Blade Runner is a point-and-click adventure game developed by Westwood Studios and published by Virgin Interactive for Microsoft Windows, released on November 14, 1997. The game is not a direct adaptation of the 1982 Ridley Scott film Blade Runner but is instead a “sidequel”, telling an original story, which runs parallel to the film’s plot, occasionally intersecting with it.
Set in 2019 Los Angeles, the game tells the story of Ray McCoy, an elite detective charged with hunting down a group of dangerous replicants (bioengineered androids designed to look and act like humans). Although several of the film’s characters appear in the game, with some of the original actors returning to voice them, the film’s protagonist, Rick Deckard, does not appear in a speaking role. Instead, he is referred to on multiple occasions, is seen several times, and his activities as depicted in the film are mentioned. Other parallels with the film include the reproduction of several prominent locations, as well as scenes and dialogue closely modelled on the original. The game also features extracts from the film’s soundtrack.
When the game starts you’re investigating an attack at an animal store. Apparently the place has been shot up, but it doesn’t appear to be a robbery so McCoy is tasked with trying to find out who did it an why. This is done by sweeping the cursor over the scene to see when it either turns green (so you can interact with something), or blue (so you can move in that direction).
This game has an interesting character interaction mechanic, as you can select a Conversation Choice from you options screen before engaging in a conversation. These choices set the tone for the conversation and depending on what you pick can effect the information you get back. This is what I assumed at least, but I only played around with it at the very beginning of the game, then set it to the question mark and sort of just left it there.
The KIA, which is your personal computer (and where you change options or save/load the game) is also where you can review the evidence you’ve collected during your investigation. This is extremely helpful as you can review conversations you’ve had, as well as see what evidence you’ve picked up or hardcopies you’ve printed while analyzing photos.
Remember that scene in the movie where Deckard is enhancing a photo? You guessed it, that mechanic makes its way into this game, and is actually used a few times to advance the plot. Honestly I remember when I originally played this game I spent a lot of time with each photo you get access to just trying to enhance every possible section to see if it hid more clues.
It’s pretty cool how these 2D photos can be sort of navigated in 3D, as you can uncover details “behind” or “around” certain sections to make details appear such as faces.
Not all aspects of the movie translate to “fun” when made into playable elements of the game. The Voight-Kampff test that is used to determine if someone is a replicant or human can be administered to various characters, but I found that it was more tedious than enjoyable. You’re basically just clicking one of three buttons to ask questions of varying degrees of “difficulty” to the subject. You don’t see the subject reacting - just a picture of an eyeball and an arbitrary meter than is supposed to (I think) show “reaction time”.
I sort of just kept mashing the buttons until the game decided on a result and I was allowed to move on.
There are a handful of characters you can interact with throughout the game, and as you progress you’ll be given certain dialogue options you can use to learn more about your investigation. You can only ask characters about a certain topic once (in most cases), so it’s extra helpful that anything important to the main story is also captured in your KIA as evidence so that you can revisit it later if needed.
This game is fully voiced, and the voice actors are quite good. The background music is also very atmospheric and borrows heavily from the movie. This makes for an extremely immersive experience.
Your job as a blade runner is ultimately to “retire” replicants. As such, you’ve got your trusty sidearm with you at all times, which you can whip out pretty much any time and start firing. There’s a firing range at the police station you can visit at any point and run through to get some practice, and you will need to take out a couple characters (and some rats in the sewers), but overall the gun plays a pretty minor role over the course of the game.
There are three different difficulty levels you can play through the game at (Easy, Normal, Hard), and I opted for easy. This gives you unlimited ammo and I’m assuming also makez it easier to kill your targets … and possibly some other things I didn’t notice.
Overall I’d say this is a pretty solid, well made game … but the cutscenes are awful. For a game made in 1997 the character models are rigid and lack emotion, the lip syncing is terrible at best and the movements are wooden. It really detracts from an otherwise excellent game as it feels like it was slapped together. Seriously, when you watch the cutscenes it looks like someone made a stop-action video with marionettes.
For me, the story is everything in these games … and Blade Runner doesn’t disappoint. Since it’s based in the same “universe” as the original movie you get to enjoy some minor crossovers, but overall it’s a new adventure that leverages the elements of the movie that made it a cult classic. Your humanity is brought into question, you’re framed for a crime and need to clear your name and your decisions throughout the game have consequences.
There are multiple endings, but I didn’t go back to try any of these out. I do think it’s pretty cool that the game leaves it up to you how you want to finish act 5 and decide “which side you’re on”.
I’ve had this game on my short list for almost a decade because I remember owning this when it came out and never finishing it. I was a huge fan of the movie and had fond memories of the game’s story as well, but never managed to make it more than half way through at the time.
When the reverse engineering began and it looked like this game would be playable in ScummVM I got extremely excited. This game was recently re-released as the “Enhanced Edition”, but apparently that version was so badly done they re-re-released it with the 1997 version. The ScummVM devs really did some great work bringing this game back for modern systems, and I believe they also added the subtitles to the game.
Cutscene quality aside, I’d recommend this game to any adventure game fan - as long as they’re playing the original release via ScummVM ;)
|Virgin Interactive Entertainment
|November 14, 1997
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