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Westwood's wonderful Blade Runner is becoming playable again

One of the great lost adventure game treasures of the 90s, Westwood’s Blade Runner, is a little more found now that ScummVM is adding support to play it easily on modern systems. The 1997 adventure game from the Command & Conquer studio, which runs parallel to the movie Blade Runner, has been unplayable-ish for many years. It was the very last CD game I held onto, until I discovered even with fixes it’d crash at the end of the first act. Well! Here comes ScummVM support, almost ready to let us slam in the data files and go. Now all we need is a downloadable re-release, eh GOG? Steam? Eh?

ScummVM is now calling for people to test its Blade Runner support, developer Peter Kohaut posted on Sunday. Like other ScummVM games, you feed it the original data files and it’ll run them in a rebuilt environment that side-steps technical issues the game has on modern versions of Windows. ScummVM’s Blade Runner support is now “considered feature complete” and in need of testing, Kohaut says, while another version “with restored content” sounds a bit ropier. The team have been working on this for a fair while so I’m delighted to see the end in sight. That post has instructions for how to start testing, if you fancy it.

While ScummVM was originally built to run old LucasArts adventure games, these days it supports oh so many other adventure games that would otherwise be finicky to play. Like this, which crashed for me even when using a fix that worked for some. I have missed it.

Blade Runner the adventure game stars Ray McCoy, a rookie cop who’s meant to be hunting for rogue androids but gets stuck with crappy busywork until one such case stumbles into something larger. It’s set parallel to the movie and, while it does visit some of the same places and characters, we’re not in the shadow of Rick Deckard. He’s off doing his thing and we’re doing our own, similar thing. That dodges the pitfalls many movie games stumble into as they try to recreate the source material. Though it is faithful where appropriate, particularly with gadgets like the photo-analysing Esper machine and Voight-Kampff tester.

I’ve written more about the game before, including asking Have You Played it? and about the simple pleasure of standing on a balcony in the rain listening to the Blade Runner Blues:

ScummVM’s Blade Runner support also adds subtitles, if you want ’em. I might pass on the “restored content” version because cut content is often cut for good reasons, but I am curious.

I’m now wishing I had kept my Blade Runner CDs, though I suppose I don’t have anything with a CD drive anyway. I would very much appreciate a downloadable re-release, if someone can manage to untangle the rights.

Blade Runner was made by Westwood Studios, who Electronic Arts soon bought then closed down. It was published by Virgin Interactive, who closed over a decade ago and were sold off in parts to other companies which have also since closed. Then there’s the Blade Runner Partnership, whose movie rights the game is snared in. I know Nightdive Studios, the folks who managed to secure System Shock, have expressed interest in bringing it back before. Now would be a great time for that please, thank you.

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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