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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sunday, Sept. 21, 1997
Section H, Page 2

'Blade Runner' matches excitement of movie

Stunning visuals add to package

By Malcolm X Abram

Game industry rule No. 34: Most games adapted from movies stink.

So when Westwood Studios announced that it was developing a "real time" adventure game based on Ridley Scott's futuristic "Blade Runner," one of the most-loved cult classics, the public response was a mix of skepticism and anticipation.

But after spending 2 1/2 years and close to $4 million on development, it looks like Westwood may have beaten the odds. Recently, Louis Castle, the company's executive vice president, came to our offices, showed us a videotape of the game play and talked about the technology involved.

The plot: In a deliberate attempt to maintain the movie's integrity, you are not Harrison Ford's Rick Decker. You are McCoy, a rookie blade runner investigating the high crime of animal murder. As your investigation proceeds, you discover that androids known as replicants are running loose in L.A. Replicants have been forbidden on Earth, and your duty is to identify and "retire" them. But Castle says Westwood has constructed the game so that there are "seven varieties of endings," including helping the replicants escape, or falling in love with one of the suspects and leaving the planet.

Playability: From the video of actual game play Castle showed us, "Blade Runner" looks to be easy enough to jump right in and play. The simple point-and-click interface makes moving and fighting no problem, and the quick pace should keep even casual adventure fans enthralled. The game always starts with the animal murder, but after that almost anything can happen.

Castle says that's because the game is a real-time simulator, where each of the 70 fully articulated characters has its own advanced artificial intelligence, which assigns them their own goal-oriented agendas and actions specific to each game. So, for example, as you are conducting your investigation, at any time a replicant may gather all of the information they need and come after you. Also, because the replicants are randomly assigned at the beginning, the game will never play the same way twice.

Visually, "Blade Runner" is stunning. The 109 locations are all meticulously rendered (including the famous opening shot of L.A. in 2019), and each character is drawn through a combination of motion capture and 20,000 pixel-sized poly-gons. The dynamic lighting is some of the most realistic ever put on a CD-ROM.

Castle says "Blade Runner" will be released around Nov. 4 and will be contained on four CDs for about $50.