It's almost a rule that any video game based on a movie, television show, or licensed property is not going to be one of the top games of all time. Witness the horrors that are Ghostbusters 2
for the NES, Terminator 2: Judgment Day
for the Super NES, and 99% of the games based on The Simpsons
, for example. On the other hand, there is the rare occassion a game manages to capture the spirit of the source material; Activision
's 1990 release Die Hard
for the Nintendo Entertainment System
is such a game. Sure, it won't win any awards for stellar graphics or memorable music, but the game does stick close to the storyline from the film: You are cast as John McClane
, a New York police officer
, a man who has the unfortunate luck of being trapped in an uptown office building with forty terrorist
s and a number of hostages. The goal of the game is to kill all the terrorists before they can break through the six locks protecting the building's safe. While this seems like standard fare at first glance, the designers saw fit to integrate key aspects of the film into the game including eavesdropping on the terrorists via radio, dodging weapons fire while inside air conditioner ducts, and the intriguing Foot meter.
Die Hard is presented in a top-down isometric viewpoint similar to that of The Legend of Zelda. Unlike the characters and creatures of Hyrule, however, John McClane and his enemies are rather nondescript generic characters. They're all faceless men; McClane is dressed in white while the terrorists wear blue or green. McClane himself has a few weapons in his arsenal including his bare fists, a pistol, and a machine gun. Handy bricks of C4 allow for some powerful explosions that can blow open doors and take out groups of terrorists in one blow. Our hero begins the game with just a radio and must take out the bad guys in order to get equipped. Other items that are worth picking up are the terrorists' detonators, a key to the roof, a map of the fourth floor of the Nakatomi Plaza, soda cans (for a health boost), and first aid kits (for a Foot boost). When McClane is attacked he takes damage and drops some of the items he's carrying. After his twenty-unit energy meter is depleted, McClane is dead and the game is over.
In the film McClane must battle the terrorists without his shoes and this concept carries over into the game. In addition to the health meter McClane has a Foot meter that depletes automatically over time. As the meter decreases, McClane's running and walking speed slows down. Foot power is used by running or stepping on broken glass (a result of the many windows that are shot apart during the game). If foot power drops to zero, McClane is forced to limp along, becoming an easy target for bullets. Only by collecting a first-aid kit can McClane fill his ailing Foot meter.
Only a few floors of the Nakatomi Plaza are accessible in the game. The terrorists are holding the hostages on the thirtieth floor, so McClane keeps himself isolated to floors 31-35 for the most part. 31-34 are office spaces and meeting rooms, while floor 35 is the maintenance deck just below the roof. If McClane steals the key to the roof from a terrorist, he can go up there and call for help on his radio. If he does this then Sgt. Al Powell will radio back from time to time with information on terrorist locations. An express elevator will take McClane to the fourth floor of the building where the office central mainframe is located. If he can destroy it with a rocket launcher, then it will hamper the terrorists' progress at breaking through the locks of the safe and slow down the timer. Completing (or not completing) these optional objectives change the ending of the game slightly.
Die Hard has multiple endings. A bad end occurs if McClane is killed (either by gunfire or by falling out of a window) or if the timer reaches zero and the terrorists escape with the money. The only way to successfully complete the game is to kill all the terrorists before time runs out. Once that happens the FBI will shut off the power to the building, thereby opening the final lock on the safe. The timer will speed up when this happens and McClane has to get to the thirtieth floor before terrorist ringleader Hans Gruber can escape. Unfortunately Hans is holding McClane's wife hostage. McClane must successfully encounter Hans and either shoot him or shove him out the window to win the game. An extended ending featuring Al Powell occurs if McClane contacted him with the radio from the roof. After the credits the game restarts from the beginning.
It's possible to complete Die Hard in under thirty minutes if you know what you're doing, and once the game is over and all of the objectives have been completed, there's not much incentive in returning to the game. If you're a Die Hard fanatic or completist then this game is worth a play, but someone looking for a pulse-pounding shooter will be sorely disappointed. Check your local used game shops and online auctions for the game pak. Yippee-ki-yay!