Riyad: Blade Runner - PC

I vividly remember when Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was released. I could count the people that liked the film on the fingers of, well, two fingers. Movie goers and critics alike described the film as boring, confusing, dull and misleading – basically, the fact that Harrison For was in the film made people think he’d be playing Han Solo in a trench coat, and they were sorely disappointed when they found out that wasn’t the case. For years, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t convince people of the merits of Blade Runner.

So, imagine my frustration when many years later, after the film had achieved cult status, Scott released the Director’s Cut and everyone from Barry Norman to “that guy down the pub” all hailed it as a masterpiece, forgetting of course that they had universally panned it the first time around. In fact the Director’s Cut annoyed me in many ways, since I really liked the narration in the original – luckily I’ve still got my Criterion Collection LaserDisc version of the film!

I was still working at PC Pro when the PC game based on Blade Runner was released back in 1998, and I was set the task of reviewing the game. I’m generally wary of games based on movies, since they usually amount to poorly designed, badly coded debacles, due to the huge licence fee that the developer has had to pay to the movie studio. Thankfully Blade Runner was very different, so much so that it has made its way into my top five games list.

The best decision that Westwood Studios made when developing Blade Runner was not actually basing it on the film’s story. You don’t actually play Deckard, but he exists and his story line is running parallel to yours. You never meet Deckard, but there are traces of him throughout the game – like his name on the score board at the firing range.

At its heart Blade Runner is a point and click graphic adventure, but in reality it’s far more than that. For a start there’s some basic combat implemented into the proceedings, and you can hone your marksmanship in the aforementioned firing range. Westwood also threw in the Voight-Kampff test from the movie, where you hook up suspected replicants to a machine and monitor their optic reaction to a series of questions.

Like most graphic adventures, you find yourself wandering around from location to location trying to solve puzzles and piece together clues. But just wandering around the locations in Blade Runner blew me away, because Westwood had recreated the world of the movie pretty much verbatim. I defy any fan of the film not to be awestruck when they walk into J.F. Sebastian’s apartment block for the first time – it just looks like a pixel perfect copy of the set from the movie.

The screen shots shown here don’t look that impressive by today’s standards, but believe me, back in 1998 they were nothing short of breathtaking. Add to that a superb array of voice talent that made the story line even more convincing and you had a true (and I hate to use the phrase) interactive movie.

Blade Runner also had multiple endings, which encouraged you to play through the game several times, taking different routes in order to discover them all. Do you turn out to be a replicant in one of the endings? You’ll have to find that out for yourself.

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