Yes I’m still celebrating the 30th anniversary of Die Hard as I’ve been doing throughout this year with numerous articles and I still have a few more to come including offering my own opinion on the biggest topic of every festive season. But before then, I want to take a look at the games based on and inspired by the movie series.
When I first started to think about this topic – only a few Die Hard games initially came to mind, that NES one, the trilogy thing on the PlayStation, oh and that arcade game. At first I thought this was going to be a relatively short article. But then other Die Hard games began to creep into my noodle, games I had played and long forgotten about. Plus a little digging around on the interwebs brought a whole slew of other Die Hard games to my attention. Turns out that John McClane has had quite a long career in video games over the years.
So let’s not dally around any longer, time to take on some terrorists, look at some Die Hard games and ask how can the same shit happen to the same guy twelve times?
The first game was released in 1989 for DOS and developed by Dynamix, Inc. This game was a third person action shooter with some survival mechanics thrown in. With you playing as John McClane following the same plot as the film with you having to take on Hans Gruber and his men while trying to save hostages.
Featuring early 3D graphics and some EGA renditions of stills from the movie to forward the story. Strangely though Bruce Willis’ likeness is not used and McClane’s appearance is altered from the movie, he’s not even wearing the right coloured top – but Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber is shown in all it’s early DOS graphical glory.
You would have to go from floor to floor taking on terrorists as you scoured Nakatomi Plaza in search of items and weapons to help you survive. Take out a bad guys and you could search them too for ammo. Many of the films iconic action sequences are represented in the game including the throwing C-4 down the lift shaft, jumping from the roof as it explodes and of course facing off against Hans himself. The game features multiple possible endings from saving the day just like in the movie to Hans getting away with the money and killing Holly too.
For the time, Die Hard was a very advanced game using not just action but also survival ideas to make a highly unique game… tough as nails hard though but if you persevered and learned all the game had to offer, then you would be rewarded with a great title.
This one was released for the Commodore 64 in 1990 and developed by Silent Software. It’s basically a port of the previous DOS game only a lighter version and changed to a side scroller due to the limitations of the Commodore 64. So gone are those fancy 3D environments. But don’t worry, Hans still shows up in glorious C-64, pixel vision.
No real point in going into details with this one as it’s pretty much the same game as the previous one. Some of the survival elements were toned down to make the game more action-centric but still essentially the same thing as before. But hey, they got the colour of McClane’s shirt right in this one. This one is okay, it lacks the depth of it’s DOS bigger brother but certainly playable though.
Also released in 1990 was this exclusive to Japan for the TurboGrafx-16 game developed by Pack-In-Video Co., Ltd. Very different from the previous two games we have seen so far with it being a top-down/arcade action title. While it followed the plot of the movie, it still used some creative licence along the way.
You start the game in a forest… just not like in the movie. The game features various weapons, like a lazer… just not like in the movie and the final boss fight is with an attack helicopter… just not like in the movie. As I said, the game uses some creative license. I suppose one could compare this to the arcade classic Commando. It has the same top-down viewpoint and its one of those run and gun type games with you shooting your way through dozens and dozens of bad guys.
After you get out of the forest that is not in the film, the game does take place in Nakatomi Plaza and it begins to look a lot more like the flick. But the whole building is like a huge maze with branching paths and various doors to go through, you’ll find yourself getting lost pretty quickly. Still, it’s a decent game overall if a little frustrating, full of action and yeah it feels very Die Hard once out of the opening couple of stages and if you put those lazers at the back of your mind.
Perhaps the most (in)famous of the early Die Hard games. Released for the NES in 1991, developed by Pack-In-Video Co., Ltd. Another top-down shooter but very different from the previous game… but at least you don’t start out in a forest.
The game follows the same plot as the movie with McClane stuck in Nakatomi Plaza having to fend of terrorists and stop them breaking into the vault to steal the cash (bearer bonds in the movie). You start out with nothing, not even a gun, but if you manage to punch the crap out of the first bad guy, you’ll soon find yourself armed with a gun. Basically all you have to do is clear each floor of terrorists, find Hans and stop him. The main problem with this game is the time limit as there are about 3-4 minutes between each lock on the vault being opened and when all locks are opened, it’s game over. The time limit is way to strict and gives you little room to explore which is a shame because the game pretty much requires you to be a little stealthy/slow.
There are a couple of interesting aspects that include a foot meter. This is really a heath bar for your feet and the more damage your feet get (like walking on broken glass), the slower you move… yes like in the movie. Plus you can listen in on Hans talking to his henchmen via a C.B. radio… yes like in the movie. The story is played out with still cut-scenes taken from the movie, still no Bruce Willis though, but Alan Rickman is here.
It’s actually an interesting game with some great features, but that damn time limit really ruins this one as it forces you to run around like a headless chicken when you really need to take your time and explore the levels. The game features multiple endings once more including Hans escaping with Holly.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder
Developed by Tiertex Ltd. and released for Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and DOS. This one hit the shop shelves in 1992 and is based on the movie of the same name. Going for a first person view point, this was one of those light-gun games… without the light-gun.
Set over five stages based on scenes from the film and each stage split into three screens, kill the bad guys on each screen to advance to the next one, clear all three screens to move onto the next stage. You know these type of games, bad guys keep popping up, you shoot them and they drop power-ups, weapons and ammo. Occasionally a civilian will run in the line of fire instead of staying in cover (because they’re stupid), rinse and repeat. It’s a shooting gallery and not a good one.
This one’s not very good at all, it’s just so damn dull and there are better games of it’s ilk around, even in 92 it felt 10 years out of date and that feeling is much worse now. The screens don’t scroll or anything, they are completely static. If you can stomach the game until the end you’ll get one of the worst game endings ever with a blue screen displaying “You completed your mission” and that’s it. Best to avoid this one.
Die Hard Trilogy
This could be the most famous game based on the movies. Released for PlayStation, Sega Saturn and Windows in 1996. Developed by Probe Entertainment Ltd., this one takes the films of the then trilogy and melds them into one huge game. I think I’ll need to split this up into three sub-sections to cover as each game is different.
Die Hard: A third person action shooter based on the first film. Playing as McClane you fight your way up Nakatomi Plaza shooting terrorists, picking up ammo and weapons. Clear each floor of bad guys and move onto the next. I guess its pretty similar to the previous NES game I’ve covered… only without that annoying timer allowing you to enjoy the game at your own pace. Explore each floor, kill bad guys, save hostages, take in the badly dubbed lines from the movie. It’s very faithful to the film too and you’ll recognise some of the locales within Nakatomi Plaza. Yup this one is a stone cold classic that plays well and despite a little clunkyness, it’s still very playable today too. A truly great Die Hard game that does the film justice and it’s only the first third too.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder: Going for a first person view point, much like the previous Die Hard 2: Die Harder game I just covered, it’s one of those light-gun games… but with the light-gun if you had one or controller if you didn’t. Only this one is far, far superior to that other mess of a game. Taking place though numerous scenes from the film, it’s standard stuff, shoot bad guys, they drop ammo and weapons, civilians will run in the line of fire instead of staying in cover (because they’re stupid), rinse and repeat. The gameplay in this one is much more refined, it plays more like Sega’s Virtua Cop and less like the bland shooting gallery of the other one. There’s some impressive destructible scenery too. Not as good as the first part of this trilogy, but still damn good fun.
Die Hard With A Vengeance: Things are changed up again for the final third and now it’s a driving game. You race around New York in various vehicles such as taxis, ambulances, sports cars and the like. The aim it to find the many bombs Simon Gruber has placed around New York and ram them with your vehicle to defuse them… cos that’s how the bomb squad do it right? There are several power-ups that can be collected including turbo boosts, jumps and extra time. Oh yes, this game has a timer and I hate timers. Of course if you are chasing bombs, it makes sense that there’s a timer but I just do not like them. For me, this is the lesser of the three games in this trilogy but that being said, it’s fast paced and still fun – just not as fun as the other two.
Overall, this game is perhaps the best Die Hard game so far or most probably ever will be. It can be a little frustrating as the controls are very dated now and for me that third game is the weakest. Still as a collection you get three good games all in one that are both faithful to the films they are based on and yet also do their own thing to make for an exciting and entertaining trilogy of games. Oh and all three are overtly violent and bloody too.
Die Hard Arcade
Developed by Sega’s AM1 R&D Division and released (unsurprisingly) for the arcade in 1996 with a Sega Saturn port soon following. This one is based on the first movie, in fact, make that “inspired by” not “based on”. The game does take some liberties with the movie as I’ll cover next. It’s a scrolling beat em’ up kind of like Double Dragon or Final Fight only with fancy 3D graphics and environments.
So the story of the game does not follow the movie at all. You can play as either John McClane or Kris Thompsen (or both in two-player) who is an FBI agent I think (never played as her, why would I?) and you are tasked with saving President’s daughter from a skyscraper that I think is supposed to be Nakatomi Plaza from the first movie, the Nakatomi logo is everywhere. So it’s a very different plot. It’s standard scrolling beat em’ up fare, punch and kick bad guys, pick up weapons (one being a grandfather clock), take out more bad guys, get to the boss and kick the shit out of him.
There are a few QTE sections in the game that split up the levels and all in all, this one is pretty good fun to play. There’s no real depth and it’s very clear it had little to do with Die Hard. Makes me wonder if this was originally developed as an original game and the Die Hard license was slapped on at the last minute. I mean, the Japanese version has nothing to do with Die Hard at all and is called Dynamite Deka – which had a sequel called Dynamite Deka 2… and when that sequel was released outside of Japan it was called Dynamite Cop. So this Die Hard game has a sequel that’s not really a sequel at all.
But anyway, this is a good, all action game with both feet firmly in the arcade. Well worth a play even if it really has very little to do with Die Hard other than it’s name and lead character. It’s a short game and offers no replay value, but its a fun quick blast regardless.
Die Hard Trilogy 2: Viva Las Vegas
Yes the best Die Hard game got a sequel not based on any of the movies. Developed by n-Space, Inc. and released in 2000 for both PlayStation and Windows. This one is a whole new McClane story but still using that three different game concept from the other trilogy game.
Telling a story set after the events of Die Hard With A Vengeance with McClane going to Vegas where he finds himself cleaning up the mess after a prison riot where terrorist Klaus Von Haug attempts to take over Las Vegas with the help of some friends.
Okay so I’m not going to split this one up into three different sections as I did with the first game because you don’t play them separately. The three different game modes are here, the third person, the first person and the vehicle section – however they are all intertwined into one game instead of three individual games. So for instance, the first level would be a third person one then the next one would be a first person and the one after that would be a driving level and the game continues like that. Still that is if you play it in Movie Mode to follow the plot. You can also play Arcade Mode where you can choose which of the three gameplay styles you want, so you can play just the third person, first person or driving sections if you like.
This one is pretty bad. It’s a different developer from the first game and it really, really shows too. None of the three different gameplay styles work here and they all seem several steps backward since the first game. A very disappointing sequel to a great Die Hard game.
Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza
Released in 2002 for Windows and developed by Piranha Games, Inc., this game is a sort of remake of the movie. It follows the plot of the film to the letter, but still uses a little creative license to add some new ideas and even shows what McClane was up to when we do not see him in the film.
This one is a first person shooter and originally started out as a mod for Duke Nukem 3D. The development team even went to Fox Plaza (the real Nakatomi Plaza in L.A.) to ensure the game was as faithful as it could be. It uses music and sound effects from the game, even some of the cast provide voices… no Bruce Willis though. It really does follow the film well but still does it’s own thing along the way to expand the gameplay. It keeps things as close to the movie as possible to the point where the only weapons in the game are the only ones used in the film – so no lazers here.
It’s a pretty good shooter that does the film justice. Bearing in mind this was low budget and as I said, it started out life as a mod for another game too. Still with the limed funds and small development team, they made a solid Die Hard game that any fan of the flick will enjoy.
Die Hard: Vendetta
Developed by Bits Studios Ltd. and released in 2002 for GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Once more, another first person shooter, only this one tells a whole new story. Set several years after the events of the third film and McClane is now working for the Century City Police Department in Los Angeles along with his now adult daughter Lucy. Enter Piet Gruber, Hans’ son who kidnaps Lucy and you have to save her.
The main problem with this game is that first person shooters were everywhere back in the early 2000s and to stand out, they needed to be something special. Die Hard: Vendetta isn’t very special. It does a couple of interesting things like being able to take hostages/human shields and the enemies react depending on who you take. There a slo-mo thing called Hero Time where everything slows down but McClane moves at normal speed, so you can dodge bullets and take out bad guys easier. Plus the game has a stealth mechanic and the gameplay is pretty decent. But that’s all it is, decent.
The story is trite and playing as McClane is not as fun as it should be despite some interesting mechanics. The game feels very unpolished but what is there is okay at best. Worth a look at least. This was the last “proper” Die Hard game too. All that is left are the final two Die Hard based “games” and they only need a quick look at too…
This one came out in 2013 and was developed by Goroid Games released for Android and iOS. Yes it’s one of those free to play games. Despite it only being called Die Hard it’s actually based on the most recent movie, A Good Day to Die Hard. It’s one of those endless runner type games with some shooting thrown in.
If you have played games like Temple Run on your phone, then you know what to expect. This is pretty standard fare and really offers little gameplay other than slide you finger left, right, up, down, etc. Nowt special here, but what is confusing is the next game…
A Good Day to Die Hard
Yes another game based on the most recent film. This one also came out in 2013 and also released for Android. Developed by Gameloft Software Ltd. So yeah, two games based off the same film but where as the previous one was an endless runner game, this one is a side scrolling shooter.
Playing as John or Jack McClane you find yourself in the midst of the action based on the movie. There’s some light platforming action along side the shooting. Take out the bad guys and continue through the level. Much more fun than the precious game but still a pretty shallow experience overall.
And that’s yer lot for Die Hard games. There are some great games with the highlight being Die Hard Trilogy from 98 – still good fun to play today. Some pretty good games such as 2002’s Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza. Then there have been some truly terrible titles with sadly more bad Die Hard games than good ones.
I’m still waiting for the definitive Die Hard game experience. I think a mix of that first part of Die Hard Trilogy melded with elements of Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza along with a pinch of the first Die Hard game on DOS and we could have an amazing game. But things seem to be drying up when it comes to Die Hard games. The latest film is in production as I type this but I doubt that will garner enough interest for someone to develop a full-blown game, I think the best we can hope is another Android/iOS free to play game. I don’t think we will ever see that definitive Die Hard game, I’m pretty sure we can say happy trials to that idea.