DIE HARD / Activision / NES
 
                                                               Um.
 
Say what you will about Activision, you have to give them some points for trying to be creative and innovative with their movie licenses in the late 80s / early 90s. Not all of these experiments turned out well - see Ghostbusters for NES for example - but at least they made an effort where other companies like LJN and THQ were content to just poo out total garbage on a shoestring budget and sell it off of name recognition alone.

Die Hard is actually a surprisingly complex action game. It sets you free to roam Nakatomi Plaza as you please, and incorporates all the events of the movie while actually making many of them optional, with something like 6 or 7 different endings depending on what you do during the game. Hell, I think it's the only video game in existence that has a special double KO ending if you and the final boss manage to kill each other simultaneously! Unfortunately, the complexity is hard to appreciate as it's hidden behind an immediate wall of punishing, unfair difficulty. The chief problem is that John McClain can only move in the 4 cardinal directions and fire in 8; the twitchy, spastic enemies constantly fire in broad arcs that look like Contra's Spread Shot, and their surprisingly sophisticated AI routines are perfectly designed to exploit your control limitations. And there's a LOT of them. Ammo management is also a feature of the game's complexity/difficulty, as there isn't enough to simply run around wildly gunning down every terrorist in the building.
 


The game also operates under a time limit, and to "follow the movie" so to speak, you have to know exactly what you're doing at any given time. For example, to do everything the "optimal" way you need to first get the express elevator working (via a computer on floor 33), which is the only way to get down to the 5th floor, where you blow up a computer that slows down the lock-drilling process (and optionally can do the YA I SEE HIM scene from the movie). However, you have to do all this before Theo breaks the second lock, because he shuts the elevator down as well when he does it, and this is like maybe 5 to 10 minutes of real-time play into the game, depending on how often you switched floors first (which eats an extra chunk of time each time you do it.) The beauty of this? You can totally ignore the structure of the movie! There's like zero forced linearity whatsoever. You can just find a nice cubicle to hole up in and let the time tick down until the locks are broken, at which time the 30th floor (where Hans is holding all the hostages) opens up, then just go down there and engage in a massive gun battle if all else fails. There's also a number of other ways to get there without doing all the same stuff that happened in the movie.

There's also a nice number of little Metal Gear-esque touches to the action. After killing your first guard, you can grab a radio which lets you listen in on Hans' periodic dispatches of guards to various floors, giving you a few seconds advance warning of reinforcements (you also hear the elevator bell "ding" just before they arrive.) You can only "see" the room you are currently in, and guards go into "alert" mode when they spot you, which fades off if you run far enough away and stay out of their sight for a bit. Aside from the stairs and elevator, you can use the ventilation system to crawl around unseen and even go between floors ... but spend too long in it and the guards get wise and start shooting into it!

Though it's practically impossible due to licensing issues and such, I'd love to see this game remade in proper Metal Gear style ... even a good FPS mod or something that worked similarly to the way this game works would probably be amazing. The actual game before us is a pretty rough ride, though, inaccessible to all but the most hardcore.
 
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