Have You Played… Blade Runner?

He say you blade runner.

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

It feels like stepping into Ridley Scott’s film. Sets and touchstones are lovingly recreated. Machinery clicks, beeps, and wheezes exactly as you’d expect. The atmosphere is malevolent, and you’re quickly in over your head. But wait, I say as if the headline and screenshot haven’t made this abundantly clear, I’m talking about Blade Runner, not Alien: Isolation. Westwood’s 1997 adventure game is a bit of a mess, but it’s a special one.

We don’t play Harrison Ford’s Deckard but Ray McCoy, a rookie blade runner created for the game. His story runs parallel to the movie, briefly refers to its happenings, and visits so very, very many of the same places and people, but never has us meet Deckard. At no point does an awkward Harrison Ford soundalike tell Ray “Well done, kid. Keep it up and I’ll be able to take retirement” while winking furiously at the camera. Their worlds brushing but not merging feels good.

Ray has a simple case which becomes a tangle of murders and simulated humans. To help unravel it, he has the standard-issue blade runner tools: a long brown coat, a flying car, a photo-wizardry Esper machine and Voight-Kampff replicant-detecting quizbox (both recreated beautifully, and immensely satisfying to use), a book of questions about tortoises and pornography, and that revolver.

This gun is special. You can right-click at any point to draw it. This gun implies a world where replicants could be anywhere and you need to be ready. Drawing this gun feels dangerous and wrong. You barely ever use it, turns out, but having it right there makes everything threatening. When you do fire it, it feels like you’ve cocked up and could’ve found another way. Often you could have.

It takes a while to figure out how Blade Runner’s world works. Why do characters appear at, leave, and return to places when they do? Who’s important and who’s just there? How much authority does Ray have, and who can he trust? Most people are lying about something. Some parts are optional, and others have several solutions. Interviewing suspects and checking evidence, it feels like police work. The big question is: who’s a replicant? Skinjobs are selected semi-randomly from a few key characters and, naturally, Ray can be one too. Either way, he can sympathise with them or retire them. Killing feels terrible as they soak up hits and keep coming, just wanting more life.

It’s certainly not all roses. The plot drags out and grows silly, which is a bigger problem than the small number of words I’m devoting to it suggests. I have horrible memories of one particular puzzle involving a rat that was not only absurd but near-impossible on my slow PC. It does a lot wrong, but a lot’s still interesting, and I fondly remember how the first half feels. And crumbs, someone made Blade Runner into a game that wasn’t super-garbage: how unlikely is that?

If you have it (Blade Runner’s one of four PC games I still own on disc) or can find it, these instructions may help you get it running on a modern PC.

91 Comments

  1. Lacero says:

    The best licence trinity ever. Game, book, movie, all amazing.

    • Ross Angus says:

      I wish I could say the same for STALKER. The film and the game effortlessly outshine the book.

      • Darth Grabass says:

        Is there some awful post-game adaptation that I don’t know about? Because the Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic is brilliant. And as much as I love the games, they’re sort of the odd man out here, since they’re really very different in content and tone from both the film and book.

        • gnodab says:

          Maybe he got confused and meant the Metro books?
          Roadside Picnic is fantastic, albeit very short.

          Another masterclass in adapting existing works would be Solaris. Amazing book, amazing film (again Tarkovsky).

          • Ross Angus says:

            I think I probably missed the point. I suppose Sci-Fi is more about setting than character. I found the machismo in Roadside Picnic rather silly.

          • gnodab says:

            Machismo? What? I don’t even…
            Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky bothers?
            I can for the life of me not understand where there is supposed to be machismo in the book.
            Maybe we have different understandings of the term.

          • Darth Grabass says:

            We must not be talking about the same book, Ross. This the source novella for the Tarkovsky film: link to amazon.com

            It’s been a while, but the “machismo” label doesn’t stick to any of the characters I remember. And while the Strugatskys have bordered on “silly” in some of their other work, I’d be surprised to hear anyone, even non sci-fi fans, describe Roadside Picnic as silly.

          • El_Emmental says:

            I confirm the Metro book is an impressive dive into one of the main slavic definitions of masculinity – it details quite extensively (while remaining very understandable) what is and makes an adult “man” in the slavic/russian psyche: the role of a man in the pack, how a man should react to fear, danger, or despair, etc.

            I haven’t read Roadside Picnic yet (I know I know), but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar vibe (not the same authors, not the same generation (Glukhovsky of Metro wasn’t even born when RP was published), but all three are russians).

          • Darth Grabass says:

            “I haven’t read Roadside Picnic yet (I know I know), but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar vibe.”

            As has already been pointed out, Metro and Roadside Picnic do not share that vibe, and the theme of Russian machismo is not present in the Strugatskys’ novella. They are not similar at all in that respect. I think the commenter above simply confused the two for some reason.

      • emertonom says:

        I’m well aware that this makes me a philistine, but I found the film unwatchable. The supposed supernatural dangers are illustrated only by a couple of moments of brief pantomime (once at the beginning, when someone wanders off the stalker’s proposed course, and once at the end, when someone is caught in “the meat grinder,” whose dangers are apparently entirely mental, which doesn’t really translate well visually) and the rest of the film–nearly three hours of it–consists of the men walking slowly around overgrown areas of broken concrete and napping in puddles.

        I get that it’s Soviet-era filmmaking, and it’s certainly bleak and the setting is quite cool, but…I guess I just don’t get it. It baffles me that it’s so universally acclaimed.

        • Talesdreamer says:

          as far as I know, the movie was supposed to have more sci-fi elements, but accidents destroyed most of the film and forced Tarkovsky to rethink the entire plot.

  2. amateurviking says:

    Ah yes. Wonderful memories of playing this with a friend on his dad’s Pentium for aaaaaages. We never got even close to finishing it – I think we got stuck pretty early on. But aimlessly clicking about is more tolerable when you have a copilot.

    I take it this got subsumed into the all devouring EA and is not available through legitimate sources?

  3. Tyrmot says:

    Would love to see this make it to GoG… Their wishlist may or may not link to a playable version ;) link to gog.com

    • gnodab says:

      I voted ages ago. It seemed that no one knew the game, so i am very glad to see it mentioned here!

      Everybody do yourself a favor and get it! If you liked Blade Runner, Deus Ex, GitS, Film Noir or anything of the sort you won’t regret it. It is one of my all time favorites.

  4. Optimaximal says:

    I have horrible memories of one particular puzzle involving a rat that was not only absurd but near-impossible on my slow PC.

    If you’re talking about the bit I am thinking, I think it’s less ‘absurd’ and more ‘bugged’. It was really hit-and-miss on both my creaking Pentium 100 with minimum install, my friends P166 (also minimum install) and a later full install on a much newer machine.

    I guess the only acceptable suggestion is save often during the final chapter – QA obviously fell apart around that time (likely because the game plot had spidered so much by the point that some people didn’t even get to that area)!

    • Dale Winton says:

      Just remembered about the partial install on games

      Thank god those days are gone forever

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      The bit with the giant rat and the plank of wood? Yeah that bit was just buggy than complicated. More that you had to hit it at exactly the correct moment to stop it breaking the plank (forcing a reload) or eating your face.
      Brilliant game though, fond memories of it and still have the discs, may have to get this one working again and give it a whirl again.

  5. nihilance says:

    This is also one of the few PC games that I still have a disc copy of.

    I’m curious what your other three are?

  6. Kemayo says:

    I played this back when it came out, and I was a teen. Good times.

    However! Don’t I remember that whether Ray is a replicant depends on whether he sympathizes with replicants or not? Presenting the perhaps-unintentional message that the only reason to side with the replicants is if you’re actually one of them…

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      If i remember right, it’s possible to let the replicants get away and not join them, meaning you are a human sympathiser, or you can join them as a replicant or kill them as a human (maybe a replicant as well but i don’t think so).

  7. Monchberter says:

    Agree on the flipping rat puzzle. One hit kill and it’s over. Sadly that’s where I put the game down for good.

  8. Lumberjack_Man says:

    What great game (despite all it’s flaws)!
    I replayed in last year and found it ran ok on my modern PC and I suffered none of the game breaking glitches I remember from my teens.
    The highlight for me though is Frank Klepacki’s score; I genuinely thought it was by Vangelis until my replay last year caused me to seek it out on youtube to find that it wasn’t. I loved the bit where you can walk out onto Ray’s balcony and one track plays is sublime. I used to boot up the game and go there just so I could listen to the music whilst doing my homework. Here it is: link to youtu.be

    • DHPersonal says:

      That actually is a Vangelis song. It’s called “Blade Runner Blues” and can be heard here: link to youtube.com

      • Pulstar says:

        But Kle[acki did the renditions by ear. which was awesome! Too bad a lossless OST never got released.

  9. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    Oh wow! *Major* flashbacks o_O I had completely forgotten about playing this.

  10. someloser says:

    I still have it on disk floating around somewhere, as well as fellow dystopian-em-up Ubik.

  11. Ginger Yellow says:

    It really holds up. I played it again a year ago (amazingly it still runs on Windows 7, though only with quite a bit of encouragement). It’s probably the most atmospheric traditional adventure game outside of Grim Fandango. It has it share of annoying puzzles and insta-death gameplay, but what it does well it does really well. And at the time it looked utterly gorgeous.

    • sicbanana says:

      Have you ever played The Dig from Lucasarts? I found it to be THE most atmospheric classic adventure, due to it’s epic orchestral score and beautiful settings!

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        I’m confused… Didn’t everyone hate The Dig?
        My memory’s pretty fuzzy but I’m pretty sure that’s why I never played it. Have I been lied to all this time?

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      I still maintain that adventure games hold up better than pretty much anything else when revisiting them years later due to most of the appeal of the game being the dialogue and storyline and less focus on mechanics which tend to be the thing that becomes the most dated about a game.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Cooper says:

    The game is gorgeous. Dead end thrills has some excellent high-res 3d artwork from the makers of the game, as well as a great article (originally in PC Gamer I think)

    No, a Google tells me edge. here it is:
    link to deadendthrills.com

    I’d love to be able to run the game at modern resolutions…

    • Colonel J says:

      Can’t believe I haven’t seen that article before. Amazing link, thank you.

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      Yes, amazing link, thanks for that. Did you notice the comments on how they’d do an Alien game:

      “Most of the time you’d be dealing with the problems of the Nostromo, how to fix it and who the android is. But when the alien appeared, by God you’d have to fight like a devil.”.

      That’s pretty much bang on what Creative Assembly delivered with Alien:Isolation, a similarly brilliant game. There’s so many links there actually, British strategy devs doing a Ridley Scott movie tie in awesome detail and honour to the original look and design. And both superb games.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Great article and makes me hate EA even more for causing all of this to be lost.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I don’t remember a lot about this game, but I know I loved searching for clues on pictures with the magical zoom-around-corners computer.

  14. inf says:

    Replayed it back in August using said fix, was an absolute delight. It has many flaws, predominantly in it’s story, but for me the neo-noir setting with those amazing pre-rendered backdrops, and nostalgia factor, glamours it all away.

    Also very fond of the movie and the book it was based on (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep).

  15. Surlywombat says:

    Truly great game. The atmosphere was nigh on tangible.

    I expect the license has expired now, and not very likely EA would be willing to cough up just so it can be on GoG. but we can dream.

  16. Wowbagger says:

    But is there a rubbish director’s cut version?

    • Colonel J says:

      Wut?

      The studio-appeasing original with the voiceovers and the happy ending is better than the Director’s Cut? Get your coat.

      • Not Marvelous says:

        I think this one is referring to the wholly unnecessary and kinda nonsensical Deckard-as-a-replicant thing in the Director’s Cut.

        • Premium User Badge

          kfix says:

          You, sir or madam, are a beast and a philistine. Your choice of weapons at dawn.

          • bonuswavepilot says:

            Aye, I will act as your second, if you wish kfix – this cannot go unpunished.

          • corinoco says:

            I liked the original with the voice over as well. It was the first version I saw on the big screen – first release!

            And as for weapons… I choose…. BANJOS!

          • Premium User Badge

            kfix says:

            Blast. I was hoping for spoons. Oh well, tune ’em up.

            *twang*

        • Unclepauly says:

          Damn, my disc was in the mail too…

      • Wowbagger says:

        Aha I must of had it the wrong way around then.

  17. melnificent says:

    This, omikron, toonstruck and baldurs gate are my 4 most important disk games.

    Toonstruck needs a re-release

  18. gruia says:

    you can probably pirate it, as no1 who deserves the money will get them anyway

    • Diziet Sma says:

      So someone selling their copy on eBay doesn’t deserve any money for it?

  19. StartRunning says:

    Give me a hardcopy of that.

    This game blew me away as a teen and set me up forever as a neon-noir junky.

  20. UKPartisan says:

    I still have a boxed copy of the game, had it since it was released. I never completed it though, seem to had lost all interest in point and click adventures by that time, as I think most gamer’s had. Might try and re-visit it now, see how it stands up.

  21. Mezmorki says:

    Love this game! I still have the disks somewhere – I should try to get it running again. One of my favorite adventure games from back then …

  22. Diziet Sma says:

    How odd you’ve posted this, I picked up a copy cheap (with the chunky outer cardboard box and all the leaflets) for pennies last month having wanted to replay it for a while. After some hassles getting it running (I followed the same guide you’ve linked to) it works fine and is still great to play though not without it’s faults. The sound has held up remarkably well too, it evokes the mood perfectly.

  23. Scrote says:

    I have a very fond memory of at some point in the game having my guy step out onto the balcony of his apartment, the music was playing and I just sat there and soaked in the atmosphere. Moving, intense and beautiful.

  24. Rolento says:

    Gorgeous game. I can remember replaying and replaying it to see the different endings. I can remember 4 off of the top of my head (always had a soft spot for Lucy) – the plot branching must of been a bugger to QA!

  25. The Sombrero Kid says:

    Arguably the best point and click ever made, showed the genre how not to become irrelevant and the genre bluntly ignored it. Without a doubt the best licensed game ever made.

    I wish I could get my hands on the source assets and renderer and remaster it.

  26. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    Oh, and just to remind/enlighten fellow Blade Runner fans: Gemini Rue is a great game in a similar vein.

    • pund says:

      Jup, Gemini Rue is definitely another game you should try out when you love dystopian atmosphere. The combat was horrid however and the game was more ‘rigid’ than Blade Runner

  27. XhomeB says:

    I honestly think it’s one of the greatest adventures ever made and that it was criminally underrated. The atmosphere is unmatched. Every location feels REAL (the lighting! the animations!), and the dramatic camera movements upon arrival to a new zone were simply jaw-dropping back in the day, they still look impressive. You really do feel like you’re doing some proper investigation work, and those “examine a photo” sequences are simply brilliant (and super fun to boot). The fact every playthrough is (often drastically) different is amazing. There are even some choices which greatly affect the whole story and have real, tangible consequences.
    Blade Runner’s up there among the greatest (like Fate of Atlantis, Monkey Island, Gabriel Knight), if you ask me. It’s unique, ambitious. One-of-a-kind.

  28. Oakreef says:

    I started playing this just the other day! Loving it so far.

  29. James Pursaill says:

    To anyone playing or replaying the game today – do check the ‘custom’ deckard option in the game ’emotions’ menu. It gives you multiple choice menus in dialogue rather than selecting responses for you.

    If you don’t know about the setting, its easy to miss, and changes the experience from an atmospheric adventure game to a full on neo-noir roleplay experience.

    Anyway, great pick Alice! Personally, this is in my top crop of games – up there with Planescape Torment, Morrowind, Journey, Privateer 2, and a Wolf Among Us. Games with worlds and stories that stayed with me long after others faded.

    • corinoco says:

      Wow, someone else who liked Privateer 2? I loved the acting in it, especially John Hurt as the barman with a cocktail ‘gun’. The voice credits read like a list of ‘Who’s Awesome’: Clive Owen, David Warner, Christopher Walken, John Hurt, BRIAN BLESSED, David McCallum.

  30. awfulrob says:

    I remember loving this game until it decided I was a pedophile

  31. TomWaitsForNoMan says:

    I loved this game, both as a kid and when I replayed it a few years ago. But I could never figure out how to get the BLOODY Voight-Kampf test to work. No matter what I did I always got inconclusive results, which was frustrating to say the least

    • bonuswavepilot says:

      Hmmm as I recall it was just a matter of asking a mixture of questions… They were categorised into low and high intensity or something weren’t they?

      • TomWaitsForNoMan says:

        Yeah, but no matter the mix I always got an inconclusive result. I dunno

    • doggly says:

      I bought the game off eBay many moons ago and the guy I bought it off contacted me months later asking if I wanted the walkthrough book, and even with the help of the walkthrough the Voight Kampff wasn’t particularly easy to navigate

  32. MeestaNob says:

    I worry that this wont be anywhere near as good as I remember it, so I choose not to go back. I would love a HD re-make though (not re-imagining though – there were numerous bits that I recall making me throw my keyboard in frustration, those can go).

    And the music! Holy jeepers. EDIT, here tis:
    link to youtu.be

    • bonuswavepilot says:

      I believe that is re-used from the film sountrack. ‘Tis Vanglis – “Blade Runner Blues”.

      • Unclepauly says:

        Nope, but it’s easy to see why someone would think it was Vangelis, more like a cover band but I forget their name.

        • TheSplund says:

          It is Vangelis

          • herschel says:

            Nope… this is Vangelis.

          • corinoco says:

            It isn’t Vangelis. It’s good, it’s very close, but it’s not the original. It’s also not the version by the ‘New American Orchestra’ which for about 12 years was the only version of the soundtrack you could get, due to a contract dispute between Vangelis and Time-Warner (IRRC).

            I know the score pretty well, having listened to it… several hundred times… according to iTunes. I had it on tape / CD long before I had iTunes, too. I’ve seen the film.. um… a bit, too. Probably over 50 times, at least 15 times on the big screen.

    • Frannk says:

      I don’t think there can ever be a HD remake, as much as I would love that also. One of the producers said on reddit (quite some time ago, 1 or 2 years maybe), that all the artwork was lost when some hard drives were misplaced when they moved office. How sad is that!

  33. tomimt says:

    Still one of my favourite Adventure games. It showed there’s more to the genre than just moon logic puzzles and the production values were amazing for its day.

    I’d really like to see a re-mastered version with upgraded resolution and characters, no need to touch anything else, as the game play, music and the story are still solid.

  34. TheSplund says:

    I’ve just finished it recently. I’d played LA Noire and happened to have BR installed so I gave it another run through – most enjoyable

  35. herschel says:

    Since I´m a crazy Blade Runner geek, this particular game sits on my shelf since release. Oh, how I loved it. Sometimes I fired up the game, just to walk around in the ever-rainy streets of Los Angeles of 2019.

    • corinoco says:

      If you pick the right day, you can! It’s almost exactly only 5 years away.

      The future didn’t turn out quite as good as we hoped, eh?

  36. sophof says:

    I remember finishing it by basically shooting everyone that seemed suspicious and being very surprised that apparently was allowed.

  37. celticdr says:

    You didn’t mention the thirteen different endings… I only finished it once, I recall the ending I played was sympathising with the replicants and realising I was a replicant but it was 17yrs since I last played it… wow, I’m old then.

  38. dissentience says:

    ***SPOILERS***

    i played this when i was a kid. i loved the photo manipulation segments (ENHANCE!). i think i’m still traumatized by the first replicant attack. the way it suddenly made the game seem… real, and terrifying – because up until that point there wasn’t anything close to violence (baring the practice range bit). all of a sudden some guys trying to turn me into sushi and here i am – rookie cop with my gun still in the holster and safety still on and… yeah, scary for a kid. still, it was really cool game – i’m waiting for the inevitable BLADE RUNNER HD REDUX 1080P remake.

  39. cederic says:

    When I cleared out my decades of games (to the benefit of a small niche games shop in Newark) this is the one game I kept.

    The four CDs each had in-game screenshots as disc art. So I had them mounted vertically in a frame, split by the CD liner, held in place in a way that protects the data on the disc, and used it as a present to a friend. He has this on his computer room wall.

    The flaws in the game don’t diminish the memories of playing it, the way the game itself made you nostalgic for the film by evoking it so beautifully, reinforcing the urban archeology* that Scott displayed for us and that Gibson described so eloquently in his contemporary novel**.

    * Gibson’s words
    ** Sure, Dick wrote the book the film was based on. But watch that film and tell me Scott hasn’t depicted the Sprawl.

  40. doggly says:

    I have a working CD copy of this at home, installed perfectly on Windows 7 too