In a win for video game preservation, Nightdive Studios has entered a partnership with Alcon Entertainment to restore the 1997 point-and-click adventure game Blade Runner, based off the world of the 1982 film. The remake will be called Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition when it launches later this year.
What makes this so notable is that the source code for the original game was lost in 2003 when developer Westwood Studios relocated from Las Vegas to Los Angeles after it merged with EA Los Angeles. In 2015, Westwood Studios co-founder Louis Castle said in an interview with YouTube channel RagnarRox that this meant a remake of Blade Runner would be “impossible” without a multi-million dollar budget. This partnership between Nightdive Studios and Alcon Entertainment is supplying the cashflow to make this happen, and now the game will not only be preserved, but will be playable on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
“It’s true that the original Blade Runner source code was lost,” said Nightdive Head of Business Development Larry Kuperman in a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter. “We painstakingly reverse-engineered the code, importing it into our own KEX engine, a powerful tool that allows us to do console ports of classic titles, even in the face of quite challenging situations.”
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Nightdive Studios will be using its KEX Engine, previously used on the studio’s remakes of Turok and System Shock to spruce up Blade Runner for the Enhanced Edition, including creating new models for characters, animations, cutscenes, along with updated widescreen resolution support and keyboard and controller customization.
“Blade Runner is still a jaw-dropping achievement on every level, so while we’re using KEX to upgrade the graphics and respectfully elevate the gaming experience in a way you’ve never seen before, we’re still preserving Westwood’s vision and gameplay in all its glory,” says Nightdive CEO Stephen Kick to The Hollywood Reporter. “While you can enjoy the benefits of playing the game on modern hardware, the game should look and feel not as it was, but as glorious as you remember it being.”
While this will be the first time the game is restored through official means, the Blade Runner game has been made playable on PCs through ScummVM, an open-source classic adventure game loader, since late last year. However, doing so requires an external disc drive for any computers without an internal one and an actual disc copy of a 23-year-old game. Plus it would play exactly as it did all those years ago, and at this point you’re probably better off waiting for the Enhanced Edition to give it a bit of modern flare.
This isn’t the only time the Blade Runner franchise has stepped into the video game world, as there have been two other games with the series’ name on it. In 1985 a shoot-em-up loosely based on the series launched on the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and Amstrad CPC, while a VR game titled Blade Runner: Revelations launched in 2018.