In the world of Blade Runner, there are tons of replicants — but in the case of the long-lost, 1990s action game that bears the dystopian movie classic's name, it turns out there’s at least one repli-can.
Bad joke? Sure, but there’s a pretty great story behind it. After more than two decades, the critically-praised Blade Runner PC game, which had all but lapsed from availability due to shifting game industry fortunes, has finally been revived.
Thanks to the diligent effort of a small group of programmers (and, evidently, ardent Blade Runner fans), a years-in-the-making effort to rebuild the game almost from the ground up is paying off, with the remade version’s arrival last month on legacy games website GOG.com — all with the support of Blade Runner home video distributor Alcon Interactive.
Originally released for PC back in 1997 by development studio Westwood, Blade Runner (the game) featured voice acting work from Blade Runner (the movie) stars Sean Young (Rachael) and James Hong (Hannibal Chew), and won critical praise (as well as the Interactive Achievement Award for Computer Adventure Game of the Year) for replicating the look and feel of Ridley Scott’s dark dystopian masterpiece.
But, as the programmers explain in an in-depth blog post, the 2003 demise of Westwood Studios eventually led to a worst-case scenario for nostalgic fans eager to track down an online version: The game’s source code was lost, and the only way to play Blade Runner was to be one of the fortunate few who could track down one of the dwindling supplies of previously-owned CD-ROM copies (and then find a PC rig with the properly archaic 1990s-era specs to play it).
Reverse-engineering the game from the 4-disc original was a slow and time-intensive endeavor, requiring the use of the ScummVM emulation program (“previously used to emulate classic LucasArts adventure games,” the team notes) — plus tons of patience and dedication.
“Restoring the Blade Runner video game to its former glory required one useful tool and loads of passion for retro games,” the team states, “… The passion came from the programmers who spend around 8 years dissecting the code from Blade Runner’s original CDs and then painstakingly putting it together again to form the digital version.”
Eight years is almost a lifetime in replicant terms, so arriving at the finish line in 2019, says the team, feels almost like a rebirth. “The timing seems perfect. 22 years have passed since the game release, and the date of November 2019 from its main titles has just stopped being the future and became history. Furthermore, since the movie sequel hit the cinemas two years ago, a new generation of Blade Runner fans is being born in front of our eyes. Now, they will also be able to play this outstanding game.”
Whether you’re an old-school Blade Runner fan or a newcomer, there’s almost literally never been a better time to dive back into one of the rare early gaming moments when a video game came close to capturing the vibe of its big-screen inspiration. Blade Runner for PC is an $8.99 download, available now at GOG.com.