Where to start? That is always a good question when it comes to setting out my thoughts and impressions about a game. But with Blade Runner Enhanced Edition it is a little bit harder than usual. You see, this is a remaster/remake of a game from way back in 1997, a time when computers were slow and graphics were primitive. Fast forward to 2022, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that not a whole lot has changed in the intervening years; if you were to play this game, that is.
Coming from Nightdive Studios, who seem to have cornered the market on remaking older games, taking an original title by Westwood Studios, is Blade Runner Enhanced Edition. Now, I have a confession to make: I have never watched Blade Runner all the way through, as I find it intensely boring and always fall asleep. Can the game do any better in keeping my interest? Let’s jet off to Los Angeles, in the year 2019 no less, and find out.
We’ll start with the story of Blade Runner Enhanced Edition; a traditional strong point for the older generation of video games. And the news here is good as the narrative is as strong now as it was back in the day, involving us trying to track a group of Replicants, dangerous androids designed to look and act like humans. We play a detective called Ray McCoy, and start off when we are called to a pet store to investigate a break in. In the future, animals are very rare and expensive, so why someone would break in, kill everything in sight and leave is a mystery. This sets the tone for the rest of the game, and obviously I won’t divulge any more of the narrative for fear of spoilers.
Whilst that set-up may be okay, presentation wise Blade Runner Enhanced Edition is, being kind, a bit of a mess. Back in 1997, I’m sure that the graphics on display would have been absolutely cutting edge, with full motion capture of the actors involved and so on. The backdrops that these characters move in are all nicely drawn as well, but the problem comes with our expectations of what should be delivered in 2022, at least as far as graphics go. You see, the characters seem to walk on the backdrops, not in them, and the whole effect is like one of those puppet theatres we used to build as kids, with the players attached to cardboard sticks.
The backdrops look a bit blurry as well, to be honest, and all in all it looks rubbish; the evidence of my own eyes tells me that it looks like a bit of a dog’s dinner. The news is better on the sound side of the equation, with several of the original cast lending their voices to characters, and the sound effects of the flying cars all being bang on as well.
Now, the gameplay, how has this held up over the intervening years? Well, the news here is both good and bad. Being of a sunny disposition and very much a glass half full kind of guy, I’d like to start with the positives. Blade Runner Enhanced Edition is described as a “real time adventure game” and coming from Westwood, you can believe the claim. The way the game plays out is pretty much like a puzzler, with our character trying to gather evidence from various crime scenes, using this evidence to find Replicants. The Replicants that are found can be questioned on a special machine, the Voight-Kampff machine, that can be used to determine whether they are a Replicant or human by asking questions: once someone has been identified, you can choose to kill, arrest or let them go. Using this machine, which was in the bit of the film I managed to watch, and also ESPER, which is used to blow up photographs to find details that have been missed, is also pretty cool. There is a lot of leg work, and a lot of figuring out who did what, but all in all this is pretty interesting.
A problem with the whole gameplay loop is the way that we interact with the screen. Blade Runner Enhanced Edition is played from a third person perspective, and the way we interact with the game is via the medium of a pointer. This pointer changes colour when we can interact with something: it goes grey to show we can move somewhere, blue to indicate we can change the screen, green to indicate that there is something to investigate or a person to talk to, and finally red if we can shoot something. However, the pointer is absolutely tiny, and as a result the colour change is really hard to make out unless your nose is actually touching the TV screen. It’s not just me being old and blind either, my eleven year old son, who has eyes like a hawk, also found it hard to tell when there was something to interact with.
On a PC, with mouse and keyboard, I’m sure that this would work fine. But on a console using a controller? Not so much. Instead, we are reduced to pointing at likely bits of the screen and mashing “A” in an attempt to find what is needed. That is not ideal, things are poorly optimised and the shooting mechanic is even worse.
All in all, Blade Runner Enhanced Edition is, and I want to choose my words carefully here, absolutely awful. It looks bad, the gameplay mechanics just do not work on a console. While the story and clue solving provides a brief oasis of enjoyment, it is not enough to save the game. While there are a reported thirteen different endings to the game, based on the actions and decisions that you take, you’ll struggle to find the motivation to even get through a couple at best.
Unless you are a rabid Blade Runner, you’ll want to steer clear of Blade Runner Enhanced Edition.
Blade Runner Enhanced Edition is available from the Xbox Store
- Sounds nice
- Clues and investigations are interesting
- The graphics
- The gameplay
- The worst controller integration ever
- Starts to drag very quickly
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Nightdive Studios
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC
- Version reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
- Release date - 23 June 2022
- Launch price from - £7.99