Movie tie-ins were often considered bad back in the ’90s. It always seemed that the developers banked more on the licensing and name value than they did on the actual mechanics of the game. But every once in a while you get a bit of a gem. A diamond in the rough if you will. True Lies is one such example. Not only does it make excellent usage of its intellectual property, but it stands up well on its own even if you were to strip away the name value and likeness of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Thirsting for a fun violent overhead shooter? True Lies may be the sleeper hit you’ve been looking for. Let’s dive in…
ADVENTURES IN MOVIE HOPPING
My friends and I remained in our seats as the end credits to The Mask rolled. The usual “So, what did you think?” question made its way down the row in the midst of strangers stepping around us to exit the theater. Ben, the oldest in the group, had a devious look on his face when the question found its way to him. Our group didn’t have a leader, per se, but as the oldest, Ben held ringleader status among a few other alpha males (namely Tommy and the guy we affectionately referred to as Sushi-X). Ben was also a kid at heart. He was the first in the group to get his driver’s license and he was always a rebel. I stared at his grinning mug a couple seats over. The twinkle in his eye suggested he was up to no good. “I really liked it. Know what else I’d really like? To watch True Lies right now…”
Being a young innocent and naive kid, I thought Ben meant go pay for a second ticket. But as we walked out of the theater I noticed my group heading toward the auditorium with the marquee headlined by True Lies, rather than the ticket entrance. Holy crap, Ben wanted to pull off a grand heist (through 10 year old eyes it felt like a big crime anyhow)! My heart was racing and my palms felt like the bottom of a jet ski skipping across the ocean. As fate would have it, this next showing of True Lies was set to start right after The Mask. Was it a sign? Was it meant to be? I just knew they were my ride home, so I had little say in the matter. Ben, leading the charge, approached the double doors and looked back at us to steal a glance. He gave us a hearty nod with a devil-may-care smile. He swung the doors open and we followed him in like lemmings committing a heinous group crime in the still of the night…
As we shuffled our way through and up to the top, I remember fearing for my life that our cover would be blown. Movie hopping was something I’d seen happen on TV sitcoms growing up. I never knew of anyone in real life who ever actually did it. It was almost like an urban myth to me as a kid. Anyone who dares to try sneaking into a movie for free was going to be caught red-handed, kicked out and banned from movie theaters for life. A mugshot would be plastered all over the country at all local theaters, denying you admittance from all future flicks. A little over dramatic but hey, I was 10! We grabbed our seats as the lights began to dim. I remember glancing out at the sea of humanity below me thinking how many others had sneaked in here free from The Mask? And how many of us were going to get caught? As the first trailer played, I could only imagine the worst…
“Come on everyone, the coast is clear. Let’s go!”
“I can’t believe we’re doing this! I mean this is crazy!”
“SHUT UP! Keep it down over there. Act like you’ve done this before.”
“I dunno, Ben. I kinda have a bad feeling about this…”
“Ah you wussbag. Grow some balls, will ya. Ain’t no one gonna catch us… not if you just play it cool.”
“I dunno about this either…”
“Will you guys zip it, huh? This is a fool proof plan so just follow my lead.”
That sure didn’t look like NO ONE to me, Ben.
At least, that’s how I envisioned it playing out as I sat there with the trailers blaring at my face in heavenly surround sound.
Luckily, we made it safely to our seats without incident… for now, anyhow…
Any slight movement to and from the door had me squirming in my seat. I struggled to pay any attention to the trailers. My eyes kept darting over the room looking out for any ushers who might come crush us for the sins of our youth.
After a few minutes went by and we were in the clear, for the moment at least, I stole a glance at Ben. Son of a bitch was kicking back like he was at home in his PJs. But I had to admire the bastard. At just 17 years old he had a carefree and magnetic aura that I couldn’t help but admire. Ben was a kid at heart if I ever saw one.
It wasn’t long before the movie began. No usher ever came to rebuke us. We had a wonderful time watching True Lies. While I don’t advocate or promote movie hopping (because it’s morally wrong), this remains a fond memory of the fun times I had running with my game crew back in the day.
THE STORY GOES…
“What da hell were ya thinkin’? I mean, I had the guy, and you let him get away.”
ARNOLD’S BIG TOYS
You start out with a standard 15-clip hand gun. The bad news? It’s sort of weak and after every 15th shot you must reload, leaving you vulnerable for a precious second. The good news? Unlimited ammo. ProTip: when it’s safe, fire off all your shots once you get down to five or so. The last thing you want is to have to reload during a crucial moment. Therefore, ALWAYS keep it fully stocked.
Now we’re talking! The Uzi is like the hand gun except it spits out bullets like no tomorrow. In addition, you automatically lock yourself in whichever direction you are firing. The Uzi also allows you to turn at unique angles, giving you the possibility of sniping scumbags from a position where, with any other gun, you wouldn’t be able to. It’s definitely handy for clearing a room full of bad guys. Just too bad it eats up a ton of ammo quickly.
The shotgun fires a powerful spread shot that fires five shots. But just like in Doom, if you clip someone rather than blast them straight on, the power is greatly reduced. It’s also slow to load so make sure each shot counts. It’s annoying though that the bullets only travel a certain length before disappearing. Still, it’s a blast to pump terrorists full of lead point blank!
The flamethrower is the most powerful weapon. It instantly eviscerates upon contact. Like the Uzi, firing this locks you in position and you can turn to fry anyone within your vicinity. Also like the Uzi it eats up ammo faster than a sumbitch.
The land mine is the perfect weapon to lure victims in. Unfortunately once you set it down there’s a three second delay for the mine to activate, so it’s no good if you are near your enemy. But if you see him coming from afar, the land mine can be a true game changer.
I love all of the weapons for different reasons, but the grenade just might be my favorite. Let’s see why below…
HOW TO BE A CERTIFIED BADASS
Gotta love how Beam Software strategically placed that small table there. It’s ripe for bouncing one over…
Somersault to victory — if you press the shoot button right after rolling, Arnold will get up on one knee and start firing. Used correctly, this technique can provide a huge boost.
Albeit a bit pixelated, these lovely photos had a strikingly realistic look.
LEVEL 1: CRASHING THE DINNER PARTY
How you use corners and walls to your advantage can make the difference between victory and death. Strategic positioning is pivotal!
LEVEL 2: MAYHEM AT THE MALL
LEVEL 3: PANDEMONIUM IN THE PARK
I love the little details in games. About halfway through the park you run into a group of training martial artists. As you pass you can actually hear their grunts of “HOO!” “HA!” “HEE!” It’s pretty dang awesome. These guys are harmless so don’t shoot them, but the bad guys sure can. It’s too bad a movie starring both Arnold and Bruce Lee was never meant to be.
LEVEL 4: SUBWAY SUICIDE
Trains whiz by, giving you barely just enough time to reach each alcove.
Notice how his grenade is poorly aimed and how it bounces off the side of the train…
The computer’s wild, random and unpredictable AI makes playing True Lies a blast, pardon the pun. You never know when they accidentally commit genocide on themselves…
LEVEL 5: SHOOTIN’ ON THE DOCK OF THE BAY
GOTDAMN! True Lies is without a shadow of a doubt Arnold-approved.
LEVEL 6: BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA
“DIDN’T I JUST KILL YOU!?! AHH!!” Rock-It-Ralph gets the last laugh.
Believe it or not, he’s even deadlier than Rock-It-Ralph. Mainly because this bastard actually moves. Better say your prayers…
Imagine wading through this hellhole. Rockets are screaming past you in tight quarters while gun slinging flunkies set their sights on you. Now imagine having to backtrack through this after discovering you’d forgotten to locate a key. No worst feeling in this game.
Mercifully there’s no respawning. Killed enemies stay dead. In some cases you’ll find yourself not killing but sneaking by best as you can. Keep in mind that enemies not killed will have to be dealt with if you need to backtrack.
LEVEL 7: REFINERY RAMPAGE
LEVEL 8: SPACE HARRIER
LEVEL 9: ANOTHER SLAY AT THE OFFICE
LEVEL 10: AZIZ MEETS HIS BITTER END
TOO MUCH HEAT? YOU CAN ALWAYS CHEAT
Some games are rock hard. Others are near impossible. And then, there’s True Lies. While the first two or three levels start out fairly manageable, it isn’t long before the curve spikes and you find yourself dying over and over again. Now normally I’m not the biggest proponent of using cheat codes, but when a game is maddeningly difficult I’m not against evening up the odds a bit. For example, BGWPNS (big weapons) allows you to start with all weapons (but not infinite ammo). That’s reasonably fair. Another code gives you invincibility which isn’t fair but good for when you just want to blow shit up. Amusingly enough, to enable this God mode you have to input the command BGGRLY. Yes, BIG GIRLY. Hey, beggars can’t be choosers!
Level select codes have always been my favorite. It really increases the longevity of games lacking a save feature. Sometimes I want to jump to a certain part of a game, beat just that part and call it a night. It’s handy for those moments when you just wanna play for 15 minutes before bed.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
The game earned respectable scores. EGM gave it ratings of 8, 7, 7 and 6.5. GameFan rated it 79, 73 and 70%. Super Play Magazine scored it 74%. They agreed that True Lies is one of the better movie game efforts but two glaring flaws hold it back from being a great title. The music and gun sound effects are a bit weak. The other flaw is its extreme difficulty. As for the film, it was a success for the most part. It was the first movie in history to boast a budget of over 100 million and it raked in 378 million worldwide. Critics and fans alike enjoyed its mix of action and comedy, with bits of romance sprinkled in for good measure. Jamie Lee Curtis won the Golden Globe Award for best actress. Damn, who could forget that infamous strip scene? Steamy stuff! True Lies also marked a strong comeback for Arnold who starred in the flop Last Action Hero the summer prior. It’s interesting to note that this was James Cameron’s baby in-between T2: Judgment Day and Titantic. Ah, the days when Cameron ruled the cinematic world, eh?
Movie game adaptations in the ’90s were often times more miss than hit. True Lies, for the most part, is a hit. The action comes at you fast and furious, yet during the calm before the storm you have to be methodical and strategic. It’s a combo that works well, rewarding flexible players who excel in scrums and who show an affinity for meticulous planning and precision. Many of the game’s stages are scenes plucked straight out of the movie, and the ones that are re-imagined add a rather nice bit of environmental diversity. All of the classic locales are present such as public parks, decrepit catacombs and even a dour refinery. But it also has some unique settings you just don’t see often, such as the local mall and a stage that takes place on the loading dock. This results in giving the game a nice breadth and makes each new level something to look forward to. Visuals are solid and the blood, though cartoony, add an extra sense of brutality. The music loops unfortunately and is certainly not a shining point of the game. The guns don’t sound all that realistic, either. Small gripes though, really.
What really makes True Lies stand out is its sheer, unadulterated violence. It’s loud. It’s brash. It’s grisly. Grenades send victims sprawling 10 feet in the air as blood spills and bodies singe. It’s a great game to pop in after a tough day at work, as few things satisfy like wasting bastards point blank via shotgun, followed by roasting someone alive. On the downside, it’s way too difficult. The levels are long and can take 15-25 minutes to complete, which has its pros and cons. The later levels are maze-like which contribute to the time it takes to beat them. Some levels have you fetching items which impedes the shooting mayhem. Enemies always seem to know where you are, even if they can’t see you. The lock button helps but a quick 180° turn option would have helped even more.
Angling your shots and positioning yourself properly is absolutely key. But even if you do all that, it will STILL eat you up and spit you out. Thank goodness then for codes that give you more of a fighting chance. Despite its flaws, there aren’t too many titles comparable to True Lies on the Super Nintendo. It’s worthy of the Arnold name, providing wanton destruction the likes of which few others can match. It’s one of my pet favorites and although the game has received its fair share of “under the radar” props, I still love singing its praises whenever I can. It’s one of the best movie tie-in games on the SNES!