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Blade Runner (1997)

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Blade Runner is a point and click adventure game, developed by Westwood Studios for the PC. Rather than re-tell the 1982 Blade Runner film, the developers created a different story set in the same universe, serving as a side story. The game was published by Virgin Interactive Entertainment and released in 1997.

The player assumes the role of "Blade Runner" Ray McCoy, who must hunt down a group of replicants—bioengineered beings—in 2019 Los Angeles. The new story takes place at the same time as the events of the film. Several of the film's characters are also in the game, with the original actors returning to voice them. Although the film's main character, Deckard, only appears fleetingly in a non speaking role in Blade Runner, he is referred to multiple times, and his recent activities are mentioned by non-player characters. Other parallels with the film include the in-game reproduction of several prominent locations, buildings, and scenes.

Blade Runner was advertised as "the first real time 3D adventure game", since it was the first adventure game to use real-time 3D models for the game characters, as opposed to the classic method of hand-drawn/pre-rendered characters. Though games at the time were reliant on 3D accelerators, Westwood created their own technology, called "voxel plus", which bypassed the need for a hardware 3D accelerator.

Notably, the player's actions affected the outcome of the game with thirteen possible endings. Blade Runner received generally positive reviews, and was nominated for "Best Adventure Game" of 1997 at the PC Gamer awards.


Blade Runner is a point-and-click game, meaning that the virtual world is navigated, explored, and manipulated using the mouse; the player does this from a third-person perspective.[1] Blade Runner's main focus is the detective work rather than puzzles, and the gameplay consists largely of searching for evidence and questioning suspects.[2] Clue searching is a main element of the game; the player must solve a number of compulsory puzzles and find a number of clues in order to progress in the game's storyline.[2] Clues are found by searching crime scenes, and come in the form of items, photographs, interviews, or unusual markings. The player can also use the ESPER system, a high-density computer with a very powerful three-dimensional resolution capacity: it enables them to enhance photos and to find further crucial information.[3]

While combat is not a primary aspect of Blade Runner, it is needed occasionally. The only weapon available to the player is Ray's standard issue police pistol, which may be loaded with various types of ammunition.[4] Collected evidence is stored in McCoy's Knowledge Integration Assistant, where it is organized for easy reference. One of its functions is performed by the Crime Scene Panel; it lists the crime scene along with known suspects and clues related to it.[5] There are occasions when the player will carry out a Voight-Kampff test on suspected replicants;[6] when the true nature of the subject is determined, the test ends automatically.[7] The player must then decide what course of action to take based on the results; the decision influences the rest of the storyline.[8]

The game runs in non-linear "real-time", meaning that when McCoy investigates and gathers clues, the computer controlled AI characters do the same, completing their own objectives.[9] It is up to the player to decide how McCoy will react in different situations, such as interrogating or talking to characters, each reaction affecting the storyline differently.[9]


The game is set in Los Angeles, in November 2019, shortly after the beginning of the film.[2] The protagonist, Ray McCoy, is a rookie Blade Runner under the command of Lieutenant Guzza.[10] True to the film, the environment is dystopian and heavily-polluted.[2] McCoy is tasked with tracking down a group of replicants, who are suspected of murdering animals—a crime nearly as heinous as murdering humans, since most animal species are extinct, and real specimens are exceedingly rare.[10] McCoy investigates a number of crime scenes, employing various techniques typical of detectives to gather information.[2] The game emphasizes the concept of choice on the part of the player; key among these is the option of retiring every last replicant, or possibly letting them escape.

During his investigations, McCoy discovers a black market gun runner who assists rogue replicants by providing them with weapons. Soon afterwards, he is framed for the murder of a civilian by the crooked Lieutenant Guzza, who considers him dangerous to his illicit business at the police station. Forced into hiding, McCoy explores the dark, decrepit underworld of 2019 Los Angeles, and makes contact with the replicant twins Luther and Lance, former genetic designers for the Tyrell Corporation who are working on a way to extend their own lifespans, as well as those of all other replicants. From them, McCoy receives a detailed report containing evidence of Guzza's corruption. McCoy uses this information to blackmail his former superior and force him to set his falsified record straight. The two men meet in the city sewers for the exchange, where Guzza is wounded by replicant gunfire. At this point, the player must decide to either run away or finish the lieutenant off himself.

There are thirteen endings, with variations on three major themes, influenced by the player's actions throughout the game.[11] The player can believe that the character, McCoy, is human, and hunt down the replicants; be persuaded that he's a replicant himself, and side with them against the other Blade Runners; or stay neutral, and flee the city.[12]


Ray McCoy (voiced by Mark Benninghofen)[13] is the game's protagonist and a rookie police officer.[10] McCoy lives in an apartment building with his pet dog, Maggie, for whom he shows a great deal of affection. McCoy wears a light brown lounge suit, a dark tie and a brown trenchcoat. He uses a standard issue .45 blaster as his sidearm.

Crystal Steele (voiced by Lisa Edelstein)[13] is one of the most effective police officers in the LAPD Blade Runner unit. She is an excellent markswoman and participates in undercover work. She refers to replicants as "skin-jobs" and is very much in favour of their extermination. Her attitude towards McCoy at the opening of the game is playful, with a considerable amount of condescension towards the rookie. She always calls McCoy "Slim". Her fate in the game is ultimately tied to the player's actions; she can either die (killed by the player or in an explosion set up by Sadik) or survive and pair up with McCoy as he gains the rank of "full Blade Runner" following the retirement of Clovis, the rogue replicants' leader, in the Moonbus.

Gaff (voiced by Javier Grajed; credited as Victor Gardell)[13] is a character originally presented in the film. He is a competent and older veteran cop who appears at various intervals to give advice to McCoy, who he seems to see as young and thus unpredictable.

Lieutenant Edison Guzza (voiced by Jeff Garlin)[13] is the boorish, overweight superior to McCoy and in overall command of the Blade Runner unit following Bryant's sick leave. Guzza is rather unkempt and asocial, remaining in Bryant's office for most of the game's duration. It is revealed later in the game that Guzza is corrupt, and has been assisting Clovis and the other replicants to prevent them from revealing evidence of his illegal activities.

Clovis (voiced by Mark Rolston)[13] is the leader of the renegade replicants on Earth. Clovis is a man of mystery - on one hand, he appears as a peaceful, highly educated man, eloquent and elegant, on the other he is sometimes a ruthless killer, capable of inhuman acts of aggression.

Lucy Devlin (voiced by Pauley Perrette)[13] is a 14-year-old girl who worked at the pet store that was attacked by the replicants. Though suspected as a replicant herself, she is seen by Ray as a key witness to the crime.


The game design was ambitious for the technology at the time.[12] In contrast to other games at that time, the game engine (which included backgrounds that were pre-rendered and models calculated in 3D), did not require or use hardware 3D graphics accelerators.[14] Game designers, David Leary and James Walls,[15] achieved this through a self-developed technology based on voxels (pixels with width, height and depth). They went with the idea and expanded it, calling it "Voxels Plus".[12]

"When we told Intel that we were doing a 640x480, 65,000 color game that emulates true color, with a 16-bit Z-buffer and six channel CD-quality audio, they said you can't - the PCI bus can't support it... ...we hadn't even mentioned the 750,000 polygons for the characters yet."

Instead of just having one voxel, dozens of rotating voxels were used in the shape and depth of the actual polygon model data, making it true real-time 3D without requiring 3D hardware. In layman's terms, it was piecing together flat "picture panels", rotating and positioning them in 3D-space thereby giving the illusion of a 3D object.[12]

However, the technology had shortcomings. A powerful processor was required since the engine relied on the processor doing all the work of creating the 3D models. Since processor power at that time was limited, the 3D models looked quite rough in-game due to the low amount of voxels used to display them; had the number of voxels been raised to increase the detail the game would have become too slow to play. With the level of detail Westwood settled on, the game ran at a minimum of 15 FPS on slow systems.[12]

The film's original soundtrack could not be secured for the game so Westwood brought in Frank Klepacki to recreate the feel of the film. He re-recorded the Blade Runner soundtrack as well as creating original tracks in the style of the film.[12] Original cast members from the film returning for Cameo appearance voice overs include Sean Young as Rachael, Brion James as Leon, James Hong as Chew, Joe Turkel as Eldon Tyrell, and William Sanderson as J.F. Sebastian.[16]

Film references

The developers did not simply re-tell the film scene by scene, but created a completely different story set in the Blade Runner universe.[12] The game's script writers, David Yorkin and David Leary, produced a story that takes place at the same time as the film using familiar characters.[15] Also included in the game are landmarks from the film, such as the dominating Tyrell Corporation pyramid structures, the Bradbury Building, and the L.A.P.D.'s cylindrical skyscraper.[12]

When the game begins, Deckard has already been sent off on his own assignment, and the player will hear references of his activities, though they never meet, so as to remain consistent with the film's plot.[16] When visiting the Tyrell building, Rachael mentions that she has already spoken to another Blade Runner and Tyrell himself tells McCoy that "as I explained to Mr. Deckard earlier, I've given the Nexus 6 a past." One of Izo's pictures, taken at Animoid Row, shows Deckard in the background. While searching the Yukon hotel McCoy discovers Holden's badge and Guzza questions how Deckard missed it and goes onto to say "Deckard, he feels too much, ya' know? He's too far along that curve."[16]


Sales of the game were in excess of one million,[17] and the critical reception of the game was generally positive. In the Science Fiction Weekly review, Peter Suciu awarded the game A+, highlighting that the "computer-generated setting of Blade Runner is simply one of the best", and "an outstandingly enjoyable adventure simulation."[9] Game Revolution's Marke Cooke stated that the game "is one of the best adventure games out there", and gave it an A- score.[18] Chris Pickering, in his Adventure Gamers' review, praised the game for its "glorious aesthetics, intriguing storyline, and well implemented controls." giving the game 4.5 stars (out of five).[8]

RPGFan gave the game an overall rating of 93%, praising the game for "the best pre-rendered backgrounds..." with "rain, spotlights, Spinners or blimps advertising off-world vacations. The crisp images never fail to dazzle." The review went on to criticise the graphics, saying they can become a "tad blurry and pixilated..." close up, yet it was pointed out that "this doesn't detract too much from these otherwise stunning visuals."[1] In his review for PC Zone Paul Presley gave the game a score of 8.8 (out of ten) and stated that "the story is strong and intelligent enough to compensate for the problems I have with the technical side of the game..." and "while I'd argue that the challenge could have been a lot higher, it's by no means an easy game and the urge to keep playing is there. The multiple ending factor also helps."[11] The game achieved a 3.5/5 rating at Quandary, where Rosemary Young pointed out that "though some aspects of Blade Runner aren't all that sophisticated, it is worth considering for fans of 'hard-edged' crime/science fiction."[2]

In the Gamespot review, Ron Dulin gave the game a 6.0 score (out of ten) and stated that the game was "an interesting mood piece, built upon some very detailed graphic work and an interesting premise — but somewhere along the production line, someone forgot to include a game."[6] Duncan Harris emphasised, in his Computer and Video Games article 'Blade Runner: A classic revisited,' that "critics may have been divided over the means by which you got there: a logical trail of clues, many of which were less the result of detective work than blind luck and idle exploration...", "But you couldn't deny that here, for once, was a movie tie-in which put the movie first, dismissing thoughts of its own genre and letting the subject dictate the design. With its insular thinking, it's something the games industry all too rarely sees."[14] The game was nominated for "Best Adventure Game" of 1997 in the PC Gamer awards in 1998, but lost out to The Curse of Monkey Island.[19] The game did however win "Best Adventure Game" of 1998 by the Interactive Achievement Awards.


  1. 1.0 1.1 RPGFan review. RPGFan. Retrieved on 2008-05-21.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Young, Rosemary (1997-12). Quandary. Quandary. Retrieved on 2008-05-19.
  3. Game manual, p. 17.
  4. Game manual, p. 13.
  5. Game manual, p. 10.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Dulin, Ron (1997-12-03). Gamespot. GameSpot. Retrieved on 2008-05-19.
  7. Game manual, p. 22.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Pickering, Chris (2006-02-10). Adventure Gamers. Adventure Gamers. Retrieved on 2008-05-19.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Suciu, Peter (1997). Sci-Fi Weekly. Retrieved on 2008-05-19.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Game manual, p. 5.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Presley, Paul (2001-08-13). PC Zone. Computer and Video Retrieved on 2008-05-19.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 12.7 Bates, Jason. PC Gamer preview. Blade Zone. Retrieved on 2008-05-20.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 Voice credits. IMDb. Retrieved on 2008-05-15.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Harris, Duncan (2007-08-13). A classic PC adventure revisited. Computer and Video Retrieved on 2008-05-19.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Mobygames credits. Retrieved on 2008-05-20.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 The Blade Runner Game. Retrieved on 2008-05-19.
  17. Chris Woodard (2006-05-12). E3 Workshop: The Inner Game: What Goes Into The Industry's Best-Selling Titles. Gamasutra. Retrieved on 2008-07-09.
  18. Cooke, Mark (1997-12). Game Revolution. Game Retrieved on 2008-05-19.
  19. PC Gamer awards. Retrieved on 2008-05-19.

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