This is probably pretty cliché for a guy born in the 80's and who's into video games and sci-fi, but my favorite movie of all time is Blade Runner. I mean, it's not even close. I adore that movie. If I'm flipping through the channels and it happens to be on, then I have to stop and watch it. Luckily, it’s not on very often.
I've been interested in the work of Philip K Dick since my formative years. Stuff like Total Recall blew my mind as a teen. And I've made an effort to watch all the movies based on his work. Plus, y'know, read his work.
As brilliant as Blade Runner was in 1982, it wasn't really doing blockbuster numbers at the time. Instead, it became a cult-classic in years later. There's been various cuts of the film – each of which add or subtract something. But I tell you, regardless of version, I love that movie. I love the cinematography, the cast, the score. I love picking apart every little nuance. I love reading into it way too deep. I love nerding out on how it overlaps with the Alien franchise, or how Soldeir was a stealth sequel.
And yet somehow I'd never played the 1997 adventure game of Blade Runner until the year 2022. For those keeping score, that's 3 years after the original movie even took place. The future!
I've meant to play this game forever. But it's tricky. Back when I was into PC gaming, I don't think it was easily available. And I've been back to console gaming for years now. So all I can say is that when it hit Xbox in a remastered form, I downloaded it day one. I didn't care about reviews calling out technical issues. It didn't matter. I love Blade Runner, and I'm a fan of adventure games. I had to have it.
And so here we are. I must say that this is probably a game I've built up way too highly in my mind. I don't know that any game could deliver to the demands that this mythical game has created in my mind. It's kind of not fair really. And the result is an adventure game that both exceeds my demands, and completely lets me down.
Let's dig deeper.
For a 1997 game, Blade Runner looks incredible. I mean, it's really gorgeous. And it retains the look and feel of the movie. The futuristic 2019 version of Los Angeles feels like you're totally living in it. It's impressive. And the writing is solid. Both the story – which involves murdered animals (a rarity in the future), and also the dialogue where each NPC seems totally plausible. That said, the voice acting leaves quite a bit to be desired. It's as if every line is read dry, with no real emotion or inflection. Maybe this is meant to love it up in the air – who's a human and who's a replicant? I don't know. But it's off-putting.
But I like the story. And I like that it runs parallel to the movie instead of mirroring it exactly. The real problem here is that this is an old school adventure game in the truest sense. And in 1997 it would have felt somewhat antiquated. I mean, by now we'd already had some amazing Lucas Arts stuff. So while you can play with the Esper Machine or the VK for interrogation, which is incredible novel, the problem is that so much of the story is marred down by old school adventure game problems.
For all the freedom given to you in this world, you're going to spend a stupid amount of time backtracking. And that's a momentum killer. You see, this is one of those games where every scene needs to be combed over, searching every pixel for a hotspot to get a clue. On top of that, conversations don't feel so organic when you have the need to talk to the same person three or four times in a row to make sure you've exhausted every bit of dialogue. Suddenly the investigation drags to a crawl and you're feeling like you're doing chores.
On top of all that, there's shooting in this one. And switching to a gun and shooting stuff while trying to move around in an adventure game is not really easy.
So it's weird. I wanted to love this game so much. I'm happy it exists on Xbox. I'm happy that I have it and CAN play it. But I don't think it really holds up in 2022. There's so much impressive stuff about it, but that doesn't mean I'm actually enjoying it so much as enjoying finally seeing it for myself.