By Josh "Dr.Rouge" Vasquez
Blade Runner - the game
lade Runner seems like a film that might actually lend itself to videogame translation. A melancholy action thriller with a philosophical bent, Ridley Scott's tale of a tired, haunted detective on the trail of a band of rogue androids has just the right amount of surface and substance. It's a near perfect film that creates a meticulously detailed visual landscape and populates it with a carnival of characters undergoing seizures of transformation. Each is caught in a dark chrysalis and linked by a constellation of strange rituals, making the interaction between individuals seem disjointed and geared towards some unknown purpose.
The film is heavy with moisture, a constant rainfall soaking the endless city until everything feels weighted down, solid, like a wreck at the bottom of the ocean. Ironically, this exaggerated deluge only makes the setting look more realistic, dragging life to the surface through the puddles and faded, cracked buildings. You can almost smell the movie...a mixture of moldy walls, dusty wetness and ruined metal. Blade Runner is one of the most amazingly tactile films ever made, a sensitive meditation on questions of identity and mortality wrapped within a stunningly effective mystery-thriller-action picture. You'd think that it'd make a great cinematic world in which to situate a game...but it doesn't.
Blade Runner: the game, developed by Westwood and released in 1997, follows a narrative that is supposedly running concurrent with Deckard's quest. Characters from the film appear dotted throughout the game itself. While none actually appear in the opening sequence, they might as well have. A weird doubling effect is apparent from the very beginning.
In the opening scene a young replicant in pseudo-punk gear replete with cotton candy pink hair immediately recalls Daryl Hannah's Pris, while an effeminate store owner with thinning black hair and thick glasses is a painful clone of Joe Turkel's creepily aristocratic Tyrell. It's especially odd that this latter "double" is used considering that Tyrell himself appears later in the game. Include with these: a poetically inclined psychopath (read Rutger Hauer's "Roy Batty") and a slovenly, sweat-stained, thick necked chief of detectives who actually mentions that he's standing in for Emmett Walsh's "Bryant," and what you have is a series of doppelgangers, oddly off center reflections of the Blade Runner cast. Rather than not being able to build on the myth established by the film, the cinematics of the Blade Runner game are crippled by an over reliance on what came before. Not only are characters copied, but images (such as the dove, released at the moment of it's holder's death, flying towards the sky) and shots are directly borrowed. While it makes sense to try to capture the feel of the original film, in this piece it winds up smothering creativity. The creators clearly wanted to "sell" the game to players who
presumably bought it because of an interest in, if not a love for, the movie. Instead of letting the world Blade Runner created speak for itself and using this opportunity to explore different avenues, they fall back on the past, seemingly hesitant of taking new perspectives for fear of alienating players. A hokey script doesn't help matters either. While the dialogue in the film may have had a few awkwardly cliched moments, the overall brilliance of design covered these rough spots. Sadly, The game does not have this luxury.
Having said all this, I do
want to point out that I have heard from several sources (one being
our beloved Editor) that Blade Runner is a very interesting,
well thought out game. It's too bad that the cinematic section does
not show signs of that same sensitively balanced touch.
- Josh "Dr.Rouge" Vasquez is a regular contributor to loonygames.
Credits: Pixel Obscura logo illustrated and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. Pixel Obscura is © 1999 Josh Vasquez. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited...we know where you live.