Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Blair Witch ★★☆☆☆

20 years since its release, The Blair Witch Project is still widely considered one of the most influential horror movies of our time. Heavily credited with popularizing the dormant found-footage technique in filmmaking, Blair Witch was an enormous hit – grossing nearly $250 million against a budget of just $60,000. The film launched a franchise, including sequels, novels, comic books and now a highly anticipated video game. Developed by Bloober Team (best known for cyberpunk game Observer and the Layers of Fear series) and published by Lionsgate Games, this is Blair Witch.

Taking place in the same universe as the films, the game picks up in 1996 (shortly after the disappearance of the original film’s campers) as we take control of protagonist Ellis on a journey into Maryland’s Burkittsville Woods – home, of course, to the Blair Witch. Joining the search party for a missing child, you are joined by your faithful dog Bullet as you search for clues in your quest. Bullet, one of the best doggos in gaming for some time, is a major asset. He is able to seek out important items and follow trails and responds if you interact with him. Yes, you can pet him. He is such a good boy, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably spend more time petting him than actually progressing in the game. Other interesting mechanics include your trusty old mobile phone – which, at specific points has signal and can be used to call characters in the game and you can even play little mini-games on the phone, which certainly allows for a much-needed respite from the spooky bois that live in the woods. 

You’re probably wondering how the Blair Witch’s found footage comes into play here – because hey, without it, this game might as well not bare the Blair Witch name. Tapes can be found around the game’s brilliantly designed and creepy woods, which can be forwarded through to change the in-game world – for example, a locked door may open up in the video, and that is how you can progress through it. It’s an interesting mechanic that makes for some innovative and versatile puzzle sequences, although they’re never particularly challenging.

The game does make a big deal of letting us know that it is totally decision-based, with the game warning you frequently that it is watching your actions – including your treatment of good boy Bullet – and will adapt to your gameplay style. While there are some very clear moments with choice, it’s not clear otherwise how your gameplay is going to affect the outcome of the game because a lot of it feels rather linear. The game’s relatively short runtime – on average, people seem to be finishing it between 5-6 hours – means that replays are certainly an option, and the game encourages it. But with an overly expositional final act and an underwhelming plot aren’t exactly pull factors to sit through it again.

Blair Witch is a pretty basic survival horror which, although boasting some interesting mechanics – particularly with your furry four-legged friend – doesn’t do anything particularly innovative or new with the tired genre. On the whole, this one is pretty underwhelming and feels like a bit of a rushed cash-grab aimed at fans of the now 20-year-old modern horror classic. One to avoid, unless you’re a Blair Witch junkie desperate return to Burkittsville Woods. 

Sam Love

Blair Witch at CeX

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