Can you remember the buzz surrounding the release of The Blair Witch Project back in 1999? Ever since then the franchise has carried with it a certain reverence that brings a shiver to your spine at the very mention of its name. It’s been 21 years since three student filmmakers wandered off into the woods never to be seen again, and every time a new project is announced we all get really excited, despite all the shitty movie sequels and fairly lame video games that Hollyweird has force-fed us for the last 2 decades.
Bloober Team’s Blair Witch was another prime example of this whole phenomenon. The last time we had anything close to a Blair Witch Project video game was way back in the early 2000s and honestly, that had been mediocre at best. But there was no way this would be true of this 2019 first-person survival horror. If Bloober Team had waited this long to bring the property to next-gen consoles then surely they’d bring back the spirit of the movie and leave us crying in the dark once again?
So what is Blair Witch all about?
Players take on the role of former cop Ellis Lynch, who along with his trusty dog Bullet, joins a town-wide search for a missing boy who it is believed got himself lost in the notorious Black Hills forest of Burkittsville, Maryland. From the very beginning, it’s obvious that there is an ulterior motive for Ellis’ involvement and little by little the game reveals that the missing kid is actually the brother of someone Ellis shot and injured while on duty years earlier, and ever since he’s been obsessed with making it up to him. In his fragile mind, Ellis believes that he will find salvation if he can find the boy and take him home.
You can probably tell already that we had high hopes for Blair Witch, so perhaps our disappointment is a direct result of setting our expectations too high. Despite that, we really don’t have a ton of positive things to say about the game. If running around aimlessly in the dark is your idea of a good weekend, then perhaps Blair Witch is the game for you, because literally, all you do as Ellis for overly long periods of the game is try to figure out where in the woods you are.
The game takes place during the night so every tree looks the same, and you far too often find that you end up back where you started no matter which direction you walk in. Sure, this is a deliberate mechanic of the game – you’re not supposed to navigate the Black Hills with ease – but it quickly becomes a chore to do anything and almost had us giving up after less than an hour of gameplay.
The controls are also a bit of a sticking point
At various points during the game, you might need to chat on your walkie talkie or call your ex-wife but none of this is as simple as pressing a button. It’s not a make or break issue, but it can really slow things down. This is also incredibly frustrating when your dog has found a scent and you’re hot in pursuit when all of a sudden the game demands of you that you have to read a text message or argue with the sheriff on your airwave. We even had this happen to us during an important piece of exposition and there was no way to listen back to it.
During our many hours spent meandering around the woods, it also became apparent that Ellis must have been stricken with the exact same ailment that makes Mr. Glass so vulnerable. That is the only possible explanation as to why he cannot progress in any given direction if a single twig is in his way. It seems so bizarre in 2020 that a character in a game can be so rigidly hindered by the terrain around him. We’re playing this on an Xbox One, not an Atari.
On the plus side, Blair Witch does bring the chills on the rare occasion you encounter an enemy. There’s zero chance of running away when faced with something lurking in the darkness, so you either have to square right up to or utilise Drax-like stealth to evade. These are the rare moments in the game that we’d expected more off from the off. We understand that this isn’t your typical jump-scare horror game and that’s OK. Psychological horror can be even scarier than the idea of things going bump in the night, it would just have been nice to have had a few more spooky goings-on to sink our teeth into.
Playing this game without headphones is a definite no-no
This is because the sound and musical composition is by far the highlight of the entire thing. SO much is gained by plugging in as you play, and we dare say that it will change your entire experience of Blair Witch. We have to be honest, for the short amount of time we were able to use headphones while playing the scary factor was amped right up, with whispers and “What was that” moments aplenty. Perhaps if we’d used them the whole time our overall opinion of Blair Witch might have been a little better.
Blair Witch is not the worst survival horror we’ve ever played, and it isn’t even the worst game we’ve played this year, it just suffers from being a little too boring, and if you love your horror games (as we do) then the last thing you want to feel is boredom.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, PlayStation, Xbox
Release Date: 30/08/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Action & Adventure
Developer: Bloober Team
Publisher: Bloober Team NA
Download link: Microsoft Store