When Bloober Team revealed that they were making a game set in the universe made famous by the Blair Witch film franchise, fans got excited. After all, with the likes of Observer and the Layers of Fear series already coming out of the studio, there was no denying that they would be able to create something special in the Blair Witch universe, and that is exactly what they have done. The game may be on the shorter side, coming in at around five to six hours, but it packs in every bit of tense, psychological horror that one would expect from a Blair Witch game.
For starters, the game is absolutely gorgeous. Everything from the terrifying woods themselves and the player’s trusty companion, Bullet, to the evil creatures that lurk in said woods and the few humans that are seen, it all looks top notch. I was able to play on the highest settings with slightly older hardware in my PC, but mileage will vary depending on what your system contains. In any case, Blair Witch is well optimized on PC, running smoothly even during the most demanding and chaotic scenes.
The atmosphere featured in the Blair Witch game is haunting, to say the least. The Black Hills Forest, as fans of the films know, is home to some pretty heinous incidents, so running into the woods probably isn’t the most exciting time for some, especially when one has an idea of what lies within. When it is night, the woods are pitch black and it is nearly impossible to see anything. During the day, the sun struggles to find its way through the wooded area, and when it is a bit foggy, it is really a treat to stop what you’re doing and just look around at the beauty. When the time comes that the opportunity is no longer there to just take in the sights, you’ll wish you had when you were given the chance.
For those who don’t know, the Blair Witch game features an entirely new story that is inspired by the lore presented in the films. Ellis, who is the player character, is an ex-police officer who is struggling with his own issues. This is made rather apparent from the beginning and continues to only go downhill. Luckily, Bullet is around to keep you company, and he is quite possibly the best dog a player could ask for. He comes running when he is called, leads the player to clues, and is an all around very good boy. You also won’t have to worry about escorting him or protecting him throughout the game, which is always a plus. Most importantly, however, players can pet Bullet and give him treats. Given everything that goes down throughout Blair Witch, it’s nice to be able to pet a dog in the middle of it.
The reason Ellis and Bullet have come to the Black Hills Forest is to search for a missing child. Once the walkie-talkie is secured, players will essentially be set free into the woods to do as they please. As stated above, Ellis is an ex-cop, and for good reason, but his former boss isn’t too keen on him being there to join the search party, so players will encounter a bit of pushback when communicating with him. Thankfully, this will be the least of your worries once it is realized that something much bigger is at play. When that begins to be set in motion, it only gets worse, but in the best way possible. Well, for horror fans, at least.
Ellis does have a few tools at his disposal, outside of Bullet’s assistance. The flashlight will become your best friend throughout the game as it is the only way to combat the creatures. Much like the Darkness in Alan Wake, the creatures in Blair Witch need to be handled with a flashlight. The only difference would be the fact that there is no gun to follow-up with in the Bloober Team title. There is also a walkie-talkie to communicate with the sheriff or the search party, a phone to call people and receive messages as well as play a minigame, and a backpack to store found items, dog treats, and all of the trash that Ellis likes to pick up. He sure does like making sure those woods are free of litter.
In addition to all of this, there is the one item that Blair Witch fans will surely be familiar with: a camcorder. This will come in handy often throughout one’s playthrough. Not only will it help with seeing things that may be invisible to the naked eye, but players are able to manipulate the environment by watching tapes that are found throughout the forest. This is certainly a great mechanic that only adds to the overall creepiness of everything.
Speaking of which, there are plenty of various things that factor into that creepiness. Bullet will do his best to alert you of anything suspicious, but he is not a fan of the totems that are of that iconic symbol. Destroying them will present players with a polaroid of a person that appears to be standing in a corner, likely terrified that the titular witch was about to get them. A few of the people in these photos can be seen wearing some Bloober Team merch, which was a nice touch. A brief glimpse of light in an incredibly dark world.
Overall, Blair Witch is not only one of the best psychological horror games to date, but also one of the best horror titles to date. It’s short length is a strength as anything longer might have felt drawn out. The narrative is beautifully executed with its roots firmly in Blair Witch lore and it is really pretty to look at, even when everything goes awry. This game had me leaning into my monitor every step of the way, and that lean only increased during my second playthrough. With the ever-changing woods as the setting, players will want to explore once more, especially after completing the game the first time around. There are no choices to make as players will need to act in the moment, which only gets the blood pumping even more.
Blair Witch is a must-play for fans of the films and horror in general. Bloober Team has absolutely nailed it, which only makes me want to see what they could do with other horror franchises. With its short runtime, beautiful visuals, frightening gameplay, and so much more, this title is one that you will not want to miss out on.
Blair Witch is currently available on PC and Xbox One.
Rating: 5 out of 5