28: Blade Runner

Publisher: Virgin Interactive
Developer: Westwood Studios
Year: 1997
Platform: Windows

Review: Based on the cult-classic movie of the same name–starring Harrison Ford–this cyberpunk adventure is one licensed title that doesn’t disappoint.  I unabashedly feel this is better than the source material. Being as that the movie is currently ranked #123 at IMDb, I am sure to be in the minority.  Good news is if you liked the movie it is doubtful you’d be disappointed by the game.

In the future, where buildings rise above the city, crime is rampant, and man has colonized the moon, a mega corporation has developed replicants, super-humans with a predetermined lifespan. Naturally, some of the more advanced replicants have begun to become self-aware and are pissed that they have been essentially subjected to slavery for moon colonists. And some of them have come back to Earth in order to meet their maker with the intention of reversing their fate. Blade runners have been employed by the city to terminate all replicants before the bloodshed spreads. However, it’s not so simple, as determining who is and who isn’t a replicant is not a foolproof process and there is considerable sympathy for the replicants. It’s even possible some of the blade runners are replicants and don’t know it!

This premise is the same for the movie and the game. The designers of the game were smart in creating a new storyline, sharing only a few characters from the movie made fifteen years earlier (of which Sean Young and William Sanderson reprise their roles!). Not only does this keep the game from becoming stale, but I felt the movie’s story was plodding with poor dialogue. To be fair, the plot of the game is no Oscar-winner, but I actually did enjoy the script significantly more, feeling the characters on my desktop were more sympathetic than the wooden personae on the silver screen.  They did, however, keep the Voight-Kampff testing, and you can whip that out whenever you feel it’s appropriate.

I keep discussing this game as if it’s a movie, which is only because that’s what it feels like. There are very few puzzles and it is incredibly difficult to become stuck. Atmosphere and exploration rule the game, with gorgeous sights and beautiful sounds lifted straight from the movie. There is certainly detective work to be done, but a significant portion is optional, shedding a light on the finer points of your case. What gives Blade Runner the feel of a game (and not just an interactive movie) is that there are multiple paths, stories, and endings dependent on several factors.  Every time you start a new game, character motivations change, which in turn changes some puzzles, dialogues, and eventually plot branches. In addition, whether or not you decide to terminate or sympathize with the replicants will also change the story.  If you like this sort of thing, you’re in for a treat. Personally, I did not have a desire to replay the game multiple times, but I did reach a few endings on my own before downloading some save files to see the others. Blade Runner has incredible production values and it is worth trying to find everything there is to see.

Oh, and you can use your gun. Good times.

Contemporary RatingMedium. Some modern timing issues in action-scenes.

Cruelty Rating:  Polite.  You can die, so saving is necessary.  If you “screw up” the worst that happens if you take an alternate path through the game.

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