DIE HARD TRILOGY / Fox / PlayStation One

Usually when you see an "X games in 1" package, you should run the other way. Developers tend to take a bunch of half-baked games and try to sell on quantity rather than quality, and none of them really end up being worth your time.

Die Hard Trilogy is at least a little better than the usual multi-game-on-one-disc release, however. This came out just after Die Hard 3 hit theaters, and it includes one game themed around each movie in the series. Each game stands alone, they aren't really connected in any way other than sharing some assets.

We'll take a more detailed look at each in the sub-sections below.

Die Hard 1

The game based on the first movie plays like a 90s shooter (like DOOM or Quake), but from a third-person perspective instead of first-person. It's slightly confusing at first, but actually pretty fun once you understand the objectives (kill all the terrorists on each level and rescue as many hostages as possible, then get to a bomb-strapped elevator within 30 seconds) and get a feel for how it all works.

The terrorists and hostages are both kept track of by a counter in the upper-right; you'll periodically see more terrorists added to the mix as they come down the elevators, however, and sometimes they're toting a hostage with them. You can see who is around you with a very basic Soliton Radar. Hostages have to be "freed" by touching them, then they run to an exit before they're counted as saved; fortunately, guards don't seem to attack them unless they're already aggro toward you, and also it doesn't really seem to matter how many you allow to die.

As with those 90s shooters of yore, you need to mix in upgrading your equipment with your terrorist hunting, as both health and equipment carry over from level to level and you only get one life. So it's actually a wise strategy to leave some terries alone for a while and sneak around them as you explore the nooks and crannies for health packs, body armor and better weapons.

As mentioned, you only get one life with which to scale 20 levels. So you'll be failing a lot, but at least the game tosses you an insane game over screen to make up for it. The remaining hostages for the current level spontaneously combust, then they and McClane have some bizarre twitchy dance party after you enter your initials.

This game is as hard as any of the 90s FPS games it uses as inspiration, but actually even harder because you can't save (at least on the original console as the designers intended) and there are no checkpoints or even starting over from the current level! It's actually a pretty decent little shooter, but you really need some sort of aftermarket save state functionality as 20 levels is just too damn much to get through in one sitting.

Die Hard 2

The second game takes the first game's engine, but repurposes it as a rail shooter! You start out outside the Dulles Airport and gradually work your way through a loose approximation of the second movie's events, shooting hundreds of terries along the way.

This one is the worst of the bunch, though, except perhaps if you have a light gun. Trying to play it with the gamepad is impossible. The cursor just moves far too slowly and imprecisely to keep up with the action. It's pure pain.

Shame as it actually looked kinda interesting, but unless you have some sort of a light gun on hand you might as well not even bother firing this one up.

Die Hard 3

The third Die Hard game is basically Budget Crazy Taxi. You drive the streets of New York trying to reach bombs within a very tight time limit. If the timer runs out, it apparently sets off a nuke that destroys all of Manhattan, whereas if you reach the bomb on time it triggers a controlled explosion that just kills a couple nearby pedestrians and cars.

The gameplay here is reminiscent of Driver, just a little sloppier. It's kinda fun, but the super-tight time limits make it maddening. You can find a little extra time and turbo boosts at random intersections, but even with those you have to drive virtually mistake-free all the time to survive.

The Full Package

The games are among the most thematically consistent with the movies, and are packed with one-liners from Bruce Willis and the other cast members. I know that's no big deal these days with movie actors routinely recording dialogue for tie-in games, but it was neat in '96 when we were still downloading movie quote .WAV files to use as system sounds on our Win '95 boxes.

It's also a pre-Dual Shock release, so you have to consider that there's no native joystick support.

I'm giving this one the 3/5 based mostly on the strength of the first game. The second game might be a somewhat fun Virtua Cop knockoff, but you absolutely need a light gun to enjoy it. And the third game is really only good for a few minutes before the over-difficulty will drive you bananas.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video