Blair Witch (PC) Review
Not a very long game, can’t imagine playing it for more than 10hrs
Mind-bending loops and illusions
Kept the legacy of the film franchise (coming from a Blair Witch fan)
Dog AI can be buggy sometimes
A few cheap jump scares
If you ever feel like schizophrenia warnings before a game starts aren’t for you, you will need to ask yourself again after a Blair Witch (2019) playthrough. Horror games come in many shapes and forms but Blair Witch has its way of presenting the harrowing experience of psychological horror in a very original way and in the same scale of success the cult classic The Blair Witch films achieved.
From the developers behind the Layers of Fear series, Blair Witch is the video adaption of the 1999 horror film The Blair Witch Project, which was later followed by the sequels in later years with the last being Blair Witch (2016). If you have never played Layers of Fear games, they are known for visually manipulative designs and psychedelic effects that fabricate the delusional horror of the game. As a fan of Blair Witch movies, I can’t imagine any other developers than Bloober Team recreating the authentic experience of the film this game is rooted in.
The game follows the story of a former police officer and veteran Eliss as he joins the search of a missing 9-year-old Peter Shannon in the Black Hills Forest in Maryland. Upon his arrival at the forest entrance, he is welcomed by nothing other than a couple of empty police cars parked disorderly. Sheriff Emmet Lanning is his main contact in the search party, and by going through police memos and documentation in and around police cars and contacting Sheriff Lanning upon entry, it’s apparent that Eliss’s presence is reluctantly accepted due to his state of mental health which is gradually revealed as the story progress.
From there on out, Eliss will slowly descend into waking nightmare and harrowing terror of the forest and will have to relive his gut-wrenching past, but he sees this as a chance to redeem himself from his past wrongdoings. The only thing that will make his life in the forest bearable is not only what I think is the best gameplay component, which is also the one and only living creature that will stick by your side from start to finish of the game. Well not exactly till the end, you will be alone in the final sequence at the infamous ruined house just like the endings of the film franchise. It’s great to see the developers did really keep the backbones of the films. I was saying about the thing that makes Ellis’s life bearable in the forest, which is his police dog named Bullet. You can take a tiny bit of comfort in knowing that Bullet is there with you to keep you company while you confront the ghosts of the past and present at the same time. He is your best buddy in finding clues and detecting potential dangers lurking behind the trees. It’s important to closely study his behaviors, his low growls mean he has sensed threats or his sudden rush means he wants you to follow you. Using a list of commands, you can order him to do specific tasks like making him crawl into places you can’t get in and fetch things for you. The key to surviving is keeping him close to you, he knows where the dangers are and you have the tools to ward them off. Most of the time you’re the one who does the running, but occasionally you will face silhouette figures emerging from the dark with the lighting speed that makes you all confused as to their whereabouts. Bullet is the only one that can sense where they are, so keep him nearby and use the flashlight in the direction he’s barking to fend away those faster-than-Flash monsters.
Getting lost is part of the plan. It’s not possible to complete the game without not knowing what you have to do next, where you need to go and how you get there every once in a while. And the game itself doesn’t make any effort to help you out either. Like 60% of the time, you will find yourself being the middle of a campsite, and whichever path you choose to follow always seems to lead back to the camp. It’s annoying and frustrating but acceptable. In fact, that is one of the main essences of the film, and I’m glad that they kept it that way. Another cornerstone of Blair Witch is the documentary tapes recorded by handheld camera. I like the fact that they took the concept of it and transformed it into reality manipulating device in the game. How it works is that you play the videotape and then pause at the right moment and your surrounding will change into what it is displayed in the video. For example, a fallen tree blocking the path could be removed by pausing at the moment before it fell in the videotape.
I don’t think it is needed to suggest playing with headphones on for these types of games. It barely has any music but it uses binaural sound system that adds a deeper level of immersion to the game. Without spoiling anything, the game has 2 main endings with a few minor variants, but it can hardly be said that any of the endings are good endings and it doesn’t really follow any logical sense as to what actions lead to which ending. And I don’t care what I did to get the most common bad ending, all I know is that I didn’t give up on Bullet when I was asked to shoot him and leave him behind.