Retro Christmas Game Of The Week: Die Hard Trilogy (PS1)

Die Hard Trilogy

It’s December, which means it’s time for me to reach into Santa’s retro sack and pull out a Christmas-themed game. Might as well start argumentative, with Die Hard Trilogy for the PlayStation.

In Retro Game Of The Week I pull a game from my collection and write about why it’s important or interesting. Or in some cases, badly dated and rubbish.

As it’s December (already!) I thought it might be fun to pull some specifically-Christmas-themed games out of the collection to give them a once-over.

And why not start with a Christmas movie game that’s perhaps the most contentious of all?

Die Hard’s status as a Christmas movie has rapidly become one of those “love to argue” matters on the Internet, with as many folks willing to camp out on hills that say it is as it isn’t.

I take the position (for whatever that’s worth) that if it’s something you watch or enjoy on a seasonal basis, then it can indeed belong to that season, but your tastes can vary.

Variable taste is also something you have to bring to Die Hard Trilogy for the original PlayStation, because it’s a very mixed offering of games, based on the first three movies in the Die Hard series.

I often like to think of them as the only three movies in the Die Hard series, in the same way as they only ever made one single Highlander movie. You know I’m right on that score.

It’s interesting because it came out smack dab in the middle of the period where most movie tie-in games were generally rubbish, and also well after all three movies had been in cinemas.

A good part of the reason why so many movie games were bad was because they were necessarily rushed to take advantage of cinema timeframes and marketing, but not Die Hard Trilogy.

It’s a strategy Rockstar used later on for the superlative The Warriors, which I should also induct here at some point. But I digress (and The Warriors isn’t a Christmas movie).

Die Hard Trilogy isn’t just one game, but three, with each movie serving and a slightly-loose frame on which to hang their gameplay style. Let’s tackle them in order, shall we?

Die Hard

Die Hard Trilogy
Hostages may be significantly stupider than they appear. Because they are.

Nakatomi Plaza, 1988, Christmas party, you know the score. So how do you make that into a video game? In the case of Die Hard Trilogy, it’s a third person action shooter that sees you take on the role of John McClane working one floor at a time to take out Hans Gruber’s terrorist chums and free a whole lot of hostages.

Movie accurate? Not really; I think I can talk about the plot here without too many spoilers, but if by some chance you’ve never seen Die Hard, maybe look away… OK, good, well, let’s face it, outside Bill Clay, John doesn’t do hostage rescues until very late in that film.

Still, it works well enough to keep interest, although this is definitely a game that hasn’t aged well visually, or in an AI sense… because nobody has any. McClane often isn’t engaging in firefights with terrorists, he’s outright slaughtering them from behind, mafia style.

Die Hard Trilogy

It’s a decent enough distraction, but it’s not quite as good as…

Die Hard 2: Die Harder

The second game in the trilogy is a straight up rip-off of Sega’s Virtua Cop, and it’s all the better for it.

Die Hard Trilogy
Probe Software promises that it’s never even HEARD of Virtua Cop. Honest.

It’s even (mostly) accurate to the film, with McClane stuck at an airport taking out terrorists amidst the busy holiday season traffic.
Die Hard Trilogy
Shooting a bad guy in the face with an EXPLODING SHOTGUN SHELL is never not cathartic.

Die Hard 2 is also light gun compatible, not that I’ve ever played it that way. It works nicely with a gamepad anyway — the lightgun feels like it might have been “hard mode” back in the day, frankly — and like any other on-rails shooter of the style, it’s fun for short, hectic blasts.

Die Hard Trilogy
Hey John, maybe try NOT shooting the hostages. See how that goes.

It’s also without a doubt the reason why my copy has an MA15+ sticker on it, because things get gory. Well, as gory as you can get with polygon/pixel hybrid blood chunks, anyway. I don’t think that rating would stick if it got a rerelease today.

Die Hard Trilogy
Game Over Man! Game Over! No, wait, wrong movie franchise…

Die Hard With A Vengeance

Die Hard Trilogy
Honestly, I have been in New York taxis that looked worse than this.

Oh dear. While I have an affection for the movie (which was never going to be a Die Hard movie in the first place, but there you go) this is one that wasn’t particularly good in the first place… and hasn’t aged well.

The basic premise isn’t terrible, combining the taxi chase scene with the bomb in the movie’s early acts within a mostly open-world driving experience, years before those really became a thing. Chase down the bomb, or bomb vehicle before everything goes boom — in a quite nuclear sense, actually.  In some ways it’s quite visionary.

Die Hard Trilogy
John, if you drive it like THAT, no wonder the handling is stuffed.

The problem is that it’s just not very good. Your handling is all kinds of janky, and while it tries to help you out with directional arrows and some voice guidance from their definitely-not-Bruce-Willis-soundalike, neither works well.

The arrows are purely directional, and in city-based levels you can’t just drive through buildings, while Not-Bruce’s shouts of “Go Left” often happen when you’re whizzing through the intersection, by which time it’s just too damned late.

Die Hard Trilogy
Die Hard With A Vengeance: It’s Trucking Bad.

Even custom vehicles can’t help save this one — but then it’s also the Die Hard movie that would fail my Christmas suitability test, because as memory serves it’s set on a hot summer’s day in New York, not a snowy winter one.

Die Hard Trilogy
John McClane learns a little too late that Taxis do not float.
Hey, you could build bridges out of them!

Die Hard Trilogy is one of those games, however, where the sum is greater than the parts. It’s a nice and mostly-fun representation of its source material that contains enough variety to keep things interesting. Yes, like most early PlayStation titles the visuals haven’t aged all that well, though there’s plenty worse to be had in the 32-bit era.. and then there’s Die Hard Trilogy 2, but let’s agree to never speak of that one again, shall we?

Yes. Like that so-called “Highlander 2” everyone keeps trying to tell me about, IT NEVER HAPPENED.

How to play Die Hard Trilogy (PS1) now

Die Hard Trilogy (PS1 PAL, boxed)

My own copy above was bought from new, and I’ve more than had the value from it, even at full retail.

Not that I’m going to be able to retire on its R@RE!!!!! status… because it doesn’t have that.

A quick trawl of ye olde bay of e suggests that copies typically sell for about $20-$30. Just be sure not to buy any purported “sequels” to the trilogy that DEFINITELY DO NOT EXIST ANYWAY.

Die Hard Trilogy, it strikes me is in a weird position. Most movie games never see a re-release because the rights simply expire, but with Disney now the owners of 20th Century Fox — and by extension the Die Hard rights — it could happen.

I mean, I doubt it, though it’s good fodder for a visually updated remaster. How about it, House of Mouse? I’d buy a copy.

Images: Technically (c) Disney or maybe 20th Century Fox or 20th Fox or whatever it’s called now, I don’t know…

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