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SummaryWestwood dreams of electric sheep
The GoodOnce upon a time, when Westwood was a serious developer and didn't just go around pimping it's C&C franchise all over the place, them crazy folks decided to do a game out of the seminal sci-fi movie of the 80's: Blade Runner... disaster insues! I thought, after all the idea sounds good on paper, but it's a tricky deal to do a successful game out of a movie, let alone do one about one based on one of the biggest visual masterpieces in motion picture history which also happens to be a textbook example of "what happens when you don't give a damn about screenwriting" that while adding to the movie's charisma by injecting it with even more mysticism and ambiguity, had the downside of making it's plot as cryptic as hell.
Anyway, the resulting quality of Blade Runner's videogame adaptation came thus as a surprise to me, and proved that Westwood still had some life in it. First of all it doesn't make the mistake of trying to adapt the movie per se, but instead takes the basic material and runs with it, creating a brand new story with new characters that runs parallel to the movie's plot. Yes, you are a Blade Runner that looks exactly like Harrison Ford, but you are not him and in fact you are investigating a completely different case that starts from a Replicant assault at a pet store and evolves from that point on.
Following the many wild interpretations of the movie's story, Westwood gave players the excellent choice to allow you to swing into any direction as far as the plot is concerned, and depending on how you play the game you can end up running from the law as a replicant exile yourself, or doing your work as a human Blade Runner and closing the case like a good boy, with dozens of variations inbetween all related to a series of random events, as well as the attitude and disposition you take when questioning the many npcs in the gameworld and finally with the different solutions you find to the problems at hand (do you waste time questioning a bum about where did an escapee replicant go, or do you just lunge at the nearby alley hoping you don't lose him?, etc.).
The gameplay might make the game look like a classic adventure game, but it makes the right choice of leaving puzzles aside to some extent, and instead focus on the detectivesque investigative procedures and the like were just observing a certain event, or using the ESPER and the Voigt-Kampff test checks the right flags to move the game in a certain direction. Not only does this match the mood and tone of the game, but also has the effect of making you feel as if it's you the one who's driving the action instead of being a collection of plot sequences related only by "use hammer on nail"-like exercises.
The production values for the game are dead on. A must really, as Blade Runner the movie was all about creating a visual and aureal "vibe" that could only be done with quality visuals and the unique Vangelis soundtrack. The game uses a collection of pre-rendered backgrounds and even looping fmv's to illustrate the gameworld (which brings to your monitor all those haunting neon reflections, murky streets and foggy landscapes) with voxel characters placed on top. The soundtrack and sfx are excellent, basing the entire work around Vangelis and complementing the gameworld perfectly.
The BadThe absence of puzzles plays against the game from a difficulty standpoint, and ends up making it a tad too short and a tad too easy. Aside from that I can only point out at certain cheesy elements that seem slightly out of place like the Crystal Steele (god! Who came up with that name??) character who is your stereotypical "badass babe with a gun" character and which always sets the game out of it's tracks mood-wise whenever she appears on a scene. At least the inclusion of stuff right out of the novel makes up for those moments...
Anyway, on the technical side of things, I do agree that the voice acting could have been more polished and while I don't exactly hate the character graphics and their voxels as some people do, I do question the graphical need to use them in some situations, I mean, yes the game is loaded with cool fmv expository sequences, but there are some moments that could have benefited from this treatment and are played out simply in your static gamescreen. I mean, wouldn't some firefights be a tad more dramatic with some well directed fmvs? or how about the shocking moment were a replicant is caught in flames and falls through a window to her death down below?? Isn't THAT something worthy of making it into an fmv instead of simply watching it develop from a mile away in your standard 3rd person perspective view??
...And were the hell is Pris??? Why is it that some of the coolest characters of the movie appear only doing cameos or not at all????
The Bottom LineExcellent adaptation of one of the most fantastic visual feasts of the silver screen that not only is a great game on it's own, filled with replayability, interesting concepts and good gameplay; but it also catches the vibe and feel of the movie (and quite a particular movie which just so happens to be ALL about vibe and feel) and delivers it to your monitor in perfect condition.
Besides, isn't this like almost the last non-C&C game to come out of Westwood? That's got to count for something