As a film, Blade Runner is a major cult classic. Despite being well over twenty years old, it still maintains a huge following thanks to a setting that is anything but dated. The movie's grim, neon-obsessed metropolis of 21st century Los Angeles serves as the perfect setting for all our pessimistic dreams of the future.
Thankfully, Blade Runner the game doesn't at all attempt to merely mimic the events of the film. Being set to run concurrently with the movie, you find yourself in control of a different Blade Runner, Ray McCoy. With replicants (or "skin jobs" as they're commonly referred to throughout the game) illegal on Earth, the Blade Runner's job is simple. Upon the detection of any trespassing replicant, orders are to shoot to kill. McCoy himself is a mere rookie. It's only due to a recent influx of replicant detections that you get the opportunity to investigate a particularly vicious case of animal murder, which acts as a leisurely introduction to the game's controls.
Sharing the same environments as the film means that similar neon-lit backdrops are inflicted upon your eyes once more. It's only in places where you'd expect the setting to feel dark, dingy and lacking in colour that the feeling occurs. Despite the relative old age of the game (originally released way back in 1997), the graphical quality and background detail are quite impressive. Each character has an entirely unique design, and are all animated with extreme care and skill. However, they do naturally show their age with a hefty chunk of pixelation, especially when they're towards the front of the screen. The few cutscenes that occur not only do a terrific job of progressing the story and fleshing out characters, but also visually impress. Voice acting rarely drops below exceptional; nor does the music, which shows off just what can be done when you don't rely on the pop chart's flavour of the month. The Vangelis-inspired aural accompaniment, which occurs only at opportune moments, is a delight to hear.
One of Blade Runner's huge plus points is its ability to make you question your morals. Though the storyline is necessarily linear, choices offer themselves up at frequent intervals. Do you immediately shoot and kill a fleeing suspect who just may be a replicant? Or do you wait until you're able to administer the Voigt-Kampff test to the suspect before making a decision? Asking a sequence of low, medium, and high intensity questions, the suspect's answers and reactions to questions go a long way to producing an accurate overall response, and declaring whether that suspect is indeed a replicant or not.
The storyline twists and turns constantly, with the next big sweeping change that completely skews your views of the world only a few moments away. You'll no doubt come to suspect almost every character of being a replicant, with suspicion placed upon yourself in one particular instance. Certain choices you make throughout the title will change the way the game progresses, causing different conversation trees to appear, and certain characters to appear in different situations or disappear completely. It may not be entirely freeform, but the structure gives you enough leeway to try out most of the options you could ever wish to attempt.
One particular game design point — one which usually feels too tacked on to have any worth, the multiple ending — is worked exceptionally well here. Instead of merely a good and bad ending, there are quite a few in Blade Runner, with branching paths leading you there. Each of the numerous choices throughout the game has its own moral implications, and may even cause you to think a little differently in the future.
The glorious aesthetics, intriguing storyline, and well implemented controls all add to a title that not only Blade Runner movie fans will wish to experience, but also anyone at all interested in adventure games. Those who refuse to try due to those few faults are missing out on a sublime gaming experience. No, it might not be perfect. But who wants to replicate perfection?