Typical: you wait decades for a release of Westwood’s Blade Runner game then two come along at once. The original 1997 adventure game popped up on GOG in December, powered by ScummVM, and now Nightdive Studios have announced an Enhanced Edition. They say they’ll update character models, upscale cutscenes, and improve the technical trimmings.
Westwood’s Blade Runner is a good’un, an adventure game running parallel to the film but not based on it, with a whole new rookie Blade Runner asking probing questions, getting chased through alleys, and doing magic on photographs. Certain characters and locations from the film pop up but it is its own separate thing, and certainly better for that. I’ve written before about my fondness for it, and particularly how you can stand on your flat’s balcony and just drink in the mood:
That’s all being fancied up by Nightdive Studios, the gang behind System Shock’s Enhanced Edition and its upcoming remake. Nightdive say that Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition “will feature updated character models and animations, upscaled cutscenes using machine learning algorithms, widescreen resolution support, keyboard and controller customisation, and much more.”
I’m often wary of applying AI upscaling to old games because limitations meant artists were implying things rather than portraying them, and AI makes it all weird by dragging things from the imagination to dull reality, but it might be okay here. The style of Blade Runner’s cutscenes is fairly clean and literal, and should be grand if it doesn’t try to make them ‘realistic’. I am more wary of the changes to character models. Yes, people are currently shifting blobs of pixels, but at least they’re the intended sort of weird. Nightdive insist that “fans will be pleased to learn that the original look and feel of the game is being preserved” so I’ll reserve judgement until they actually show it (everything in this post is from the original).
I’ll stick with the original myself but if a makeover persuades more people to play this fine game, that’s grand.
Sadly, this is the way it has to be, as Westwood lost the original code and assets years ago (and haven’t existed in nearly as long), so you’d need to start from scratch if you wanted to fully rebuild it.
“It’s true that the original Blade Runner source code was lost,” Nightdive’s Larry Kuperman told The Hollywood Reporter. “We painstakingly reverse-engineered the code, importing it into our own KEX engine, a powerful tool that allows us to do console ports of classic titles, even in the face of quite challenging situations.”
Huh! So it’s quite separate to the recent ScummVM effort fuelling GOG’s release?
Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition will is due to hit Steam later this year. It’s also coming to PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch. In the meantime, the original is £8 on GOG.
At least Nightdive, unlike Ridley Scott, can’t keep messing with Blade Runner’s story to make our boy Ray McCoy a replicant. He, like several other key characters, is already randomly picked to be a replicant or not every time you start a save.