Share
submit to reddit
Pin it
Blair Witch - title

In a Nutshell

WHAT I LIKE

  • Forest looks more open than it is
  • Does a lot with a small map
  • Bullet's glow-in-the-dark dog collar
  • Final level has good set pieces
  • Actual threat and risk of failure
  • Depiction of PTSD triggers

WHAT I DON'T LIKE

  • Never gave me a reason to reprimand the dog
  • Runs out of things for Bullet to do
  • Story tries to do too many things
  • Buggy, dragged-out finale

Overall Impression : C+ / B-
An atmospheric trek with an over-complicated story

Blair Witch - cover

Developer:
Bloober Team

Platforms:
PC (via Windows Live or Steam or GoG),
XBox One < (via retail disc or XBox Live digital download).
(< indicates platform I played for review)

MSRP: $30 USD
or "free" with XBox Game Pass

Original release date:
30 August 2019

Genre:
first-person psychological horror

ESRB Rating: M (for Mature 17+) for:
Intense violence, language, blood

Player(s):
single player

Official site:
www.blooberteam.com/blair-witch-game

Blair Witch, as an intellectual property, is in a frustrating place similar to the Alien franchise. Both were innovative horror films that set numerous standards and conventions within their sub-genres, and which have been copied and ripped-off numerous times. Sci-fi games from Starcraft, to Metroid, to System Shock, to Dead Space have all taken heavy inspiration from Alien and Aliens. So much of the iconography of Alien and Aliens have been borrowed by these games, that when someone comes along with a game based on the Alien intellectual property, it's hard for that game to not feel like it's derivative of one (or all) of the myriad Alien impersonators.

the Blair Witch Project has similarly left a mark on the horror landscape. It single-handedly popularized the "found-footage" genre against the backdrop of a creepy, supernatural forest. Games such as Outlast, Alan Wake, and even Resident Evil VII all have a little bit of Blair Witch in their DNA. So when a game comes out that actually bears the "Blair Witch" name, it's kind of hard for it to stand out in the larger horror landscape.

Plenty of games (such as Outlast [LEFT]) have used tropes inspired by The Blair Witch Project.

This is the case with Lionsgate and Bloober Team's new Blair Witch game, exclusive to Microsoft platforms. Nothing that Blair Witch does feels particularly new or creative, even though most of the game's ideas are competently executed. Using a camcorder as a tool for navigation, exposition-delivery, and puzzle-solving feels pulled straight from Outlast or Resident Evil VII. Wandering through the woods and defeating monsters by pointing a flashlight at them gives me flashbacks to Alan Wake. Navigating the forest and occasionally picking up other people's trash also reminded me of Firewatch. Eventually, the whole game descends (rather predictably) into P.T. territory -- but, you know, without all the nuance or careful pacing that made P.T. so unnerving.

Who's a good doggy?

Blair Witch's most innovative feature is probably the dog companion (named Bullet), but even that feels pulled straight from Fallout 4. I probably would have been a bit more impressed if not for the fact that Bullet seemed to lose relevance as anything other than a monster compass, for a large chunk of the middle of the game. Without having healing items or ammunition or any other consumable supplies, the ability to send the dog out to find things feels like a sorely under-utilized mechanic.

Bullet is very well-introduced, and is integral to the early levels of the game. He finds clues for you, fetches key items, guides you to the next objective, and warns you of potential danger, all completely organically and without breaking immersion. But after a couple of hours, he just runs out of things to find and things to do. The puzzle shift away from using the dog, and more towards using the camera to do everything from manipulate the environment, to navigate mazes and looping paths, and even spotting monsters.

Your emotional support dog, Bullet, serves an integral role throughout the game.

False moral choice?

The game makes a big deal early on about how the way you treat the Bullet will supposedly influence the dog's behavior, but I never got the feeling that the dog's behavior was changing anyway. The game's designers never really give the player any reason to need to reprimand or abandon Bullet. Much like with playing a "bad karma" character in a Bethesda-developed Fallout game, you would have to go out of your way to be an asshole if you want the dog to dislike you.

We never once felt it necessary to reprimand Bullet.

Sure, the main character, Ellis, is kind of an asshole who has a history of pushing friends and loved ones away. But Ellis' connection to the dog is the emotional and mechanical centerpiece of the entire game. Bullet's function as an emotional support dog is critical to the game's story, and his mechanical role as a key-fetcher and enemy-detector is critical to progressing the game. It makes no sense from a narrative or mechanical standpoint to ever want to alienate or mistreat Bullet.

It's not like it would have been hard for Bloober to contrive some scenarios or circumstances that would actually encourage or require the player to be mean (or at least stern) with Bullet. An early puzzle could maybe have required that you leave Bullet behind while you go into a dangerous location. If Bullet tries to follow you in, it may be necessary to reprimand him until he stays put like he is told. You could catch him chewing on a key item and have to reprimand him before he damages it. Or there could have been an indoor segment (possibly even a flashback) in which you may reprimand Bullet for peeing on the floor.

Nothing like that ever came up, however. There was one puzzle that almost made us think we were supposed to leave Bullet behind due to a cryptic memo that we found, but it turned out to not be necessary. Keeping Bullet nearby always seemed like the optimal way to play. By midway through the game, I found myself wondering if Bloober was pulling a bluff along the lines of Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. That game threatened to inflict you with perma-death and delete your save if you died too much, but in reality, the game is very forgiving. Perhaps Blair Witch is similarly bluffing me with the threat that bad things will happen to Bullet, when in reality it's virtually (or literally) impossible to harm Bullet through normal play? We tried to be as nice to the dog as possible, but still got a "bad" ending for the dog anyway (more about that in the spoilerspost).

I couldn't really experiment much with it, nor could I play through the game multiple times to find out. I don't own an XBox, and so played the game at a friend's house, on his XBox. The game was available at no extra cost through my friend's X Box Game Pass subscription, so we thought it would be a decent enough way to blow off some steam after coming home from work on a Monday.

Bullet acts as a monster-detector.

A sufficiently creepy nature walk

If you similarly have a couple nights or a weekend to burn, then I can give Blair Witch a recommendation. The forest generally looks great, and actually does provide an excellent sense of openness and scale, even though the game is very linear and confined. Bloober did a fantastic job of getting the most out of the relatively few locations that are actually present in the game, re-using the same looping locales several times, but re-dressing them to provide the illusion of variety.

A few technical and control issues really do hold the game back from reaching its true potential. Bullet frequently clips through the uneven terrain or gets stuck. Sometimes prompts refuse to activate, and we had issues with the inventory wheel not wanting to select the right item. There was also one instance in which we soft-locked the game by somehow activating a puzzle at the same time we opened up the inventory. The puzzle closed the inventory and we couldn't re-open it. We had to close and restart the game from the most recent autosave.

The bugs only got worse as we progressed into the final areas of the game, which really deflated the tension that the scenes were trying to build.

There is also one puzzle late in the game that is very poorly designed. You're supposed to follow a trail on the ground using the nigh vision of the camera, but the second breadcrumb is out of visual range from the first breadcrumb, and the first breadcrumb seems to point in the opposite direction of where you're supposed to go. So we wandered off in the wrong direction and went around in circles for an hour trying to figure out what to. Stuff like this really doesn't help with maintaining an atmosphere of dread.

The forest is made to seem much larger and more open than it actually is.

There are monsters that can kill you, so the game is not completely devoid of threat like Bloober's Layers of Fear. However, the checkpoint system is so generous that a death is nothing more than a minor inconvenience. And if anything, I'd be more concerned about Bullet taking damage than the player character anyway.

I also want to say that I think that Blair Witch tries to do a bit too much with its story. The story jumps back and forth between three or four different topical narrative threads. As such, the story feels kind of meandering, un-focused, and unnecessarily obfuscated. I kind of wish that Bloober had just chosen one or two of these topics to flesh out more and tie them together, as I'm having trouble trying to identify a singular theme or through-line for the entire story. And it's a real shame because there's a genuinely clever video game construct that re-contextualizes much of the game and has an interesting point, but which gets buried under all this convoluted plot spaghetti. I can't talk much more about with going deep into spoilers, so I'm going to save this discussion for a separate post. Stay tuned, loyal readers...

Other Game Reviews I've Published

Ace Combat 7Ace Combat 7Alan WakeAlan Wake
Alien: IsolationAlien: IsolationAmnesia: a Machine for PigsAmnesia: a Machine for Pigs
Amnesia: the Dark DescentAmnesia: the Dark DescentAmong the SleepAmong the Sleep
Assassin's Creed IIIAssassin's Creed IIIAssassin's Creed IV: Black FlagAssassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Assassin's Creed: OriginsAssassin's Creed: OriginsAxis Football 18Axis Football 18
Axis Football 2019Axis Football 2019Back to the Future Episode OneBack to the Future Episode One
Backbreaker FootballBackbreaker FootballBanishedBanished
Batman: Arkham CityBatman: Arkham CityBattlefield 1Battlefield 1
Blair WitchBlair WitchBloodborneBloodborne
Bloodborne: the Old HuntersBloodborne: the Old HuntersCall of Duty World War IICall of Duty World War II
CatherineCatherineCities SkylinesCities Skylines
Cities Skylines: After DarkCities Skylines: After DarkCities Skylines: CampusCities Skylines: Campus
Cities Skylines: Green CitiesCities Skylines: Green CitiesCities Skylines: IndustriesCities Skylines: Industries
Cities Skylines: Mass TransitCities Skylines: Mass TransitCities Skylines: Natural DisastersCities Skylines: Natural Disasters
Cities Skylines: ParklifeCities Skylines: ParklifeCities Skylines: SnowfallCities Skylines: Snowfall
Cities: Skylines: Match Day & ver. 1.4Cities: Skylines: Match Day & ver. 1.4CitiesXL & Cities XXLCitiesXL & Cities XXL
Dark SoulsDark SoulsDark Souls Artorias of the Abyss DLCDark Souls Artorias of the Abyss DLC
Dark Souls IIDark Souls IIDark Souls II: Scholar of the First SinDark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin
Dark Souls IIIDark Souls IIIDark Souls III: Ashes of AriandelDark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel
Dark Souls III: the Ringed CityDark Souls III: the Ringed CityDawn of ManDawn of Man
Dead Space 2Dead Space 2Death's GambitDeath's Gambit
Demon's SoulsDemon's SoulsDevil May Cry 5Devil May Cry 5
DmC (Devil May Cry)DmC (Devil May Cry)DOOM (2016)DOOM (2016)
DreadOutDreadOutF.T.L. (Faster Than Light)F.T.L. (Faster Than Light)
Fallout 4Fallout 4Fallout ShelterFallout Shelter
Far Cry PrimalFar Cry PrimalFinal Fantasy XIIIFinal Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XVFinal Fantasy XVFirewatchFirewatch
Five Nights at Freddy'sFive Nights at Freddy'sGame of Thrones (Telltale series 1-2)Game of Thrones (Telltale series 1-2)
God of War (2018)God of War (2018)God of War IIIGod of War III
Gone HomeGone HomeGrand Theft Auto VGrand Theft Auto V
Hellblade: Senua's SacrificeHellblade: Senua's SacrificeHer StoryHer Story
Kingdom Come: DeliveranceKingdom Come: DeliveranceL.A. NoireL.A. Noire
Lifeless PlanetLifeless PlanetLollipop ChainsawLollipop Chainsaw
Mad MaxMad MaxMadden NFL 11Madden NFL 11
Madden NFL 12Madden NFL 12Madden NFL 13Madden NFL 13
Madden NFL 15Madden NFL 15Madden NFL 16Madden NFL 16
Madden NFL 17Madden NFL 17Madden NFL 18Madden NFL 18
Madden NFL 19Madden NFL 19Mars Rover LandingMars Rover Landing
Marvel's Spider-ManMarvel's Spider-ManMaster of Orion: Conquer the StarsMaster of Orion: Conquer the Stars
Maximum Football 2018Maximum Football 2018Maximum Football 2019Maximum Football 2019
Metal Gear Solid V: the Phantom PainMetal Gear Solid V: the Phantom PainMiasmataMiasmata
Middle-Earth: Shadow of MordorMiddle-Earth: Shadow of MordorMiddle-Earth: Shadow of WarMiddle-Earth: Shadow of War
Monster Hunter: WorldMonster Hunter: WorldNCAA Football 11NCAA Football 11
NCAA Football 12NCAA Football 12NCAA Football 13NCAA Football 13
NiohNiohNo Man's SkyNo Man's Sky
ObservationObservationPapers, PleasePapers, Please
Portal 2Portal 2Red Dead RedemptionRed Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption IIRed Dead Redemption IIResident Evil 2Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 7: BiohazardResident Evil 7: BiohazardResident Evil RemasteredResident Evil Remastered
Return of the Obra DinnReturn of the Obra DinnRock Band 3Rock Band 3
Room 404Room 404Sekiro: Shadows Die TwiceSekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Shadow of the Colossus (2018)Shadow of the Colossus (2018)Sid Meier's Civilization VSid Meier's Civilization V
Sid Meier's Civilization V: Brave New WorldSid Meier's Civilization V: Brave New WorldSid Meier's Civilization V: Gods & KingsSid Meier's Civilization V: Gods & Kings
Sid Meier's Civilization VISid Meier's Civilization VISid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering StormSid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm
Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Rise and FallSid Meier's Civilization VI: Rise and FallSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond EarthSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth Rising TideSid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth Rising TideSilent Hill 4: the RoomSilent Hill 4: the Room
Silent Hill HD CollectionSilent Hill HD CollectionSilent Hill: Shattered MemoriesSilent Hill: Shattered Memories
Sillent Hill DownpourSillent Hill DownpourSimCity (2013)SimCity (2013)
SimCity BuilditSimCity BuilditSomaSoma
Spider-Man: Edge of TimeSpider-Man: Edge of TimeSpider-Man: Shattered DimensionsSpider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
Star Trek TrexelsStar Trek TrexelsStar Wars Battlefront IIStar Wars Battlefront II
StellarisStellarisStellaris mod: New HorizonsStellaris mod: New Horizons
The Amazing Spider-ManThe Amazing Spider-ManThe Amazing Spider-Man 2The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimThe Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim DLCThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim DLC
The Evil WithinThe Evil WithinThe Evil Within 2The Evil Within 2
The Last GuardianThe Last GuardianThe Last of UsThe Last of Us
The SaboteurThe SaboteurThe SwapperThe Swapper
The Witcher 3 expansionsThe Witcher 3 expansionsThe Witcher 3: Wild HuntThe Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
This War of MineThis War of MineThis War of Mine: the Little OnesThis War of Mine: the Little Ones
Tomb Raider (2013)Tomb Raider (2013)Total War: AttilaTotal War: Attila
Total War: Rome IITotal War: Rome IITotal War: Shogun 2Total War: Shogun 2
Total War: Shogun 2: Fall of the SamuraiTotal War: Shogun 2: Fall of the SamuraiTrineTrine
Tropico 5Tropico 5Ultimate General: Civil WarUltimate General: Civil War
Uncharted 3: Drake's DeceptionUncharted 3: Drake's DeceptionUntil DawnUntil Dawn
What Remains of Edith FinchWhat Remains of Edith Finch 

Contribute Comment

avatar


We'll incarnate your avatar from the services below.
PlayStation Network Steam Xbox LIVE Facebook MySpace Pinterest Twitter YouTube deviantART LiveJournal



biuquote
  • Comment
  • Preview


Grid Clock Widget
12      60
11      55
10      50
09      45
08      40
07      35
06      30
05      25
04      20
03      15
02      10
01      05
Grid Clock provided by trowaSoft.

A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

Follow me on Twitter at: twitter.com/MegaBearsFan

Patreon

If you enjoy my content, please consider Supporting me on Patreon:
Patreon.com/MegaBearsFan

Without Gravity

And check out my colleague, David Pax's novel Without Gravity on his website!

Featured Post

I actually like playing the preseason in MaddenI actually like playing the preseason in Madden10/07/2019 If you've already read my review of Madden 20 on my personal blog, then you know that I consider this year's release to be a massive disappointment. In fact, the last Madden entry that I actually liked was probably Madden 17. Despite my misgivings about this year's game, I do want to start off by talking about something in recent...

Random Post

A flexible ruleset makes Sails of Glory accessible and incredibly deepA flexible ruleset makes Sails of Glory accessible and incredibly deep11/14/2015 I haven't reviewed many board games. I like to play board games, and there's quite a few that I'd like to review. Sadly, it's been difficult to organize regular board game meetings over the past few years due to the ever-changing work schedules of my social circle and other adult responsibilities. Stupid jobs and chores, always...

Month List

RecentComments

Comment RSS