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SummaryDo Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?
The GoodIn 1997, Westwood Studios, perhaps best known for the “Command and Conquer” franchise. Released Blade Runner. Based on the 1982 film by Ridley Scott, and the novel, “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep”. By prolific sci-fi writer Phillip K Dick. Whose work has also spawned(Among others.) the films: Imposter, The Minority Report, and more recently, 2006’s A Scanner Darkly. It may surprise fans of the game to learn that it not only has references from the film, but many from the novel as well. But is this enough to make for a good video game?
“Man Has Made His Match… Now It’s His Problem”-Blade Runner Tagline-
Set it Los Angeles in 2019, the world of Blade Runner, is a dark, anti-utopian society. Continued social and economical problems, have left the world in a decayed state. Much outside of LA, is just ashes, or “kipple“, as called in slang of Blade Runner. Furthermore most animals have either gone extinct or have been driven near the brink of extinction. Thus McCoy’s Dog, and Deckard’s Sheep in the novel. Having a real, non-electric animal is sort of a status symbol.
Enter the Tyrell Corporation. They produce androids or “replicants”. Mainly for use of slave labor for the colonization of other planets. Replicants are illegal on Terra, as they instigated a massacre of humans in the past. They are stronger, faster, and at least equal in intelligence to humans. Occasionally, they escape to the Earth. Enter the Blade Runner. A type of detective, that is trained specifically, to track down and “retire” the replicants.
Set around the same time as the film, you are Ray McCoy. And are fairly new to being a Blade Runner. Replicants have broken into a electric-animal shop, and killed the pseudo animals, as well as the human shop keep. Now it is your job to find the replicants and retire them.
The game world is modeled after that of the film and somewhat from the novel. Which is a nice touch. Many areas were re-created based exactly from the film. On one hand it is cool that the game is set around the time of the film, but that also causes some contradictions. And the cast of the film reprise their roles in the game. More on both of these later.
Blade Runner, is an adventure game, in the vein of “Police Quest”. You explore various areas, find clues, question witnesses, etc. Other things unique to the Blade Runner game include, being able to administer the Voigt-Kampff Test. It checks the emotional response of the test-taker, with questions such as; “What would you do if some one served you dog?” Many of the questions are from the film, and novel. The test tells the test administrator if the subject is or is not a replicant. If they are in fact a replicant you have the option of retiring the subject. This is one of the coolest aspects of gameplay. Unfortunately this is only used about twice.
The Esper Machine is another cool gadget from the film, that you get to play with in the game. When every you come across a photo you can use it in the Esper, and get a better look of the snap-shot. You can zoom in, pan the view, and see things you would have other wise missed. And even take pictures of items in the picture. You will use the Esper much more often, than say the Voigt-Kampff.
The police spinner is also at your disposal, it lets you drive or fly, anywhere in LA. You will need to backtrack at times. You also often must meet a requirement in the game in order to unlock new areas, knowing what that thing is can be trickier than one would like.
A police issue firearm is also at your disposal, a fairly powerful gun it is practically a hand cannon. You have the opportunity to upgrade it during the game, once you get paid that is.
The game is very open ended. You can go about most situations various ways. That in the end change the game slightly, and will determine what ending you receive. I am told from my sources that there are six. I am not entirely sure of this, as I was only able to see one, despite the fact that every time I played the game, I did different things. WTF?
“Blade Runner Blues” Or, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”
The audio in Blade Runner is nearly perfect. With Vangelis’ awe-inspiring score. All the music from the film is here. As well as some new arrangements from Westwood. From “Blade Runner Blues” one of my favorites, to the retro sounding, “One More Kiss Dear”. As well as two other favorites of mine the main and ending titles from the score. (In fact the opening of the film Blade Runner, as well as its score, was plagiarized by Squaresoft, in Final Fantasy VII’s opening, I shit you not.)
The voiceovers are solid for the most part. After all many actors from the film reprise there role in the game. So Rachel is voiced by Sean Young. Edward James Olmos returns in his most enigmatic role as Gaff. And often arrives to impart some help or wisdom to McCoy just as he did for Deckard in the film. Tyrell is once more played superbly by Joe Turkel. Interestingly enough M. Emmet Walsh does NOT return as Bryant. Nor does the character appear in the game at all. Despite the fact that, with the game taking place and the same time as the film, it makes little sense that he is in the film and not the game.
The only place the audio really hiccups is with the voice work of the new characters. Such as McCoy and Crystal. They do a fair job not quite as well as the rest of the cast. On top of that, I have to agree with fellow Moby Gamer, Zovni, that Crystal is not a very good character.
The Graphics for the time were excellent. Today they are okay. I do give Westwood credit for the graphic style they chose. The pre rendered backdrops are sharp and perfectly done as if they are the very sets used in the film. The also got the lighting effects down, which is often neglected in games with pre-rendered graphics. This still looks amazing. However, the characters and inhabitants of the world of Blade Runner fair less well. They are made up of ultra-realistic sprites. That at a distance look incredibly real. Yet up close they are fuzzy and oft undistinguishable. Furthermore when the characters speak, they motion with their bodies. But these movements are often delayed and look off. For example when McCoy is at the elevator at his apartment, and tells it, “McCoy, 88 F.” The motions he makes with his hands are off by at least 20 seconds.
The Bad“All these moments will be lost, like tears in rain.”-Batty, Blade Runner-
Here I will talk about the bad aspects of Blade Runner. First on my mind is the discrepancies caused by the game, in respect to the film and book. I mentioned the auspicious disappearance of Bryant earlier. This as it turns out is only one of many such discrepancies. Perhaps I am being a little anal but bare with me. ( I could be worse, and say anyone that does not like this film, is a complete fucking moron, but I won’t go there.) The film and the novel tell us that, there is only one or two Blade Runners per Police district yet in the game there are at least six Blade Runners, at one precinct. WTF?
The multiple paths for open ended gameplay looks good on paper. But fails in practice. As I played the game several times, making sure to take different paths, and while the game does change slightly and lead seemingly down a different path. But I received the same ending, that just makes no sense. (If any of my fellow Moby Gamers have solved this enigma, feel free to drop me a Private Message.)
There are also some cool moments, one comes to mind that was seemingly torn from the pages of the novel. In which McCoy is captured and grilled by two Blade Runners from another precinct. They accuse him of being a replicant and threaten to retire him. With your help McCoy must escape. This is a very cool sequence, but unfortunately, did not go anywhere in the sense that I got the same outcome.
These coupled with the fact that the game can be frustrating when you are unsure how to advance the game. And the plot gets strained later on. And before you solve the first case, you are bombarded by others.
The Bottom Line“It too bad she won’t live,…then again who does?”-Gaff, Blade Runner-
Blade Runner as a film created Neo-Noir. And led to the advent of the term Cyberpunk. Upon which many games are based, and other films. Games like Shadow Run, and films like the Matrix all spawn in some way from the film Blade Runner, and the novels of Phillip K. Dick.
So if you enjoyed this game, check out the film. With a new DVD due later this year. And the Directors Cut available now. I promise, I won’t make fun of you if you have not yet seen the film, or if for some reason, it was not your cup of tea;)
I would also recommend the novel, “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” As they film and the novel are in the end better than the game.
If you have seen the movie, and read the book, I would recommend playing the game, as it is nice trip through one of the most influential movies of all time. And most prolific American writers of the 20th century. You may also be interested in the book, “Future Noir: The Making Of Blade Runner”. By Paul M. Sammon.