Like the opening moments of the movie itself, I can't watch the opening cinematic of Westwood's Blade Runner (opens in new tab) without vibrating from the nostalgia. The grim LA skyline, the synthy musical accompaniment, the slightly laboured but still incredibly fun pulpy narration—it's all great. And it looks like Nightdive Studios hasn't changed too much.
Unlike System Shock, this is a remaster rather than a remake. It'll have stuff like widescreen support and customisable controls, updated animations and character models, and upscaled cutscenes.
"Blade Runner is still a jaw-dropping achievement on every level," Nightdive CEO Stephen Kick said when it was first announced (opens in new tab), "so while we’re using KEX to upgrade the graphics and respectfully elevate the gaming experience in a way you’ve never seen before, we’re still preserving Westwood’s vision and gameplay in all its glory."
So the opening cinematic looks a lot like it did more than 20 years ago, but it's been upscaled using machine learning algorithms and runs at 60fps. While there are a few imperfections, it's not bad for a 20-year-old cinematic, though it does lose something in its HD transformation. The low definition, grainy original cinematic feels more true to the setting—a dirty, analogue future where the weather is shit and everyone is miserable.
That's the risk that comes from using algorithms to gussy up old games—it can often come at the expense of the game's aesthetic. It's a convenient tool that's been an incredible boon for modders, and sometimes the result is an unmitigated improvement, but when it comes to essentially updating art, I've got a bit more confidence in humans.
Still, I'm very eager to have another excuse to go android hunting and wrestle with an existential crisis again. Unfortunately there's no release date yet, but it was originally expected out this year.