About Blair Witch:
- Developer: Bloober Team
- Publisher: Bloober Team/Lionsgate
- Platforms: Xbox One and PC
- Release Date: August 30, 2019
- Price: $29.99
- Reviewed On: Xbox One
The Blair Witch Project certainly was a behemoth of a movie, its popularizing of the found footage horror genre helped give it the illusion of realism for the longest time. People still Google search the film wondering if it really happened. On top of that, the movie itself was a pretty good horror flick. The same cannot be said for the two sequels, but Blair Witch (this game) does the first movie justice. With that said, the game also has some issues. Let’s talk about it.
It’s All About the Gameplay
The gameplay is similar to other horror games of the recent years, there really isn’t any combat other than shining your flashlight on a few monsters to destroy them. While that sounds a lot like Alan Wake (and it sorta is), these encounters are too scarce to be the focal point of the gameplay mechanics, the flashlight is more for you to see in the dark than anything else (well duh!). The rest of your equipment includes a camcorder which will help you solve puzzles and follow trails, a cell phone to call your friends and family, a radio to talk to your police coworkers, and a backpack full of the items you pick up (including dog treats).
Speaking of dog treats, there’s a dog! A beautiful German Shepherd named Bullet is the star of the show, and well, your trusty sidekick. He’ll help you find clues, warn you of danger, and go into hard to reach places for you. A decent enough command wheel will also let you pet the sweet boy. Don’t forget to give him treats! Throughout the game, I found myself keeping my eyes on Bullet the whole time. I wanted to keep him close, safe, and happy; and much like the player character, I would get overwhelmed with anxiety and fear if he wondered off or couldn’t go inside a building with me.
My biggest gripe with the gameplay is perhaps also my favorite part of the entire experience, call it a love-hate relationship. That would be the loop system. Much like Silent Hill’s PT, the illusion of walking in circles brought a certain amount of anxiety. The darkness of the woods is terrifying, especially when you feel like there’s no way out; but it often got frustrating without any clear objective to be aiming for. The game would try to combat this by having Bullet bark at you to lead you in the right direction, but that wouldn’t come to be (for me) for at least 5 times walking in these giant loops. Don’t get me wrong, when they do the “walking in circles to make the game tense” thing right, it’s very right. But when it’s done wrong, it can mess with the pacing, making the game a boring walking simulator.
The scariest moments in the game aren’t the jump scares, the monsters lurking in the dark, nor the main villain of the game. It’s the tense feeling of wandering in the dark alone, with no cell signal, no backup to radio in, and seemingly nowhere to run or hide. With Bullet by your side, it can help, until his dog nature comes out and he runs away, and you’re left there. . . alone. The last section of the game is by far the best, and the most terrifying. Without spoiling it, the game gets much more intense, the walls of the world start to close in, and you have nothing but your flashlight and the urge to power through to the end.
Though I will say, I did not feel invested in the story whatsoever. Its premise was well put together, but without any real connection to it (from the player character’s point of view, that is, until the end), I felt no motivation to save the missing child. I cared more for Bullet than I did for any other character in the game, including the protagonist. The story seems to be clear; it doesn’t take any digging to get the whole thing, and they sprinkle in some side stories about the main character to pad the fact that the real story isn’t as strongly put together.
The technical side of gameplay is much less straightforward. Now, I played the Xbox One edition of this title, and I did not run into many, if any, game breaking bugs. I did, in fact, run into a small bug where Bullet wouldn’t listen to my commands and instead got caught in a loop of sitting and standing in one place for about 10 minutes. Luckily, this only happened once during my seven-hour experience. Also, the gameplay is a bit janky. For instance, when panning the camera around, it jerks in an unnatural way. This can be a distraction when trying to focus on the environment. Building on this, sometimes when making calls or answering the walkie-talkie, you are unable to move or look around. It would be ignorable if it was a locked animation trying to keep you from triggering things in the environment while talking on the phone/radio, but it doesn’t seem to be of any importance. It doesn’t even happen every time you do it. Lastly, Bullet may behave in a realistic manor, but he isn’t crafted perfectly. He often rolls around in the grass, and his facial expressions are so so so cute; but he would repeatedly forget how to walk around objects, not face the right direction when pointing out enemies, and sometimes would have a jerky running animation that would take me out of the experience entirely.
(Side Note): Graphics and textures aren’t super detailed, though that doesn’t detract from the overall experience. The game looks like it belongs on current generation consoles and Bullet is probably the most detailed aspect of the game (as he should be, he’s gorgeous). Anyways, graphics don’t matter all that much.
Regardless of a few technical issues, Blair Witch is a good time. The game starts off slow with a not so strong story to boot, but once you hunker down and drive through, the game turns into an anxious, dimly lit, digital embodiment of claustrophobia that every horror game fan should experience for themselves. While the game isn’t as scare-filled as Outlast, as action-oriented as Resident Evil, or as controversial as the film it’s based on, it IS a great addition to Bloober Team’s repertoire of classic horror titles. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this game, though I will likely only play it once. So, if you’re looking for a short game that’s more tense than frightening, has a dog you can pet, and is easier on your wallet, look no further. Blair Witch is for you.
What’s your favorite horror game of all time?
Blair Witch is available now on Xbox One and PC. If you have Xbox Game Pass, do yourself the favor of downloading this game. PC players won’t be so lucky, though the game is on sale on the Steam store for $26.99, so there’s that.
As always, don’t take my opinions on any game as fact. Play the game for yourself, or at the very least watch playthroughs, and make an educated decision based on what you want out of a title. Thanks for reading, and please tell me my opinions are stupid if you feel so. See you next time!