sunnuntai 25. maaliskuuta 2012

REVIEW - Die Hard (1991)

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: July 1991
DEVELOPER(S): Pack-In-Video
PUBLISHER(S): Activision

Lethal Weapon came out in 1987. This movie was the new standard for traditional action film. Instead of some buffed up supersoldier played by Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger, it had a drunken, suicidal delinquent played by Mel Gibson. Instead of having anything to do with science fiction, it was a street ready buddy movie, packed to the brim with action and insanely funny punchlines as we used to know and love 'em. Just a year later, Lethal Weapon's standard was broken by somewhat of a spiritual follow-up, John McTiernan's Die Hard. Starring Bruce Willis, a newcomer to the big screen, Die Hard is arguably the greatest action film ever made, a true classic and an even more solid part of my holiday traditions than It's a Wonderful Life. Lethal Weapon and Die Hard are often compared to each other and widely regarded two of the most iconic action movies of all time. Both movies spawned their own bunch of video games, as well, and none of them were very good. Activision made their first Die Hard game for the PC in 1989 - it bombed. The Commodore 64 version, which came out a year later, fared a little better. In 1991, three years after the movie's premiere, a third unrelated game was published on the Nintendo Entertainment System. This game was also published by Activision, but made by Pack-In-Video, who were already responsible for some of the worst 8-bit movie licenses ever made, including Friday the 13th and Rambo. This game might lack the infamous logo of Pack-In-Video's usual partners in crime, but it certainly might as well be LJN's doing. In a word, Die Hard the video game is horrible.

The fly in the ointment, the monkey in the wrench, the pain in the ass

N.Y.P.D. officer John McClane meets up with his estranged wife Holly to spend Christmas with her at the Nakatomi Building, one of the largest office buildings in Los Angeles. When a group of German terrorists takes control of the building and everyone inside it hostage, cutting all communications, John takes it upon himself to neutralize the threat.

The graphics suck. My God, they suck.
I'm not that big on straightforward action flicks, but I fuckin' LOVE Die Hard. I know the movie inside out, I've memorized each and every line, I've busted my balls to learn to say "Yippie-kai-yay, motherfucker" just like Bruce Willis, and I stand in silent awe every single time I see Alan Rickman falling to his death in the end. I liked the first two sequels, too, the third film in particular. The fourth one was a huge disappointment, as it was more of a typical American action movie than the kind of special genre film the first and third one were - not to mention the fact that it was rated PG-13, which means that John McClane no longer used any language. Even the "motherfucker" in the aforementioned "Yippie-kai-yay, motherfucker" was blurred out by a well-placed gunshot. I kinda liked the movie, anyway. It's always a treat to see Bruce Willis in his flagship role, were some of the best elements of his character toned down or not.

The Die Hard movie franchise, as it was, was also rare as it spawned a very playable video game back in the mid-90's - Die Hard Trilogy, which is the main purpose of me taking on a couple of earlier Die Hard games like this. Before I even saw it, I knew that Die Hard for the NES would suck, royally. I even got AVGN to confirm it with a video review I consider one of his best ones yet. However, when I finally tried Die Hard, I found that the video merely scratched the surface. The game is one of the ugliest, most tedious licensed games I've ever played on the NES. The only things that carry it are the name, and the fact that unlike Pack-In-Video did with the abysmal Friday the 13th, they at least tried with Die Hard - tried to make it a relatively realistic adaptation of the movie.

The game is played from a very generic and stoic top-down perspective, and the vision of terror is crowned with hypnotically ugly floor patterns straight out of an epileptic's nightmare. Areas that are not within John's current field of vision are blacked out, which makes the game look even more of a mess. The so called cutscenes feature some really odd caricatures of the characters - got to say they nailed Rickman's Hans pretty well, though - and it's hard to see any distinction between background items. Not to mention to make out what they're supposed to be. The music is horrible and repetitive as heck. Good thing the game doesn't seem to be that long at all... if you can find enough sense in it to beat it, that is. I can't.

Darn. I'll try again.
So, the bottom line is that Die Hard has terrible controls, and it doesn't make any sense. That's what James noted in his review as well - he hit so many right points and described them so well that if I wasn't out to write a serious review, I would reference his video right now and quit this review. The main goal - apparently - is to hack your way through five floors of the Nakatomi Building and take out all the bad guys in each floor. There were 12 in the movie, it's perfectly understandable that there are 40 in the game for the sake of video game drama - your character's stamina can only take the original 12, though. The enemies move in ridiculous speeds that are impossible to match. The only things more ridiculous than their speed is the trajectory of their bullets - all over the screen, literally - once again compared to John's, and the fact that the bastards keep running away from you like cowards. They're not impossible, but incredibly hard to hit. Often you don't need to deal with more than two to three enemies to get your life bar nearing its bottom. When there are two or three enemies ganging up on you from multiple directions, you might as well put the controller down and go for a smoke. You might've guessed that you only have one life to live out.

There's somewhat of a different time limit to this game, which is tied to Theo's (the hacker) skill to hack the locks of the Nakatomi vault. If I'm not totally mistaken, you have about 20 minutes to beat the whole game. Failing to beat the clock apparently does not result in a game over, but a different ending. Imagine that - multiple endings. In a movie adaptation. Rad. Gotta wonder who's ignorant enough to go for another game of this fucking tardfest. I'd be happy just to reach one ending so I could lay this bastard to its deserved, shameful rest with a good conscience.

Why did I do it?
Many journalists note John's foot power as a unique feature - just to find one, I guess. John was barefooted for the most of the movie, and his feet were in extremely crappy shape by the end of it, but as James noted, the condition of John's feet is one of those things that are totally unnecessary to be presented in a video game. John's foot power allows him to sprint and match the speed of the enemies, but it's gone extremely fast, and can only be replenished with medikits that are hidden under the blackest stone. Walking on broken glass also decreases John's foot power, and there's going to be a lot of that on certain floors.

Some licensed games are fun to play or at least somewhat cool, because they're based on something you love. Even the suckiest Terminator games have their brief moments - except for The Terminator on the NES. Die Hard isn't fun in the least, not for one passing second. It had been three years since the movie's release - Pack-In-Video could've had some second thoughts and simply quit making the game halfway through development. No one would've minded - hell, no one would've noticed. But no, they had to carry the doomsday project to the end and leave another stain in the big book of licensed games made for the sake of capitalism, not the best of players in mind.

+ The movie's one of the best ever...
+ ...And the game's actually got something to do with it - which is quite rare 

- Awful graphical presentation, all the way from background patterns to the angle itself
- Horrible, stiff controls that make confrontations a lot harder than they already are
- Foot power... bitch, please
- Cryptic advances that seem to make no sense or difference

< 3.0 >

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