maanantai 26. maaliskuuta 2012

REVIEW - Die Hard Trilogy (1996)

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: August 1996
DEVELOPER(S): Probe Entertainment
PUBLISHER(S): Fox Interactive

Probe Entertainment. A game studio that always went both ways with their licensed games. They made extremely bad video game adaptations in their time, most of them on Acclaim or LJN's payroll at that, but sometimes they surprised us with titles that were more than decent. In 1995, Probe Entertainment made Alien Trilogy for the Sony PlayStation, Sega Saturn and Windows '95. The game was surprisingly well received, considering the poor quality of their previous Alien games. Probe then went on to make a game based on the Die Hard series, which had just expanded into a trilogy with the premiere of Die Hard with a Vengeance. Die Hard video games had never been half decent, and considering Probe's very inconsistent track record, the game could've failed miserably. Instead, it turned out one of the best licensed games in history.

Yippie-kai-yay, motherfucker!

The game chronicles the worst days in the life of N.Y.P.D. officer John McClane - known as a man who's always at the wrong place at the wrong time. In Die Hard, he takes on a group of terrorists who have seized control of a Los Angeles office building where his wife works. In Die Hard 2: Die Harder, he goes solo against a group of mercenaries that have taken over Dulles International Airport in Washington. In Die Hard with a Vengeance, he tries to save the whole city of New York from a vengeful bomber together with a reluctant shop owner.

Although I've anxiously waited for a good reason to slap Die Hard Trilogy in for the first time in 14 years or so, the thought ultimately scared the crap out of me. The moment I grabbed the CD was a moment of hesitation. Most PlayStation games haven't aged well, nor have many games of that generation altogether, in comparison to how well honest retro has aged. I seriously thought whether I should play the game, or just leave it be and remember it how it was. Remember the countless hours I spent on the demo alone back when the PlayStation was brand new. I promised long ago to take it on along with the rest of my collection, even its truly ugly spots, so in the end, I just started the game with a win or lose attitude. Die Hard Trilogy is still a damn entertaining game. Sure, it has aged, a lot - in countless less graceful ways. But, it was an outstanding, tense, unique action game in its time - and it has remained that to this day.

Terrorists: brown shirts. Civilians: white shirts.
Got it.
The most unique thing about Die Hard Trilogy, of course, is that it's not just one game - it's three different, arcade-style action games in one, unlike its spiritual predecessor Alien Trilogy which was an FPS all the way. The games based on the first two movies are somewhat influenced by earlier video game adaptations; they both have the same basic ideas and gameplay similarities. They're much better, though. The third movie was a new one at the time (damn, I'm old...), so the gameplay concept was entirely up to Probe to decide. They went with a generic 3D Grand Theft Auto schtick... five years before 3D GTA existed. Hell, a year before the whole GTA franchise existed. A straightforward action game, the best rail shooter in the history of the genre, and a joyride against time on the streets of New York City, all in the same package, and in the hard, unforgiving style of arcade. Oh yeah, and it's all based on a trilogy of stellar action films. Yippie-kai-yay!

Visual presentation is what makes fifth-generation games age so sadly. While some 16-bit games still manage to astounish with their amazing visual output, such as Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island or Chrono Trigger, the rough polygons and the grainy image of the 32- and 64-bit era burn your eyes like acid. There's a lot going on in Die Hard Trilogy, and it's a complete mess. Good thing most of the joy in gameplay's still intact - not all of it, though. I'll get to that later. The music is pretty good, although it's techno all the way. They captured the spirit of blowing shit up quite well. You can actually listen to high-quality versions of these tunes from the game disc using any stereo set - naturally, they don't work that well without context. A very transparent Bruce Willis impersonator spews out a number of clean punchlines ("Yippie-kai-yay" needs a "motherfucker", seriously), an even worse (and God damn annoying) Samuel L. Jackson impersonator appears in the last game, and both the hostages and terrorists yell out some generic, random quotes to inform you of their presence. That's it for the "voice acting" - that's what the atrocity is referred to as in the manual. The sound effects are still great, and count for the great bang 'n' boom experience the game basically is, despite its many flaws in the audiovisual department.

Cops flying around, blood splatters on thin air,
uh... *something* blowing to pieces... yep, it's
a McClane kind of Christmas in low definition.
The first game, based on my favourite action film of all time, is a very straightforward third-person shooter, with all of the genre's most basic arcade gameplay elements in place. Power-ups, weapon upgrades, grenades, body armor, the ability to dodge, those ones. Your goal is to free all hostages on each floor of the Nakatomi Building - those floors which you have access to - and kill all the terrorists. Simple, ain't it? The idea might be - but the game is DAMN HARD. Die hard? No, it ain't hard. It's very easy. Die easy. The controls of the game are quite outdated. Analog control would help the game greatly, but the game was released prior to the DualShock's arrival to the scene, and unlike many other re-released games, Die Hard Trilogy never got the patch. The button scheme is laid out somewhat clumsy, and the digital pad doesn't make the already hard aiming any easier. Nevertheless, it's a fun game, once you get the hang of it. It's incredibly satisfying to blow whole units of unsuspecting enemies to piles of blood, bone and shit with a well-placed grenade, and blow up all kinds of shit for business or pleasure, even if you know damn well you're never going to beat this one. One death, and it's over. That "New Game" in the beginning? Just for show. There ain't no continues.

The second game blows Die Hard 2 - the movie - off the map. It blows every rail shooter that came before it, even Virtua Cop, CLEAN off the map. It makes the original Die Hard 2 computer game that much more laughable. Rail shooters used to be so damn boring on home consoles - arcades were a different thing. Having a light gun made them a little more interesting to play at home, but not by much. Die Hard 2 does not need a light gun; most rail shooters of the time had specific targets. You couldn't do shit to the environment. In this game, you can demolish just about EVERYTHING. Like in the first game, killing civilians drains your health, but just about everything else gives you bonuses. Secret routes, better weapons, LOTS of points for those who are interested, and simple pleasure for one who simply loves virtual demolition... like me. This one's ultra-violent, and ultra-cool. Unlike the first game in this "collection", Die Hard 2 is hard and you have only one life to go on, but play it enough and you'll learn it, and eventually beat it - you have the basic gameplay concept to thank for that. ...And after you've beaten it, feel free to try again and see how much destruction you can conjure up this time around. This game rules. It's the best rail shooter of all time, and it's only a part of a larger whole. Imagine that.

Crazy Taxi just got a whole lot crazier.
In Die Hard with a Vengeance, you have three chances, and I gather it's because it's not only skills and reflexes you have to worry about here, but sheer luck as well. Simon's been planting bombs all around New York City, and your goal is to reach those bombs and run them over using different vehicles - upon impact, the bombs still explode (naturally), which makes this game kinda hilarious and the goal kinda pointless. Zeus is by your side, barking directions in a really nasal, heliumized voice that sounds nothing like Samuel L. Jackson - except when he got high in San Andreas - and there's a GPS to aid you as well. Although you have two virtual aids giving you clues to the locations of the bombs, you have an extremely unforgiving time limit to meet. The controls are again quite clumsy, civilians are extremely hard to avoid hitting, other cars tend to get in your way constantly whether or not you honk them to death, and all in all, I must say this is the weakest game in the bunch. It can be fun once you're in the right mindset, but I can't guarantee it. If my memory serves me correctly, I've beaten this part of the game once, so it's not impossible. Just extremely hard, and in my opinion, the only part of the game that can turn from hard to exclusively tedious.

After a decade and a half of letting the game rest, I headed into Die Hard Trilogy with deep fear of totally botching one of my childhood/pre-teen favourites, but exited the game with a smile. It's still got a lot of explosive power in it, although admittedly most of it is found from the second part of the game, which is all about murder and total obliteration of public places. The remaining parts have their flaws, but they're good, blood red entertainment nonetheless. On Probe's usual scale, Die Hard Trilogy could almost be named a masterpiece. It's not quite as great as I remembered it to be, but it's an achievement considering its makers' reputation as licensees.

+ The game sports unparalleled tension across all of its segments; they're very challenging, but short enough to make you want to try again... and again
+ The Die Hard 2: Die Harder segment is an amazing effort in its genre
+ The music is quite good in this context
+ You can still feel the violence... 

- ...Even though the game is ugly and messy as heck
- I can't really decide if the "voice acting" is hilarious or simply damn bad
- The first and third segment could really use analog control; movement is clumsy as it is
- The Die Hard with a Vengeance segment is entertaining, but notably weaker than the first two

< 8.0 >

1 kommentti:

  1. very good review, one of my all time favorite games on PS1! I like to play this for christmas :D