True Lies for the Super Nintendo (1994)
It’s been a while since I’ve written something for the Agony Booth, but I finished some stuff on the blog I wanted to get through, so let the mayhem begin… Again!
I’ve never been that much of an avid gamer (the last system I owned was an SNES, and everything else I’ve played since has been online or a PC title), but I do appreciate the inherent, simple joy to be found in mashing buttons in order to create mass chaos and destruction.
Being the fellow of sometimes questionable taste that I am, I tend to gravitate towards games based on films and TV shows—a gamer’s Russian roulette if there ever was one. To be frank, most games based on films tend to have the same effect on me as being stuck behind a really slow driver who’s either asleep at the wheel or possibly deceased.
True Lies is one of the few exceptions to the rule, however. Based on the 1994 James Cameron action/comedy that sees Arnold Schwarzenegger trashing a bunch of them nasty old terrorists, the game not only does a fine job of emulating the story of the film (apart from one thing at the end), but it also expands upon it quite nicely too. If you want my take on the actual movie, go directly to my blog where you can find my review, as well as tons of other great and wonderful posts about… Oh right, moving on!
Before we get into the game itself, there are a few things you should know about how I play video games. First of all, I hardly ever bother with the instruction manual. Partly because I do a lot of online stuff these days, but mostly because I sort of like to learn as I go. I give it a quick glance at the start, but after that, it’s trial and error all the way!
Second, and most importantly, I cheat. The object of any game is, ultimately, to win. And I feel “win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat” is a perfectly viable way of achieving that goal. It saves you from having a stress-induced heart attack while playing too, which is not the best thing for the record books when you get to the pearly gates. I’m fairly certain they put you in a “special” wing of heaven if you die while playing a video game.
What I’m taking a long time to say (on this site? Shocking, I know) is that if there’s a code that makes me invincible, I will be using it. Same goes for unlimited weapons and ammo. Which, in the case of this game, sort of makes sense, since that really gives you the feeling of being in an action movie.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what we’ve got.
The game starts off with our hero Harry Tasker infiltrating a chateau in Switzerland, where he needs to get some info on the bad guys from a computer. In modern games, this would require you to use a blend of stealth and non-lethal submission moves to get what you need. Here though (as well as on the next two levels), you just shoot the hell out of a ton of people while random civilians mill around the place. You can even off a few civilians if you like, though killing three of them ends the game and sends you back to the start.
Before we go any further, there are a few details I want to highlight that pop up throughout the game. First off, the Arnold sprite is quite amusing. A bit on the chunky side, it looks like what would happen if Schwarzenegger had Joe Don Baker’s physique. But from an overall quality standpoint, it looks pretty good, as do all of the graphics. Considering we’re talking about a 16-bit video game from 1994, they actually did a damn good job.
The other thing that makes this game stand out (for me, at least) is the rather copious amounts of blood in the game. When you shoot somebody—and believe me, there are ample opportunities to do so—they squirt out blood like they’re in a goddamn John Woo movie. And that’s just what your pistol does.
Shoot a guy with the shotgun, and he collapses in a pool of blood. There’s also a flamethrower you can use that… Well, you can probably guess what that does. I think this was one of the first games rated “T”.
About the only quibble I have with this aspect is that the grenades don’t make the intended victim explode in a mass of body parts. But I can see why the makers might not have wanted to go for that.
After blasting your way out of the chateau, you have to amble down a snowy hill, naturally shooting the hell out of every bad guy you see, until you get to a van where your partner Gib (Tom Arnold, who’s shockingly good in the actual movie, and gives advice throughout the game via text messages) gives you a lift.
The next level introduces us to Aziz (Art Malik in the film), our main villain. Here, you’re in a shopping mall where, once again, you have to blast the terrorists and avoid hitting innocent bystanders (some of whom seem to try like hell to get in the way), until you get to the restrooms for a beefed up version of an action scene from the film. The boss is a huge guy with a crappy ponytail and a shotgun who goes down bloodily, as do the other bosses, seeing as how you have to shoot them all a buttload of times (which makes the invincibility cheat code that much more enticing).
Next up is a chase after Aziz through a park, though sadly, it’s not on a horse like it was in the film. You get digitized stills of Arnie on the horse though, so there’s that. This level is like the others in terms of gameplay and opponents, until you get to the boss, who seems to be a machine gun wielding ninja with another bad ponytail. Hey, this was 1994. Be glad the bad guys aren’t all sporting mullets!
The action continues to the first of three levels created especially for the game. In this case, you go after the bad guys through a subway station in order to defuse a bomb. This is more or less repeated in the level where Harry goes to the Forbidden City in China.
Up next is my favorite level, a shootout at the docks where you have to destroy crates of weapons, and naturally, you also have to kill a whole bunch of bad guys. After that comes the Forbidden City level and then a long, sort of poorly thought-out battle at an oil refinery. The gameplay is the same as it is elsewhere, but you end up going back and forth a little too much.
After that is a nice change of pace as you redo the harrier scene from the movie, and end up causing almost as much destruction in the game as you see in the film. But the finale in the office building is much like the oil refinery level, unfortunately. And the worst part is that you don’t even fight Aziz in the end. The last boss you face is a huge guy with two Uzis, after which you get a series of still frames showing Aziz getting killed in the movie. It’s a shame that the game starts out so great, and then slouches its way to the end.
The one big flaw the game has is the massive repetition in the gameplay. Apart from the harrier level, it’s pretty much just shooting and killing the same guys over and over until you either get to the boss, who takes a bit more time to kill and spurts out more blood, or defuse whatever bomb is set to go off. Plus, Jamie Lee Curtis’ character is barely in this, but that’s more of a personal preference, really.
In spite of all that, the game is quite fun, and when it comes to unwinding after a rough day at work, it’s actually quite soothing in its inevitability.