Blade Runner / Westwood Associates (1997)

The Fan of the Book's Verdict: : The game certainly deals with the issues of animal torture and murder much better than the book.

The Fan of the Movie's Verdict: Many of the environments are dead-ringers for those in the movies.

My Verdict: The pre-rendered backgrounds suck and the lack of any real motivation at several points in the game are awful. The story it does get around to telling, however, is cool and if you accept that clicking on pixels = gameplay then you'll, at times, have a ball.

The Review...

Blade Runner, from Westwood Associates, is the type of game that you absolutely fall for when playing for the first couple of hours. The problems exist when the meat of the game is explored: there is a definite lack of singular vision, problems with multiple clicking and overall progression of plot.

The game begins with a non-interactive movie that shows an android start to butcher a number of animals at a shopkeeper's store. This is particularly heinous because nearly all animals are extinct in this game's alternate future. From the get-go it is obvious that any real edge is going to be left to our imaginations; as the actual animal mutilation is left completely off-camera. This type of cutting away from controversy continues throughout the entire game. The designers were extremely proud of the game's graphics, however, the dark edge of the Blade Runner universe is usually never displayed. It is this type of inconsistency which reeks of outside interference and mickey-mouse marketing. Is the player expected to be thankful that there are no scenes with grotesque violence? What game are we playing; what world are we in? Phillip K. Dick's novel (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) has no qualms about the depraved tendencies of some of his characters. This was not effectively translated.

Harrison Ford's character (Rick Deckard) is not the main character of this game. Ray McCoy, a rookie Blade Runner, is instead under the control of the player. With Dave Holden in the hospital, it is up to McCoy to solve the crimes in the game by, basically, clicking on different items. (The game, like the book, continually states what a great Runner Holden is. I fail to see how because everytime he's ever mentioned -- be it book, movie or video game -- it's because he got shot in the chest by some android. Someone needs to go on record and state, officially, that he sucks at his job.)  The never-ending search for hotspots is no less lame than in any of the later Sierra releases. It's an absolute shame that the game was implemented this way. However, that implementation works well for the pre-rendered backgrounds. The player must understand that this game is chiefly designed to exude atmosphere and that gameplay and fun is a distant secondary priority. Blade Runner does save itself by having other members of the Police Force checking out crime scenes with you: if you miss an obvious clue someone else may pick it up. This stops the game from becoming too frustrating based on not finding the right pixel and is the correct way to handle an inherently flawed design decision.

There are several characters to interact with in the process of solving the game. The method of communication is acceptable: it's of the "choose a topic" variety. There are situations where you have one choice and the other, non-selected options are not then available for selection. This, of course, is fine: you must trust the designers that you are creating your own story and you will not miss out on a crucial plot element by not making the correct random choice. It's inconsistent, as there are some situations where the player can go through the entire topic list and others where only one becomes possible. There is no indication as to which type of situation the player is in. The actual characters vary in effectiveness. Runciter, the game's first victim, is sufficiently annoying and irritating to make you feel more for the animals (which are killed without displaying any sort of personality)  than the human being selling them. The overweight police chief is dismissed as an ignorant blob at the beginning of the game, however, his character is later defined. Very few games have characters that a player is able to change feelings about. Fellow Blade Runner Crystal Steele is probably the best implemented character in the game. Yes, she has an absolutely awful name. She does usually come off looking incredibly realistic, as shades do not betray her rendered eyes and her hairstyle, being straight and short, does not just sit there like McCoy's and flows in a manner easy to implement. Her voice-acting is similarly done well. At times, the game seems to try too hard to make her come off as extremely edgy or something.

Crystal: ".. so go get yourself a lollypop, Slim, so you'll have something else to suck on."
McCoy: "Very clever."
Crystal: "But I wasn't trying to be."

Um, OK. We knew that one of the chief differences between the Blade Runner universe and ours was that whole third World War thing. Apparently one of the minor ones is that the meaning of the word "clever" has changed. What the hell is she talking about?

Sean Young plays the part of the replicant known as Rachael. Young has it extremely easy. She is playing the part of a mostly emotionless droid. That makes it difficult for reviewers to pan her performance as uninspiring and wooden. 'Cos she is, uh, supposed to come off that way.  No doubt Christopher Walken is kicking himself for not having a similar safety net for Ripper. Actually, Walken probably simply didn't give a damn either way.

But that's the thing. Sean Young is one of those hit-or-miss Hollywood types you either find extremely sexy or totally disinteresting. The game's graphics tend to become pixelated when up-close. As the first scene with Young in it is completely and unforgivably non-interactive, it really is a shame that her blurred little NPC is running around the screen. It should be noted, however, that the character graphics are otherwise perfectly suitable for the game  when it does allow some degree of freedom of movement within the pre-rendered backgrounds.

Control issues also damage the game's fun factor. One scene in the game has McCoy attempting to flee from a soon-to-be exploding bomb. Getting out of the room is not a problem. However, getting McCoy to effectively run away on the next "board" with another character on the screen is enormously frustrating. This ruins the game's feeling of "writing your own story" as it takes the player four or five times to get the controls right to survive the blast. Manipulation of the player character is usually not a problem as this is not an arcade game. However, no special care is given in the aforementioned scene to allow the player to quickly manipulate McCoy.

Blade Runner is billed as the type of game that has characters running about, doing their own thing. To a hardcore gamer this means the kind of NPCs featured in Ultima VI or Knight Orc. This is not really implemented as such. The player can explore most of the boards whenever desired, however, those boards only become available at predictable times. The player is lead by the hand the first time he has a new area to go to. Furthermore, there is no real motivation to go back to any of the screens, even though that is required for the game's plot to advance. That is the chief fault of Blade Runner -- it is a perfect game to play with a walkthrough in hand because reasons for retracing your steps are arbitrary. Yes, good police work involves re-questioning the same citizens and being meticulous. However, that's not good enough for an adventure game. A gamer with no particular reason to stick around won't.

A serious fan of the movie or book is going to have a lot of fun playing the game. Really, the less great adventure games you've experienced, the less Blade Runner will irritate you. Sierra and LucasArts have released plenty of games that force a theory and mindset among gamers that Blade Runner strictly adheres to. If you're looking for something that breaks new ground or has richly rewarding gameplay (or similarly, if you are not a rabid fan of the license) Blade Runner will probably disappoint. As of the writing of this review its cost is about twenty dollars: for that particular price the game is a great value.




Simple Rating: 7.3/10

Complicated Rating:

Story: 9.1/10

Graphics: 8.8 /10

Playability: 4.7/10

Puzzle Difficulty: 1.5/10

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