If there's one Die Hard game that everybody remembers, it's Die Hard Trilogy. Released in 1996 by Fox Interactive for the PlayStation (and later Windows and Saturn), it's actually three games in one; an action game, an arcade lightgun game and a racing game. That could be a warning sign as to the game's quality right there, but Die Hard Trilogy is actually regarded as one of the better movie tie-ins out there, and the huge number of sales reflect that.
Let's start with Die Hard, the action game based on the original movie. You have to shoot your way through 20-odd levels, killing terrorists and saving hostages tied up in various places. Once you've killed/saved everyone, a 30-second timer begins and you have to make it to an elevator shaft to defuse a bomb before it explodes. Thankfully, the rest of the level is not timed so you can take your time.
You view the action from behind John McClane's shoeless polygons, but also slightly above him. This gives you more of a view around you but is also quite jarring. The camera constantly stays in the position relative to you so it will spin and swirl wildly when you turn. It can get quite nauseous for those with a weak stomach. Walls and other obstacles will disappear to avoid clipping issues, and the programming needed to work with them. It actually helps with the gameplay as you can decide whether or not venture into a room or not. Either way, the game rewards exploration with useful pickups and health packs. Beyond your regular pistol which has unlimited ammo, you can get an assault rifle, a shotgun complete with explosive shells and a machine gun (ho, ho, ho). They will only last for two clips but each are far more effective for mowing down bad guys that your pistol.
You have to be careful though, as hostage can get in the way. Once you have freed one, they'll run towards the nearest exit, arms flailing in panic. They have no idea of the dangers of their surroundings and can often run in the middle of a gunfight. Other times, a satisfying grenade throw that wipes out a number of terrorists will also take down an innocent as well. This will be a theme throughout all three games.
I always found this part the least interesting as a teen. It becomes repetitive fast, despite some interesting level designs later on, but upon replaying I found it to be quite competent. It's not spectacular by any means, but a cut above other games specifically designed to be part of a compilation.
Die Hard. Glowing signs will indicate where the elevators are.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder changes up the gameplay by being an arcade lightgun shooter, much like the standalone title from 1990 but with polygons. This time, however, it's compatible with the PlayStation light gun (though not the Namco Guncon unfortunately) but that means nothing for modern players what with new TVs not being compatible with them. You can also you the mouse which makes it much more playable.
It plays in much the same way as Virtua Cop. Enemies are easily identified by having a coloured circled surrounding them, which will gradually turn red the closer they are to firing. When you aim the crosshair over them, the camera will zoom in giving the game a very visceral sense of movement. It's also useful to fine-tune your aim so you don't hit one of the many pedestrians running around. Much like the first game, they're everywhere and prone to getting in your way. The good thing is they don't change locations for each playthrough so you can remember where they'll be for next time.
You have two weapons types which take some wrangling of the mouse to perform. A standard left click shoots your normal gun while a right click throws a grenade. To reload, you have to hold down the left button then press right while the opposite unleashed a devastating rocket. It's more convoluted than the gun or joypad controls, but it's nevertheless the best way to play on modern systems. The only issue I've had is that I would occasionally throw the accidental grenade when I didn't want to.
I can get insanely frenetic. Most everything is breakable which quickly fills the screen with explosions, shattered glass and pixelated claret. It's also the easiest of the three, being the only one I completed as a kid. I would say it still holds up today, comparing favourably with other arcade gun games that got a full release. It may not have the inventive boss fights or the variety of locations, but it's still a bombastic pleasure to play.
Die Harder. Extra lives and weapons can be shot at for bonuses, if you can hit them.
I was always fond of the third game in the set based on Die Hard with a Vengeance. It's a racing game that reminds me quite a bit of Crazy Taxi that would be all the rage a few years later. You have free reign to drive anywhere in the city of New York but you can't for one second lose focus on the objective. Bombs need defusing and only you can do it by crashing into them at full speed. Subtle this game is not.
You have a very strict time limit to get to the bombs, which could be buried in a dustbin or travelling in the boot of a high-speed getaway car. If you fail to get to each one in time, the city will explode and it's game over. It's actually quite fun to play for a brief while, but you'll soon find out how punishing the time limit is. You have to play each level perfectly to get anywhere. There are time bonuses that you can collect along the way but it's difficult enough to manoeuvre through the bustle of New York as it is, let alone aim into a very specifically placed holographic circle. This also goes for the bombs themselves. It's very easy to just drive straight past them and with no seconds to spare, you're dead. Despite this difficulty, this was my favourite as a kid even though I never went anywhere. Now, after Crazy Taxi did it infinitely better, it's a major hassle to play. The worst of the three.
Upon release, there was a fair amount of controversy surrounding this third game. Like the other two games, innocents have a habit of getting in your way, but it's much gorier here. In the first-person view, you can run over pedestrians spilling plasma all over your windshield. Nothing a good swipe of the windscreen wipers can't get rid of but it was nevertheless shocking for the time. Now, it's kind of comical how dated it looks, but back then German censors didn't think so and banned in that country.
Die Hard with a Vengeance. Even if you collect those
powerups, it's still difficult to reach the bomb in time.
There is a Windows version which somehow manages to be inferior. The graphics may look crisper, but there's some slight control anomaly I can't quite put my finger on. Perhaps there's a slight input delay but I found it hard to aim in the first two games at least. It could be the fact that I haven't managed to get it to work as well as I'd like (hence the PlayStation only release) but it's enough for me to not care for the extra effort it takes to make it work. It was programmed in a rather weird way with each game having its own executable. This means that programs like DxWnd won't work as any wraparound options reset when a new executable launches. I am able to play each game separately but without the main menu, it's not up to the standard I would like.
UPDATE - I have since managed to get the Windows working to a decent level rendering the last paragraph moot. I still prefer the PlayStation version as the keyboard controls do feel a bit more wonky than a joypad, but the only game of the three that I feel is more unplayable is the first. In fact, the mouse controls on the second might actually be a bit of an improvement. Anyway, the emulated Windows '98 needs a beast of a machine to run smoothly so both versions will remain here.
Here's some screenshots.
Die Hard, Die Harder and With a Vengeance - The PC version
So, the PlayStation version is by far the best. It was one of the early must-have games for the system that offered great value for money. Even if the gameplay itself is scaled down, Die Hard Trilogy remains incredibly fun to this day.
To download the PlayStation version, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses Retroarch with the Mednafen PSX cores to emulate the PlayStaion games on modern PCs. XBox 360 controllers supported. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 501 Mb. Install Size: 592 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
To download the Windows version, follow the link below. This exclusive installer uses PCem running Windows '98. Press Ctrl-Alt-PgDown to toggle fullscreen. Press Ctrl-End or middle mouse button to release the mouse. Tested on Windows 10.
IMPORTANT - Remember to shut down the emulated version of Windows before exiting PCem. This could potentially result in errors, lost saves and corrupt data. Close the program only when it is safe to do so.
File Size: 538 Mb. Install Size: 863 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Die Hard (the movies) are © Twentieth Century Fox
Die Hard Trilogy is © Fox Interactive
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me