Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition has released on Steam, and not a moment too soon. This remastering has been handled by Nightdive Studios, an outfit you could fairly describe as restoration specialists, while the original game was arguably the crown jewel of the late, great Westwood Studios, best-known for the Command & Conquer series.
A realtime adventure game that is, amusingly enough, set in 2019 Los Angeles, Blade Runner tells its own story within the universe of the cult classic 1982 movie. At the time it was billed as having one of the richest environments ever created, and it still looks the absolute business.
For those unfamiliar with Blade Runner, the title is what people who hunt down replicants (perfectly human androids) are called. The great innovation, and still one of the best ideas ever for a licensed game, is that each story runthrough changes which of the characters are replicants. This system features over 70 characters, all motion-captured, all with their own agendas, and includes actors from the 1982 film including Sean Young, James Hong, Joe Turkel, Brian James, and William Sanderson.
In other words, this is a detective adventure where the mystery changes each time through. The reason it's held in such high esteem is how all-in Westwood went on capturing the movie feel through the mechanics. As well as the brilliance of the replicants idea, the game features realtime weather that has different effects on your character, endless movie gadgets like the ESPER photo analysis machine, the Voigt-Kampff replicant detection test, and police Spinners.
Here's a more in-depth explainer on why this is such a special game:
The original is available on GOG, but this Enhanced Edition seems to have been handled with great care and subtlety. It's all about preserving the original's look and feel as much as possible (the press release calls it "a faithful restoration").
The official word on what the Enhanced Edition does to the original goes as follows:
- Reconstruction and upressing of original Westwood VQA Videos
- Cinematic Video frame rates updated from 15fps to 60fps
- Modern HD Display
- Enhanced “Knowledge Integration Assistant"" (KIA) and clue user interface
- Enhanced Subtitle support
- Modern gamepad support
- SMAA Anti Aliasing
- Anisotropic texture filtering
Nightdive has been working on this one for a while: It was initially intended for release in 2020, but various complications (including no-one being able to find the original source code) saw delays. The studio is also currently working on the System Shock remake.
Westwood's Blade Runner brilliantly captures the mood of Ridley Scott's movie, and this is a welcome return. It's ambitious, maybe over-ambitious, unforgettable, and has an atmosphere like no other.