die Hard Trilogy is based on the first three movies of the movie series in question. You know, before Bruce Willis had daddy and hacking issues in his life. Where a gun solved any and all matters and a good dose of sarcasm and cheesy one-liners went a long way. Bruce Willis still had hair and was the exceptionally cool every-day guy action hero we all wanted to be. It’s just that we could only ever watch him be cool and never play out our own fantasies. Die Hard Trilogy is a full-fledged action game that brought the experience to the living room. What made it such a memorable one is that you basically bought three games for the price of one.
A good action romp dies hard
The first game, titled Die Hard, has players playing as John McClane in his mission to save his wife who has been captured by the terrorists, just like in the movie. It’s played from a third-person perspective and, seeing as the Dualshock wasn’t released at the time, you’ll be using the D-Pad to move John through the various levels. It handles surprisingly well, considering its age, and within seconds you’ll be mowing down anyone who poses a threat. He comes armed with a 9mm with unlimited ammo, though you can pick up various assault rifles, bazookas and other items of mass destruction. John can also throw grenades at groups of enemies – something that works rather well when an elevator that is filled with foes opens its doors for you to, shall we say, explore.
Keeping an eye on your health meter, represented by a cop badge, is crucial to staying alive, though you also have bulletproof vests and health drinks to help you fill that gauge up. Red dots were the baddies and blue dots are hostages on the map. Get your head around that basic concept and you’re in for one hell of a ride. At the end of each level, you have to track down a bomb that needs to be stopped from detonating. To help your paranoia you’ll also deal with a timer counting down before it explodes.
Things move on to an airport in the second game where McClane once again finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Gone is the third-person action game that represented the first movie and in its place is now an on-rails lightgun game to represent Die Hard: Die Harder. Unfortunately, this ‘lightgun’ experience can’t be played using a lightgun as it launched before these peripherals were available on the original PS1. The best accessory to play this game is the official PS1 mouse, though that is also hard to come by. The D-Pad does a decent job at moving the cursor, and it snaps to bad guys quite easily, but it’s still not perfect. The amount of times I shot and killed an innocent bystander exceeds the number of fingers on my hands and this affects the overall score you’re playing for at the end.
You’re again equipped with your 9mm, though you can pick up other weapons occasionally dropped by the bad guys that have bright green rings surrounding them – drawing your attention to the pickups. Health can also be picked up in this manner. Get shot five times, depleting five cop badges in total, and it’s game over. It’s definitely a fun mode to experience and the airport is the perfect location for the on-rails genre, but it doesn’t feel quite as polished as the first experience.
How can the same good sh!t happen to gamers three times?
Lastly is Die Hard with a Vengeance, which at the time of release meant all three movies had a specific genre dedicated to each movie. In this case, you’re dealing with a driving game. As with the movie you have to drive through New York City to get to a bomb that requires defusing. Fail to do so and you’ll see a spectacular (in PS1 terms) nuclear bomb blowing up. As you’re driving McClane will shout out whether you should be turning left or right, though you can keep your eye on a compass in the top-right corner of the HUD that tells you whether you’re driving in the right direction or not. Pressing the circle button also lets you boost your traditional yellow taxi cab in-between the traffic that can make the drive there quite a headache. It’s a good idea to also drive through time symbols as this will grant you more time to get to that bomb. What surprised me the most of all three games was not how well the genres are represented in one game, but rather the over-the-top violence.
No matter which game you’re playing, it feels very 80s/90s. Cheesy remarks are often followed up by bullets with pools of blood giving the floor a new sombre shine. Unlike some open-world games today, where pedestrians will move out of the way of your vehicle, you can mow them down in your taxi. Play it from the first-person point of view and you’ll see the blood and guts showing up on your windscreen when smacking into someone. One wiper blade wipe later and it’s all cleared up. Nope, that never happened… – time to stop that bomb! It’s a little comical when you consider how far we’ve come in modern times, but the raw edge of that era is there for all to witness and experience. It’s either something you’ll love or cringe about, depending on your personality.
Die Hard Trilogy is still good fun to play on the PS1. No, it’s nowhere near the spectacular three-game epic we once thought of it being back in 1996, but for a game that is now over two decades old, you have to admit that John and his antics have aged with grace, both in movies and games. If you’re after guns, action, blood and gore you’ll receive it here in buckets.