Westwood Studio’s classic Blade Runner point-and-click adventure can finally be enjoyed once more with ease on PC, thanks to the diligent work of the ScummVM development community.
But first, a quick history lesson! Blade Runner originally released back in 1997, with Westwood (the sadly-now-defunct developer behind the likes of Command & Conquer and Dune 2) foregoing the usual easy cash-in route ordinarily associated with movie tie-ins for an experience both wildly ambitious and legitimately groundbreaking.
Although borne of the familiar point-and-click template, players, in the role of Blade Runner Ray McCoy, embarked on an investigation-based, and largely randomised adventure. Faced with the goal of hunting down replicants, the game would randomly decide exactly which characters were artificial creations at the start, subtly changing their behaviour as the story unfolded.
Throw in NPCs that didn’t follow a scripted route through the story – instead moving around in relative real-time based on their assigned objectives – branching narrative pathways, and a multitude of different possible endings, and Blade Runner was an experience that didn’t just capture the neon-streaked dystopian atmosphere of the movie with absolute precision, but which made its world feel positively alive.
Unsurprisingly, Blade Runner was hailed as a classic (and you can read more praise in Eurogamer’s retrospective from 2017), but, unfortunately, the passing of time and the march of technology has made the game increasingly difficult to experience without concerted technical jiggery-pokery – a situation exacerbated by the fact that re-releases and remasters have been made impossible, given the original source code was lost during a studio move.
Enter the team of adventure game fans responsible for ScummVM, a piece of software originally designed to make it possible to play classic LucasArts games like Monkey Island 2 on modern systems, before publishers realised there was a lot of money to be made in remasters. Over the years, ScummVM has expanded to support other titles and engines, including those by Revolution Software (Beneath a Steel Sky, Broken Sword) and the Discworld games.
It apparently took eight years (thanks Wikipedia) to reverse engineer the Blade Runner engine and to include it as part of ScummVM, and another three until it was ready for public testing, which began this June. As of last Friday, however, as spotted by Rock Paper Shotgun, Blade Runner is now officially supported and playable on ScummVM, which you can download here.
All of which is great news for those who’ve been sitting staring at their Blade Runner CD-ROMs with exasperated sadness in recent years. And given that some companies even bundle ScummVM with their classic games so they can be sold commercially on modern systems, perhaps Blade Runner may one day see an official release from current rights-holder EA.