In 1999 the original film “The Blair Witch Project” hit theaters and scared audiences senseless with low-budget, found-footage style filmmaking, genuine psychological tension, and the question at the end of “Is this real?” 20 years later the Blair Witch franchise has finally made its video game debut. After capturing initial interest at its E3 2019 reveal, the question was posed whether it would be any good. The short answer is yes.
Unlike many games with similar layouts and design, this game feels very much like its own beast taking equal inspiration from the original Blair Witch Project film and surprisingly, the Silent Hill franchise, specifically the first four made by the original development team, Team Silent.
We open in the woods of Maryland in 1996 with our protagonist Ellis going to meet the sheriff’s department to assist in an organized search of a young boy who’s gone missing. When the game begins, the search has started without him and Ellis and his German shepherd Bullet acquire a radio and start off on their own. The story ramps up when Bullet finds the missing boy’s hat and runs off.
The game poses the initial plot of a missing child in the woods but soon becomes a twisted story of malevolent supernatural entities, a crazed serial killer, and the paranoia brought on by an environment that is constantly changing to torment us at every turn.
The game shines most in its depiction of PTSD and how it can be more terrifying than any creepy monster in the woods and haunt a person longer and more aggressively than any one supernatural entity could.
Players are immediately set up with radio, a flashlight, a very 90’s looking cell phone, and Bullet, our trusty dog.
The camcorder is the most used tool after the flashlight (for obvious reasons). Throughout the game the player will find red labelled tapes that when played forward and backwards in the same area they are filmed will change the area and allow the player to progress.
Additionally, the dog has its own command wheel allowing the player to tell the dog to sniff for scents of items or people to further the story, come, as well as fetch. There is also a petting mechanic and how often you love on your dog throughout your playthrough will impact your ending.
The environment is the most notable element throughout the entire playthrough. Nothing stays the same; layouts will change with a simple rotation of the camera, the game uses looping hallways and special sounds to put us on edge as we progress. These are all key mechanics found in “P.T.” the playable teaser for the now cancelled “Silent Hills” project with which this game takes a lot of inspiration from.
I encountered only two major bugs and both were in the final stage of the game. The first is allowing the player to crouch on Xbox, and on PC, if the player fails the last section while using the camera to detect enemies,when the player respawns they will only get a black screen.
Team Bloober’s Blair Witch game is a satisfying psychological horror outing that will keep players hooked from start to finish and have them wanting to return to see what changes they can achieve in the ending. The game delivers a solid Blair Witch story while also channeling many of the mechanics from P.T., which made that game so enthralling to players and acts as a worthy spiritual successor.