By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on February 13, 2015
It's 1997... Titanic crashes into theaters around the globe. Princess Diana crashes into a concrete pillar in a Parisian tunnel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone is published for the first time and a mysterious sound known as 'the Bloop' is heard on hydrophones across the Pacific. We may never be sure what caused all this to happen... except for the Bloop; that we can explain. For years, scientists tried to find the origin of this mysterious low-frequency sound. Popular belief branded the sound as biological in nature. A undiscovered species of dinosaur, a giant squid, even Cthulu himself made an appearance on the list of suspects. Years later it was said to have been the sound of an iceberg breaking, which was a bit of a let-down really.
Now, you may believe what you want; It was Cthulu awaking from his millennia-long slumber and taking a long overdue dump, or it was an iceberg committing suicide. Either way, you would be wrong! It was, in fact caused by... an Indian curry! I can almost hear some of you thinking: What the hell are you talking about?! But don't worry, I'll explain everything! Last we spoke, our brave crew traveled to 2004 and replayed Pitfall: the Lost Expedition. Having played it for a long time, our trusty cadets became what can only be described as really peckish and decided to go out for a bite to eat, before setting course to their next destination. Almost all members of our crew settled for some French fries and a burger or a healthy salad... ALMOST all!
One particularly obtuse individual decided he wanted an Indian curry. The rest of the crew tried to dissuade him from his decision, but he wouldn't relent. After dinner, the crew convened back at the time machine, made their pre-flight preparations and set off on their new adventure. Through a bit of a cock-up in the planning department, they managed to land somewhere in the Pacific ocean instead of on dry land, as intended. At this precise time, the headstrong crewmember loudly made it clear to the others that his curry wasn't really agreeing with him, and excused himself. So in the end, the Bloop picked up by dozens of hydrophones was not some ancient demon, or even a breaking iceberg. It was the sound of the greatest battle known to man: a fight to the death between an Indian curry on its way out and our state-of-the-art waste disposal unit... May the latter rest in peace!
But still, the year is 1997, and it is a good year. It is the year yours truly reaches the magical age of 17 and develops a keen interest in girls and beer, which is always a dangerous combination! If you've been there, you'll know what I'm talking about. If you haven't (and assuming you are actually old enough to drink and... other stuff), then what the hell are you doing here sitting around reading for?! Get out there and try it, you might even have some fun! So yes, dear readers, 1997 did hold a lot of temptation for yours truly, but I soldiered on. No amount of drink nor pleasures of the flesh could pry me away from my one true love: gaming! And as luck would have it, 1997 was also home to one of my most beloved games of all times (of which I clearly have a few): Blade Runner. So let's have a closer look, shall we?
Blade Runner is set in the exact same universe and time as the eponymous 1982 movie. But if you're expecting to play through the same story as the movie, you would be totally and utterly wrong. Instead of just retelling this monument of a movie, Westwood decided to go with a different protagonist and a somewhat different plot. Yes, you're still tracking down Replicants (which are basically androids made to look, feel and think as human as possible) and no, you don't get to chat with Rutger Hauer, which is a bit of a shame really. I mean, come on! How many times do we get the chance to talk to one of the greats?! But still... where was I? Oh yes, the plot! Some Replicants have committed the heinous crime of killing animals, which is almost as bad as killing humans due to the fact that real animals are nearly extinct and a live specimen of any animal is a rare and costly commodity. These criminals must be brought to justice, and there's only one man right for the job: you! As rookie Blade Runner Ray McCoy it's your job to track down the guilty party or parties and bring them in for punishment.
So let's get cracking and start our investigation. As you might have guessed, this is done by talking to a lot of people or scouring in dark corners for that vital bit of evidence. Pictures of the crime scene can be scanned and analyzed on a high tech piece of equipment called the Esper system, which is a high density computer with 3D analyzing capability. This scanning process also yields clues as to the actions or whereabouts of the perpetrators. So although Blade Runner is a point and click game, it focuses mainly on investigating the crime scene and interrogating witnesses or suspects, rather than solving an endless string of puzzles.
Unlike many games at the time, Blade Runner featured 3D rendered characters, and pre-rendered 3D backdrops. It also played out in real time, so the game (and everybody in it) just goes on doing whatever it is they were supposed to do, instead of waiting for the player to complete a certain action. This, together with the cutting edge graphics and an awesome soundtrack, made the Blade Runner experience that much more real and intriguing. At some points in the game, decisions had to be made; like what to do with a suspect after interrogation. These decisions ultimately influenced the final outcome of the game. Westwood boasted 13 different endings, all depending on the actions of the player during the rest of the game. Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? Well, in Blade Runner it is true. Granted, some endings are just variations of one type of ending but still, 13 endings is a lot. Especially considering the game was released in 1997. There was no other game out there that could match the grandeur and style of this monumental piece of gaming history.
The pacing of the game was, like a lot of other qualities it possessed, flawless. You never get tired of solving a crime scene, chasing after the bad guys and interrogating their synthetic behinds off. As in the movie this game is based on, the environments are absolutely beautifully done. Sometimes bleak and dilapidated, while at other times colorful and vibrant. The characters fit perfectly into the background, completely without getting that 'pasted in' look. To achieve the look for the game, Westwood even built and used their own graphics engine, which was based on voxels (a pixel with height, width and depth) , rather than the usual pixel-based engine. This resulted in its overall sleek look.
So in conclusion: Blade Runner is a must for every fan of the film (or even of the original novel by Isaac Asimov), for every diehard fan of the point and click genre and for everyone who just wants to play a game, set in a grim, dystopian but utterly beautifully created world. If you're really into a lot of dialog and are willing to scrutinize every pixel (or voxel in this case) of a crime scene, then Blade Runner is just the game for you! Since the first time I played this game, I've spent many hours trying to solve the case and make the earth a safer place again. That is why I can say with some degree of certainty: If you haven't played Blade Runner before, try it! If you have, try it again... and again... and again!
And although I am very aware of the fact that this following excerpt is not from the game but rather from the movie, some things are just too good to not be used.
I have... seen things you people wouldn't believe... Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannh?user Gate. All those... moments... will be lost in time, like tears... in... rain. Time... to die...
(wipes away a teardrop) ...Thank you, mister Hauer... thank you...
Westwood Studios & Virgin Interactive Entertainment