Developer: Bloober Team
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Gene(s): Adventure, horror
Publisher: Bloober Team NA
Blair Witch is a game based on the movie from 20 years ago. The game uses the mythology created for the original movie – from the Witch’s legend and the murders in the Black Hills forest to the disappearance of the three young people responsible for the documentary – to explore the narrative of a man troubled by his past, and the dog that follows you.
The Blair Witch game takes place in 1996, a few years after the disappearance of the trio Hannah, Mike and Josh (The movie characters) in the forests around Burkittsville, Maryland. This time, the player, in the role of former police officer Ellis, explores the area in search of young Peter Shannon, a boy who disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
As the story unfolds, it is possible to discover more of Ellis’s past, her relationship with Peter’s family, and his earlier traumas, which are beginning to be manipulated and exploited by the mysterious forces that command the forest.
During his search, Ellis has as main partner Bullet, a dog able to sniff and detect information and hazards in the region including clues, monsters, the iconic stick figures that are scattered throughout the area (What an amazing dog right?!).
The combat works based on the claimed game Alan Wake and Heart of Darkness (I’m joking hahaha it doesn’t resemble to Hear of Darkness even though you also kill the enemies with light), with the player throwing his flashlight into enemies based on Bullet’s placement. Some enemies that run from the light. But there are those which get mad at it. After a while the game merges the two mechanics, using our camera through its viewfinder, you can see the best path by not looking at enemies and not pointing the light at them. However, the camera has much greater importance in the gameplay.
The dog is very important in all the mechanics of the game. Although the game warns us that it needs to be handled well, warning that this will reflect on the way it will act during the game, in reality, nothing happens if you fail to cuddle him or nibble. Perhaps the idea was to get Bullet to helpless or more during the adventure, depending on how we treat him. But in the end, the difference is minimal in all cases.
Two concerns I had with this game were, the character (Ellis) movement is very stiff and it’s hard to follow bullet’s movements sometimes… And also, a game feature that works like this, if you find a red tape and watch it, you can pause the video and the objects that appear on the tape TRAVELS IN TIME and appear in front of you! And not just small objects like a baseball GIANT TREES AS WELL… yeah! “Oh, a broken tree is blocking my path… no problem I’ll just watch this tape here and go back to when it wasn’t blocking my way… done” … WHAT?! I mean I understand that in Blair Witch’s film we have the camera as one of the key elements for the experience and since that it is a game, it would not work the same way as the movie. So, the game adapts the camera to use in another way. (I just didn’t like it)
But what calls our attention on the game and I can guarantee it is the game’s big strength, is the way the Bloober Team uses the forest setting to create a scary environment. Although the game relies heavily on the notorious jump scares, the main moments of tension come precisely from the feeling of being lost in a strange and inhospitable place walking around in circles without knowing where you are going (that getting lost could be annoying but it does go well with the game and it DOES give you some anxiety moments) and also common… that’s the essence of the mood from the original Blair Witch movie.
Concerning the ambience, developers also deserve applause for the excellent sound design, which uses forest sounds (breaking branches, wind currents, or even pure silence) to enhance the feeling of loneliness and tension in the forest, which sometimes not even a companion dog can help.
Even with some bugs, if there is one thing, we should give to the game is the look and the immersive sound of the game. Although there are some technical issues, such as changing the scenery in front of you or forced transition in some looping moments, most of the time we have a well-polished game.
So, we soon put the problems aside and started to pay attention to what stands out. Each new area has the atmosphere of terror intensified with the looks. These are beautifully scenarios that, with just a few color changes, make the same place look different. Combine that with impeccable sound quality (already mentioned) and you’ll have a horror game that doesn’t appeal to easy scares. Playing this game with a headset is a delight, but terrifying.
The narrative also becomes much more engaging as the game unfolds, mingling a bit of psychological horror. Also, at least in my early game session, the development team knew how to subvert expectations by using the mechanics and objects in the world to complete the story.
Anyway, Blair Witch is a relatively quick experience, but it works by using the best elements of the movie to create a narrative of its own.
To wrap it up, I found the game ok… But it does gives you exactly what it was supposed to deliver, I just expect more…but if you are an “Amnesia” fan you will probably love this game.
Overall: 6.5 out of 10