A friend of mine tweeted “portrait of the sleep deprived” and I like to feel smug that I knew what it was from without googling it – side note, if “google” is now a verb, as I was led to believe, how come it’s underlined in red in Microsoft Word? – I’ll assume you’ve either alt-tabbed back/already knew/happy to read on regardless and say that it’s a quote from Blade Runner. More specifically Detective Ray McCoy. Even more specifically, Detective Ray McCoy when looking at his bed in the Blade Runner PC game.
It’s possibly the most memorable (spoken) line in any videogame to date (if you disagree then take full advantage of the comments section at the bottom) and it’s from way back in 1997. When it first came out it was on a staggering 4 CDs and doing the full install required about a gigabyte, some of us didn’t even know what a gigabyte of hard disk space was back then and if we did we’d count the size of our Hard Disk on one hand. All that was essentially a long way of saying “back in the day”. The quote got me thinking about Blade Runner the game, how great it was and how it’s often shamefully omitted from “top 10 videogames based on movies” lists (although curiously, Gamesradar don’t appear to have done one) in favour of that obvious FPS dressed up in Tuxedo and a gun made of precious metal.
But let’s talk Blade Runner. The graphics used some fancy resizing voxel technology, VOXELS! Do you remember them? There was a year when people seemed to genuinely think that they’d rival 3D. But they didn’t. As a result the characters in Blade Runner would vary from looking incredible to a pixelated mess depending on how large they were on the screen. It’s a shame, really, they were no doubt held back because of the technology available at the time on home computers because those characters, those backgrounds were all 3D rendered, so they’re sitting in a Maya document on a zip disc somewhere just waiting for someone to chuck them all into the Unreal engine, add some bump mapping and make the game what it could have been! But I’m getting away from myself and as much as I’d love to see that happen I doubt all the respective licensing departments would come to an agreement.
While the characters were a mixed bag the backgrounds were and still are some of the most beautiful atmospheric collections of pixels ever compiled into an executable program. They managed to recreate the environment, the feeling, the mood, the texture of the Blade Runner movie but also add to it. It’s a perfect companion piece to the movie, with their respective stories being set parallel, occasionally overlapping in some of the most tasteful and classy fan service I’ve seen. I loved it so much the first time I wouldn’t like to say, but it doesn’t say too much that Rachel makes an appearance as does the legendary Gaff.
The movie brought the universe of Blade Runner to our eyes and the game dived in and let you see new sights, new places, but they all complimented it so nicely. The streets, the markets, the wealthy, the sewers, the police station, the ESPER machine! The one from the movie with the photos you get to pan around, that’s in the game! The Voight-Kampff machine you use to determine if someone is a replicant via a series of questions, that’s in the game too. Not just novelties, integral to the plot, to the progression to the atmosphere while still being great fun. It’s a world I’d dearly like to see more of.
Look at me sounding like a fanboy, which I won’t deny. It was and is one of the greatest point and click adventures, what characters, what story. As you start the game it’s randomly determined who is and is not a replicant, which events have and have not happened and who was present. As you played the game people could die for one reason or another, this would in turn affect how the rest of the story played out and what endings would ultimately be possible. Is this girl a replicant? If she is, does she know she is? What is being alive if you’re not really living? All the themes of the movie and more put into a videogame. Are you a by the book Blade Runner retiring every “skin job” you come across? Do you do your job by the book but you don’t completely lack empathy? Will you turn your back on what you know and embrace all possibilities? How far down the rabbit hole would you go? It’s a game you can’t (although technically it is probable ,it is rather unlikely) play the same way twice, won’t have the same story twice, but you’ll love it every time.
Unfortunately you can’t really purchase it new anymore, but bug any gamer geek friends who may have it in their collection, check out eBay, it’s worth checking out as while the voxels look even worse today than they did then, everything else still looks pretty good. Well, the FMV cutscenes clearly look like they were over a decade ago, but don’t listen to me ramble on, get a brew, sit back and enjoy the opening sequence to probably the greatest videogame based on a movie
Ps. Westwood, EA, Virgin Interactive, whoever owns the rights, please put this on Steam or the App Store, love and hugs, Richie