Amazingly it took 15 years for a proper Blade Runner game to get made, though developers like Hideo Kojima had been... paying homage to it the best they could in the meantime. Well okay there is another game called Blade Runner released in 1985 for 8-bit computers, but it's actually based on the soundtrack to the movie. Seriously, it's stated to be a "video game interpretation of the film score".
I'm not sure if it's a coincidence that Westwood's game came out a few months after the Director's Cut DVD of the movie, but it certainly seems like good timing. Sadly I'm not going to be able to compare the game to the film, as I've somehow neglected to ever watch it. There's two theatrical cuts, a TV cut, a workprint cut, a Director's Cut and a Final Cut, and I haven't seen any of them. I know it stars a detective called Rick Deckard who definitely is/isn't a robot and I know where the Millennium Falcon is hidden amongst the skyscrapers, but other than that...
Actually you know what, I'm not going to half-ass this for once; I'm going to use this article as an excuse to finally watch the film for the very first time before I play the game, right now! Such is my commitment to excellence and my dedication to providing insightful commentary... or maybe I'm just trying to put off having to write about the game for a bit longer. Either way this article may now also include MOVIE SPOILERS.
(Click the pictures to... see them in exactly the same res as they are now. Sorry, but this one's stuck at 640x480.)
TWO HOURS LATER.
I've read that in the original novel by Philip K. Dick, the special police squads were instead bounty hunters who worked under the name of... bounty hunter. This apparently wasn't interesting enough for Ridley Scott though, who decided in the end to acquire the title of a book called The Bladerunner by Alan E. Nourse, which is about a guy who... runs blades (you know, like a gunrunner, except for black market surgical equipment.) So there was a point where the title actually made sense.
LOS ANGELES. NOVEMBER, 2019.
|Blade Runner Blu Ray screencap (click to see the uncropped original).|
(If you're curious about where the game lies in the great scheme of visual effects, it came out during the year of the first Starship Troopers movie, Final Fantasy VII, season 3 of ReBoot and season 4 of Babylon 5.)
Despite being called Blade Runner it doesn't seem to be following the storyline of the movie, which kind of irritates me to be honest. Not because I wanted it to be a retread of the film, but because they didn't give it a subtitle to give it its own unique identifier. I know that would make it seem a step removed from the film, but... well, it is; it's a bloody spin-off story! Blade Runner Gaiden, there you go.
He's holding a bird by the way, just like Roy Batty does at the end of the film! I'm really glad I watched the movie now as it means that I can provide important insights like these. I get the feeling we're supposed to suspect that the girl is a Replicant, given her resemblance to Pris from the movie, but who knows?
He invites himself into the shop, breaks the owner's wrist, snaps the bird's neck, and then starts quoting from The Tyger. I get the impression he's not too happy about something, but he doesn't feel like elaborating on that just yet. A second man with a meat cleaver approaches one of the cages and the camera cuts away to the sound of gunshots and screaming monkeys.
McCoy's boss explains that he has a job for him investigating the pet shop incident, but make it clear that he's only getting this chance because the other Blade Runners are either busy or hospitalised. He doesn't mention Deckard, but he says that Holden is sucking dinner through a straw, presumably due what happens to him at the beginning of the film. I'm reasonably sure now that this isn't a prequel.
Alright then, the intro's over and I've hit gameplay.
This was advertised as "The first real time 3D adventure game," but the only thing real time generated here on screen is the characters. They're actually created with voxels instead of polygons though, which is a rare trick often used instead for landscapes, but if that's what they had to do to get the game looking this good without a 3D accelerator card in 1997, then I can't argue with the results. It's a bit weird though how they've draw attention to the reflections in the street, as it makes it more obvious that the characters don't have one. Possible foreshadowing to the revelation that McCoy is a vampire instead of a Replicant?
I tried playing around with the mouse buttons and managed to accidentally draw my pistol. That could've gotten awkward fast, though it's proven impossible to convince McCoy to actually shoot at anything here. I'm blaming Asimov's three laws (of vampirism).
That row of faces seems to be a way to pre-select my character's responses in dialogue, which is... well it's innovative at least. I suppose I could click the 'surly' button and have McCoy automatically get in everyone's face, see how far that gets me, but I think I'll go with 'user choice' this time.
The 'Designer Cut' option apparently strips in game dialogue down to only the clues, to speed up second playthroughs. It's crazy that they thought of that but apparently neglected to include a subtitles option.
I was expecting to have to choose the tone of my responses during conversation, Alpha Protocol style, but instead I've been clicking on the owner over and over to ask the next question automatically. This dialogue choice box you're seeing on screen right now took a while to appear.
It's definitely a point and click adventure, but there's no commands. Instead my cursor turns green when it's over something I can interact with, then I click to talk/pick it up. It's a busy screen though, with a lot of objects around, so I'm having to sweep the cursor back and forth scanning for clues I can click on.
Oh hang on, there's a something on the floor as well, on the right of the chair. A chopstick wrapper with an address on it. If the girl had anything to do with this attack (and the owner is sure she did) then I should probably be using this to look for her.
Time to return to my spinner.
I also collected a security footage disc from the shop though which I can probably read at McCoy's place, so I'm conflicted about where to head next. Do I look for the girl or do I try to get some photos printed off to ask people about first?
My stomach says... go to the restaurant.
I guess I'll check McCoy's apartment next.
There's no clues here, obviously, so all I can do here really is throw a doggie treat to Maggie and scan this video disc into McCoy's computer.
It's impressive just how closely this matches up with film. They've replicated the device in all its flickery, jerky, clicking, mechanical 80sness. It's like trying to view images in a internet browser when you have a shitty connection, waiting for the detail to load in. It's just a shame there's not much here worth enhancing.
Oh, it's a fucking menu to that same Chinese restaurant again. Well there goes all my leads then. The last place on my map I haven't been to yet is the precinct, so I'll fly over and see if anyone there can send me back on track.
Also look, I'm in another place from the movie! No it's not Union Station, it's actually the ground floor of the police precinct, viewed from pretty much the same angle as in the film. Don't ask how there can be windows on either side of this room when the building is clearly much wider than this on the outside, there's probably just a big light on the other side of them. I mean what's out there to look at anyway?
Lieutenant Guzza basically just tells me to piss off and file my clues into the computer upstairs if I've collected anything of value, so coming here wasn't much help. Wandering around the building I also found a shooting gallery and a lab upstairs, so I made sure to get everything I had on me analysed. By that I mean I kept clicking on the lab guy until he ran out of new dialogue.
Actually speaking of suspects, I've just noticed that the chef at the restaurant has appeared in my KIA, suspected of being pet-murderer #2 from the intro. Apparently the clues all lined up while I wasn't paying attention. Alright then, I suppose I'll get to try out the Voight-Kampff test sooner than I thought.
Oh no, the presumed Replicant is getting away! This is bad news for me, because I can't just shoot him in the back until he's a confirmed Replicant. I'd shoot him in the legs and force him to take the test lying in the alleyway, but I think agony might affect the results.
To carry out the test I apparently click the three buttons on the right, each selects a question with a different level of intensity. I have no idea how I'm supposed to know which to press, so I'm just hitting them at random.
It's funny how this Replicant test is built up to be important in the movie and then is pretty much forgotten about 20 minutes in as Deckard is just given photographs of all the Replicants! I don't get photos however so I'm left to do this the hard way.
And the protester is... human. Aww. Guess I'll go back to the Chinese Restaurant to have a second go at catching that guy then.
You know, as Blade Runner inspired adventure game shooting sequences go, this doesn't seem so terrible. I just click on the enemy over and over until he stays down. I'm liking it more than Snatcher's grid-based shooting minigame at least.
On his corpse I find my next clue: a picture... of himself. Well crap, I'm back at a dead end again. I honestly have no idea what I can do now, as I kinda just gunned down my last hope for getting me another lead. I guess all I can do is to go back to everywhere I've been and scan the screen with the cursor to check if I've missed anything.
Actually wait, I think I read somewhere that the game is on some kind of a timer. Maybe if I go to bed that will advance the clock until something new happens!
What do you mean you can't see him, he's standing right there next to my spinner!
The developers have done a pretty good job of making the game accessible to people who have never seen the movie, but they seem to have forgotten to give Gaff an introduction, so I can imagine a lot of players were left wondering who this guy even is. More so than you're supposed to.
Oh by the way, I should mention that the game does not use the original Vangelis soundtrack, though it does have Command and Conquer composer Frank Klepacki imitating the style, which seems fair enough to me. I just have to come to terms with the fact that it's not likely that any version of Hell March is going to start playing at any point.
Blade Runner... hasn't been a typical point and click adventure game so far; it hasn't involved puzzles, using items on other items, long dialogue trees, or trial and error. It sure involved a lot of sweeping the mouse across the screen trying to figure out what I'm allowed to interact with though.
There seems to be a bit of reactivity to the game, with multiple outcomes, though I'm not sure I like how my mistakes rather than my choices are being used to determine the path I'm on in an adventure game. For all I know I've missed some tiny pixel sized clue already that'll make it impossible for me to get the good ending and I hate that kind of uncertainty. Then again fucking up at every turn and barely scraping together some kind of minor victory at the end would be pretty true to the film now that I think about it.
I gotta say though, they have absolutely nailed the atmosphere and design of this thing. This isn't a shameless crappy movie tie-in, it's a quality piece of work made with a great deal of respect for the source material. It helps that their chosen genre suits the detective story perfectly, as Blade Runner: The First Person Shooter would've probably been a lost cause from the start.
I'm not entirely sold on it yet to be honest, but it hasn't put me off either and I'm curious to see where it's going, so I have to award it a shiny star.
If you have opinions about the game, the film, the novel, my article, this site, or anything else you'd like to say, then feel free to leave a comment in the message box underneath.
Next time on Super Adventures: another game beginning with B. Huge shock.