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True Lies (SNES) artwork

True Lies (SNES) review

"Considering all the options available these days, there’s no excuse for True Lies to continue existing. Someone should gather the cartridges, bundle them with a two-ton weight and toss them into a massive swimming pool. Then maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger can fire a rocket launcher at them, just for good measure. The world would be a better place."

True Lies was a great movie. In one scene, Arnold Schwarzenegger climbs onto a horse and pursues a motorcycle-riding terrorist through a hotel lobby, up some elevators and across a rooftop. The camera pans to show a city skyline and a luminescent pool nearby. Action ensues. It’s one of Hollywood’s finest moments. Perhaps today, a game developer could do justice to that scene and to the others like it. Unfortunately, True Lies the game was made only a year after the movie was, in 1995. The Super Nintendo just wasn’t up to the task and a complete turd was the result.

The first problem is the game’s perspective. It’s mostly top-down, but set at an angle so that you can wander behind some objects and get lost. At other points, invisible barriers will play havoc with your ability to move through the game’s massive environments. This is bad because enemies are running about the area at almost all times, pelting you with bullets.

Sometimes, they don’t even show their faces. They’ll happily shoot you from off-screen, before you know they exist. It doesn’t happen often, but the stages are massive and it’s enough to wear you down at an alarming rate. Sure, you can pick up first-aid kits, but cheap shots do nothing to help your case. Hit detection also sucks. Unless you’re lined up properly with an opponent, your shots do no damage. Your enemies tend to fare better. You can stand your ground and turn a bit, but at that point you’ve already taken enough hits that you’re possibly in danger of losing a life.

This unfortunate fact is made worse by another: you’re going to have to find a lot of keys and cards and such throughout the game. Trouble begins in stage one, where you’ll gun your way to a door just in time to find that you lack the clearance necessary to proceed. Maybe you even passed a security card, but you didn’t notice it because some object was in the way. Until you memorize where everything is within a given level, you’ll find yourself doing a lot of backtracking. Thankfully, enemies don’t re-spawn all the time, but what if you’ve avoided killing every last one? Doubling back can be fatal.

It can also be tedious. Most of the stages in True Lies are maze-like, leaving you to wander around hedges or walls or whatever and search desperately for that archway that will allow you to proceed. Because of the angle at which you’ll be viewing the action, you’ll long to switch camera angles so you can see if somehow you’re missing a door. It’s hard to imagine how the developer managed that with a two-dimensional game, but they did. You’ll sometimes find yourself lost and roaming for minutes at a time, gnashing your teeth and hoping you survive to the end of the stage.

Thanks to those off-screen shots I mentioned, you quite possibly won’t. Even the first stage is difficult, and the ones that follow it only get worse. There are some brutal boss encounters, too, where your opponents are throwing grenades and peppering their surroundings with so many bullets that it’s almost impossible to avoid taking damage for more than two or three seconds. Many of these villains don’t need to reload, even though you do. Each stage you complete is a victory paid for with sweat and tears; each password you receive is a medal of honor.

The thing is, progress you make can at times feel unfair. Most enemies are dumber than rocks. They can only overwhelm you when they have superior numbers. Early on, before they swarm you, it’s possible to draw them down narrow hallways one at a time, or to shoot them across the top of desks or fountains as they stare at you in befuddlement without returning fire. Is this someone’s idea of fun?

It’s certainly not mine. The game really is a chore. You don’t ‘play’ it. You just mash the controller’s buttons and you survive. Considering all the options available these days, there’s no excuse for True Lies to continue existing. Someone should gather the cartridges, bundle them with a two-ton weight and toss them into a massive swimming pool. Then maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger can fire a rocket launcher at them, just for good measure. The world would be a better place.

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Staff review by Jason Venter (June 02, 2005)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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