It’s often said that GoldenEye is the best film tie-in game out there. In truth, it’s actually a very close second place to the Die Hard Trilogy. I guess it’s an unfair fight. There’s only one of GoldenEye but, as the name suggests, there are three Die Hard games all rolled up into one glorious package! In the days when games were frightfully expensive and discounts were basically non-existent, how could any PlayStation 1 or Sega Saturn owner resist this?!
I played Die Hard Trilogy long before I ever watched any of the films, which just meant I learned to love the games on their own merits before growing up a bit and discovering just how clever they were.
There was the original Die Hard game. A third-person shooter, you negotiated a series of floors within Nakatomi Plaza, attempting to rescue hostages while also shooting every bad guy possible. It was somewhat repetitive (a common theme throughout the games) but in an enjoyable way. There were plenty of different guns to collect along and you’d soon end up having favourites. Obviously, the best was anything automatic that fired plenty of bullets. After all, there were loads of enemies to contend with. I’m fairly confident that John McClane, in the Die Hard Trilogy, killed more bad guys than he ever did in the film versions.
There were little things that stood out amongst the action. The kinds of things you’d take for granted nowadays. You could smash interior glass windows for instance. Voice acting played a small but pivotal role, too, amongst the over the top dance music pumping through the game. Besides hearing enemies yell “argh” every time you killed them, there’d be utters of McClane crying “get the hell out of here” at hostages or sighing “that’s better” when he came across a health pack. Small inconsequential things now but they added to the atmosphere significantly at the time.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder added fire. It was an on rails-shooter leaving McClane to automatically work his way through Dulles Airport shooting anything that moved. Well, trying to avoid hostages too, but you’d invariably get carried away and shoot a couple of them anyway. Crucially, you could set enemies on fire or toss grenades at them, and there was a horribly addictive quality to doing so. Hit an enemy just right and they’d explode in a pool of blood, or a ring of fire would emerge from their falling body. Incredibly unrealistic and yet worryingly satisfying.
It all felt like the closest to an arcade game I’d ever come across at home before. I suspect it was even better if you had a lightgun to use with it, but I didn’t. There was meant to be one but it never showed up (something to do with the shop struggling to source stock). I wish it had. Using a controller was a bit sluggish and I mostly resorted to cheats to give me a fighting chance. Still, watching a plane come down almost on your head was fairly thrilling, much like the film itself.
Wondering if Die Hard with a Vengeance was the weakest link here? Nah, far from it. Granted, I was utterly terrible at it, but it was fantastic. You had to drive around New York City defusing explosives before they went off. Just like the film then. It was tough. Easily the hardest of the three games, but the sense of freedom was liberating, especially at a time when we hadn’t yet seen Grand Theft Auto in 3D. Obviously driving a taxi cab or sports car felt more satisfying than later vehicles, such as a dump truck, which was just asking for trouble if, like me, you were rubbish at driving.
I always preferred to play one of the first two games, but simply having the option of three different titles on one disc felt magical. OK, they weren’t the most intelligent games, but they had a magic we sometimes overlook today. Within seconds, you could adore everything each game had to offer. There weren’t any long cut-scenes or any extended intros before things got going.
Maybe it’s appropriate, then, that on my excursion down memory lane I discovered Horace, a similarly magical title from the same developer as the Die Hard Trilogy. And much like the trilogy, Horace grabs you within seconds, albeit with a charming tale of a robot making his way in the world. Even while doped up on strong painkillers post-surgery, I could understand Horace. The benefits of a classical education indeed. Hans Gruber would approve.