PT was a revolutionary, yet short-lived triumph. A masterclass in its genre, that blended psychological and atmospheric horror in the best way possible. It induced fresh energy into horror games and many games have since been inspired by it. Blair Witch sets out to use the same formula in its eerie world and the results are astounding if you forgive its technical shortcomings. This is the review of Blair Witch.
I had to reference PT as Blair Witch could have taken form in various styles. This could have easily been an Until Dawn style third-person horror game while being faithful to its source material. Or, some kind of multiplayer shenanigan set in the Blair Witch universe ala Friday the 13th. The decision to go for a PT style first-person setting was bold and one that has been executed very well. The similarities to PT end right there though, as Blair Witch has some very neat tricks up its sleeves to make it stand out on its own.
You take on the role of Ellis, a former cop who is on the task of investigating the disappearance of a boy named Peter. This takes him to Black Hill forest which is known to house the titular Blair Witch. The premise is simple enough to be forgotten and the developers make the best use of it. About an hour in the game is more so about your survival and sanity. And to that effect Blair Witch delivers the chills in spade. Just traversing the forest is an anxiety-inducing experience, especially, like me, if you aren’t exactly a fan of the spooky.
There is no HUD in the game and the core gameplay has been cleverly tied upon an AI system in the form of Bullet, your trustee German Shepherd. Bullet may seem like just a companion, but he is so much more than that. He makes do for the lack of HUD and other conventional guiding systems, and it is all done in a contextually convincing manner. He will guide you along the right path, growl at the direction of any threats, find clues and above all he is the emotional support for Ellis, and more so for the player.
Other than bullets excellent integration to the core gameplay you are limited to a handful of tools like a Walkie Talkie, Flashlight, a rather cool looking school cell phone, and a camcorder that you pick along the way, all of which have their own part to play in the game. This minimalist approach works in favour of the game as every encounter during its 5-6-hour runtime turns out to be a nerve-racking affair. There are quite a few glaring technical issues though which takes you off the moment. Here’s hoping that these get ironed out soon.
The success of this game would have to be largely owed to the Graphics and Sound team. Especially sound. The subtle rustling of the trees, howling winds, sometimes eerie silence and various other noises of the jungle complement the rather decent visuals on display. The jungle itself is well realised and there are little details sprinkled throughout that calls back to the game’s lore. The sights and sounds at times can be genuinely unsettling and this only shows the amount of passion that has gone into making this game.
Blair Witch is a game that no one asked for or saw coming for that matter. But it is one that we are glad to have. This may not break new barriers in the genre, but what we have here is a cleverly and crafted experience that deserves all the praise that it has garnered. As a horror game, it delivers the spooks in spades and keeps the player on the edge throughout its short runtime. It is a dan shame that something so well thought out would be bogged down by bugs at launch. With a bigger budget and more time for developing this game could have well been a Game of the year contender. Or one of, if not, the best horror game of the year. But what we have now is a pretty decent game in its own right. One that every horror fan should experience.
Final Score 8/10