Blade Runner Enhanced Edition in preview: Back to the future

23 years ago, the heyday of adventure games was long over – real-time strategy games like Age of Empires and first-person shooters like Quake 2 were among the big hits of 1997. But Westwood Studios, the legendary developer behind the Command & Conquer series, had Blade Runner is a detective adventure up his sleeve that was not only revolutionary in many respects and received correspondingly good reviews from the gaming press at the time, but also represented a financial success for those times with over a million copies sold.

Nevertheless, the game, which was delivered on four CD-ROMs, is now one of the titles that is only known to people who were among the frequent gamers at the time. But that is exactly what Nightdive Studios wants to change in collaboration with Alcon Entertainment and is launching an enhanced edition of Blade Runner, which is due to appear in 2020 for PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.







Blade Runner operates similarly to other point and click adventures, but we don't have to solve puzzles using items.



Blade Runner operates similarly to other point and click adventures, but we don't have to solve puzzles by using objects.

Source: Alcon Entertainment




From the past few years we have been used to bringing old games to the newest console generation after a fresh cell cure and to being able to get to grips with them in HD optics and with a few operating optimizations. This is often not a major feat for the developers, as they can use the original graphics and the original source code is also available. Not so in the case of Blade Runner: The former head of Westwood announced in an interview five years ago that the source code was lost during a move and that a remaster version of the adventure is hardly possible without a million dollar investment.

However, Larry Kuperman from Nightdive now has a solution to the dilemma. His company retrieves the source code and graphics in a so-called reverse engineering process and then uses its own KEX engine to modernize Blade Runner. Nightdive has already done similar things with Turok and System Shock. In the case of the dinosaur shooter, in our opinion it worked quite well, but miracles shouldn't be expected here. Kuperman himself promises us a polished version of Blade Runner, which has, among other things, improved character models and animations and also comes with nicer cut scenes.







Westwood Studios used voxel graphics for the character models of Blade Runner, which was already getting a bit old at the time.



Westwood Studios used voxel graphics for the character models of Blade Runner, which was already getting a bit old at the time.

Source: Alcon Entertainment




The goal of the developers is to bring Blade Runner to the market as beautifully as we remember and not as the original version actually looks after more than twenty years. So far, the studio has not published any screenshots of the Enhanced Edition and therefore we are curious whether Nightdive will succeed – the shots in this article are from the old version! We are a little skeptical because Blade Runner used a kind of voxel graphic for the representation of the characters, which is difficult to convert into the usual polygon graphics. The result could possibly be quite pixelated, but in the end we just hope that the developers of Nightdive will surprise us positively.







Not only does the plot have a great resemblance to the film template, we also visit many places known from Ridley Scott's masterpiece.



Not only does the plot have a great resemblance to the film template, we also visit many places known from Ridley Scott's masterpiece.

Source: Alcon Entertainment




We already mentioned that Blade Runner was a revolutionary adventure at that time – although the game cannot be considered a classic representative of the genre. As in a point and click adventure, we control our protagonist Ray McCoy by clicking on objects, characters and locations on the screen, but no genre-typical puzzles await us in the game. This means that we do not have an inventory and therefore do not have to use object A with object B to get ahead. Rather, Blade Runner is a cyberpunk detective game in which we hunt for renegade replicants, as in the film template. We expose the androids by, for example, collecting clues in dialogs and then questioning the replicants using the Voight-Kampff machine known from the film.

The really revolutionary thing at the time, however, was that everything happened in real time. So the replicants went about their daily work and could do bad things if we didn't expose them quickly enough. The second peculiarity was a random number generator that determined which characters were replicants. As a result, the replay value was high and there were twelve different ending sequences.

It would be desirable that Nightdive deliver us a suitably modernized version of Blade Runner. The game is one of the most elaborate productions of the 1990s and also shines because many of the actors in the film gave the characters their voices. So if you are a fan of the cyberpunk film, you should keep an eye on the title.

My opinion

Fan service for people like me – I'm looking forward to it!

As a big fan of Cyberpunk novels by William Gibson, I became aware of Philip K. Dick's “Do androids dream of electric sheep?” When I was young. Ridley Scott's film adaptation of the material was the perfect implementation of a cyberpunk world for me as a teenager and so in 1997 I counted the days until one of my favorite developer studios published Blade Runner. But I have to admit that I was a little disappointed at the time. Although the game had a lot of potential and great ideas, it was technically anything but perfect due to the tough frame rate of around 15 FPS and the annoying change of CDs. Although I don't expect the Enhanced Edition to be a revolution like it was back then, I'm at least confident that the developers will make the once pioneering adventure playable.

Blade Runner Enhanced Edition Preview: Back to the Future (1) (Source: Alcon Entertainment)

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