It's December and the holidays are approaching quicker than you can say "Deck the Halls." One of the most popular ways for people to get into the holiday spirit around this time of year is by watching holiday-themed movies. You've got "It's a Wonderful Life," "Miracle on 34th Street," "8 Crazy Nights," "Friday After Next," All of those wonderful claymation movies, and my wife's personal favorite - a Christmas Story. Yes, Ralphie - you will shoot your eye out. Over and over and over again. 24 Hours of A Christmas Story is enough to make me wanna shoot my own eyes out. Here's the premise - take a movie I once loved and play it into the ground. But I digress. In order to combat the holiday blues, my favorite holiday movie is Die Hard. The trouble is - I always seem to only catch the tail end of the movie every single time it's playing on tv. However, I recently purchased Fox Interactive's 1996 hit game "Die Hard Trilogy" for the Playstation and can have the complete interactive experience of actually kicking butt and taking names in John McClane's shoes! Well, sort of.
For starters, this is a game that did extremely well with critics and fans when it was released way back in 1996. So well in fact, that they re-released it as one of those "Greatest Hits" series games with the ugly green spine labels on them. When IGN reviewed it back in 1996 they stated, "This is one of the best games you can buy for the Playstation, and the fact that there's actually three games makes it all the better." (http://psx.ign.com/articles/150/150447p1.html). Reviewers praised the high-action gameplay, the replay value, the buckets of blood, and the fact that you get three wildly different games packed into one disc. While it's very hard to argue with any of these points, I'm pretty sure in the next few paragraphs we can chip away at the otherwise shiny veneer that this game had almost 12 years ago.
I believe the old adage goes something like this; "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions." That's exactly how I would describe "Die Hard Trilogy." The previous reviewers were absolutely correct in praising Fox Interactive and Probe for having a game that contains essentially 3 games in 1. Also, as the IGN reviewers pointed out - it doesn't necessarily feel like a budget title either. This game feels like a full fledged, arcade style action extravaganza in the comfort of your own home. All of these things might have been impressive in 1996, but looking back there's definitely room for improvement here. I mean - do you guys and gals remember what the "arcade style experience" was like in '96? All of those clunky, ugly polygons in Silent Scope or the first entries in Virtua Fighter and Tekken? Those games haven't aged well either. So is having 3 of these high-flying, bullet-slinging, gut-exploding action games really a great deal?
Let's not beat around the bush; the original Playstation's graphics were pretty horrific. Any of the titles that were cartoony and/or two-dimensional were usually pretty good, and later titles such as Tenchu and Metal Gear Solid were able to get 3d graphics down to a smooth science. However, games such as those aforementioned 3d arcade-style titles would tend to be a gross polygonal clusterfudge. Die Hard Trilogy falls into this category. Playing the first Die Hard title on a 40-inch widescreen HD tv is like sticking your head underwater and trying to play a Virtual Boy at the same time. It's a disorienting mess of pixels where you're constantly being shot at from all directions and somehow have to manage to A.) not get killed by these generic looking baddies, B.) not blow yourself up by shooting these explosive cars, C.) rescue a handful of hostages, and finally 4.) get out of the building before the bomb goes off. This proved to be an exercise in futility for me because trying to find the exit in this generic mess of pixels would actually be easier if I was playing blindfolded, spun around 3 times and given a stick to whack at my TV until candy falls out or John McClane decides to stop spitting out the same three generic one-liners. The graphics are such a slurry, sludgey mess that they give me motion sickness and everyone on screen from "clearly not Bruce Willis" to "clearly the same palette swapped badguys" and finally to the sad hostages - will all say a maximum of two to three lines of constantly repeating dialogue. Ever played Blood II: The Chosen? It's just about that annoying.
Die Hard 1: Attack of The Crooked Pixel
The second game is a rail shooter akin to Area 51. I have a few less gripes about the graphics as they are less nausea-inducing - However, the bad guys and hostages have nothing to distinguish themselves from each other and you'll get tired of shooting the same guys in black trenchcoats and trying to avoid shooting the same ladies in tacky white sweaters. Hmm, "Ladies in Tacky White Sweaters" sounds like a good indie band. The first time I played it - I got snuffed out pretty quickly. Controlling this without a lightgun is kinda tough and anyone playing on an HD TV is S.O.L if they want to play with anything but a controller. However, I improved my game immensely the second go-round when I decided to play like an evil Russian bad guy instead of John McClane and instead shot every single pixel that wasn't nailed down. That's right - cops, badguys, men, women and children all got sprayed with "not Bruce Willis'" bullets of justice. It was Christmas eve and I was sending a lot of souls to the holy ghost that night. You know what? The game is a lot more fun when you indiscriminately shoot everything from the ceiling tiles to the Christmas trees and everything in between. I still died but it didn't seem to penalize me for going all Waco on everybody. The only warning the game seems to give you is a big "Whoops" sign over innocent victims. Yup. Whoops.
"Sorry dawg, my bad!"
The third and final game is Die Hard With a Vengence - aka poor man's Crazy Taxi. You drive around hitting what appear to be guys hiding behind trashcans with your car as a voice actor who sounds more like Chris Tucker than Samuel L. Jackson chastises you for not driving fast or well enough. Once again, you can let out your Carmageddon-like fantasies and mow down every pedestrian in sight with a satisfying blood spray if that's your bag. Supposedly I'm driving a taxi in this game - but with the clunky mechanics and the inability to slow down well enough to take turns carefully and accurately, it feels more like I'm driving Satan's one-wheeled rickshaw strapped to a rocket. Is this game fun? Well - only if you like running into walls, pedestrians, and watching the city blow up every 3 minutes because the "bomb car" is pretty hard to follow with these horrific driving mechanics. The way the driving goes in this game, you'd think John McClane has a rabid badger running around in his underroos. The game is fun to kill time and innocent bystanders - but not much else.
Your insurance wont cover this
So how does Die Hard Trilogy stand up this many years later? It's a good time-killer and definitely good for a few unintentional laughs (actually, I take that back. I KNOW the programmers wanted me to mow down innocent people in this game.) I would have a hard time recommending this for anyone after one of the finest examples of Playstation gaming - but for the price, you get 3 radically different games that can be enjoyed with a wicked sense of humor and an evil laugh or two.