Blair Witch Reviews

AuthorReview
yourmomjokes69
341,970 (224,974)
yourmomjokes69
TA Score for this game: 589
Posted on 31 August 19 at 02:32, Edited on 31 August 19 at 02:49
This review has 26 positive votes and 4 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Blair Witch Review

When it comes to game developers, particularly indie game developers, there's few that match the highly mixed feelings I have for indie horror developer Bloober Team. I absolutely hated their first game, I thought Layers of Fear was about as bad as a walking simulator could be. It took the highly intriguing and potential ridden premise of an eccentric painters descent into madness, and turned it into a predictable horror story, with little to no surprises, combine that with the laughable scares and frame rate issues it contained on launch, and you had a pretty dissatisfied player. So imagine how shocked I was to find that their second game Observer unexpectedly became one of my favorite indie games on Xbox. Observer fixed almost every problem I had with Layers of Fear. It had a wonderfully creative and creepy setting, with a compelling narrative that had plenty of eerie sound design and effective scares that kept me compelled to play to the games unexpected conclusion. Fast forward about two years after the release of Observer, and we got Layers of Fear 2. I was not looking forward to it, and expected Bloober Team to go right back to the predictable jump scares and uninspired narrative that plagued the first installment. However instead I ended up really enjoying my time with the game, and grabbing all the achievements in multiple playthroughs. It didn't quite reach the level of rich atmosphere and compelling scares that Observer had, but the narrative was mature and subtle, and the scares, although still largely predictable, were a step up from the original. This brings us to their latest game Blair Witch, which is the probably the most torn I've felt about one of their games yet.

Passion Project or Lazy Cash Grab?

I imagine that a lot people, myself included, were more than a bit puzzled when the name "Blair Witch" flashed across the stage at Xbox's E3 event this year. It was bizarre seeing a new game come out for a franchise that has mainly found negative reception and a dwindling fan base ever since the original film released all the way back in 1999. There was a trilogy of Blair Witch games released for the PC not long after the release of the first film, but it released to very mediocre reviews, and was seen more as a company desperate to cash in on a new horror franchise and its fans, than something the developers truly cared about making, it really just looked and played like a Resident Evil clone. Fast forward twenty years later and we have a new game carrying the Blair Witch name, and you know what? It's actually quite an interesting one, you can even feel that the developers actually had some passion about the mythos contained in the Blair Witch franchise.

Since the narrative is by far the games strongest element, I'll be as subtle and vague as possible when describing the plot. You play as Ellis, a man with a troubled past who's looking for a path to redemption, hoping that he can forget and leave the mistakes he's made behind. That's why Ellis, along with his loyal dog Bullet, is more than eager to head into the search for a missing boy who went missing in the supposedly haunted woods in Burkittsville Maryland, a place that's apparently seen its far share of disappearances in the past. Ellis is late to the search, and follows in behind the police, once inside it doesn't take long for strange events to occur that'll have you questioning Ellis's sanity and just how trustworthy of a person he really is. The game doesn't have the best writing in the world, but it does explore sensitive topics like mental illness, particularly PTSD, in a tasteful, sensitive, and compelling way. The voice acting is also very solid, and the main voice actor does a good job of showing visible emotion as Ellis's golden boy image begins to slip as you venture further into the woods.

Is The Game Standard Walking Simulator Fare Or Something More?

The gameplay in Blair Witch is a real mixed bag. On one hand it's the most layered thing Bloober Team has done yet. The areas are larger, and there's a bit of light exploration thrown in, similar to Observer, where the player is able to explore a bit and find collectibles or other bits of lore. There's also an interesting gameplay element involving a camcorder that ties perfectly into the franchises found footage roots. As you progress Ellis will find tapes he can play on his camcorder, you can use them to manipulate certain objects in your environment. For example, if there's a fallen tree in Ellis's way, as long as the tree falling is on the tape, Ellis can rewind it before the tree fell, making it removed from your path in the present. This a great idea, and it makes for some interesting little puzzles, but it's vastly underutilized. It's only really used about a dozen times throughout the 4-6 hour playtime.

Bloober Team has also employed the shifting environments used in their Layers of Fear games. As you explore, the forest will do its best to mess with your head, and throw you off your objective, often looping you back unexpectedly to your previous location. This is unnerving and off putting at first, but quickly becomes a massive annoyance and an atmosphere killer in a game that largely relies on carrying a thick air of tension. The forest in the game is already twisty and hard to navigate enough without the shifting environments. There were multiple times i got lost and ran around in circles until I finally found the correct series of routes. It was extremely irritating, boring, and killed any tension the game had effectively built up beforehand.

The games best mechanic, though it's also not without it's flaws, comes from the players relationship with Ellis's dog Bullet. Bullet acts as your guide throughout almost the whole journey. He'll alert you when enemies are nearby, he'll dig up/bring you clues or items he's found, and he'll help guide you to your next objective. You even have the option to pet or scold Bullet anytime you want, which plays a part in which of the games multiple endings you'll get. This all makes anytime you lose track of him all the more concerning. Without spoiling too much, there's a sequence near the end where Bullet is injured and you'll have to carry him through a long dark tunnel. The mix of Bullets whimpers, Ellis's concerned voice, and the unnerving sounds around you, make it into a surprisingly emotional sequence, one that made me realize just how well done the attachment made between you and Bullet is.

A Technical Mess Or a Well Oiled Machine?

The game has bugs and frame rate problems, not to the point where it stopped me from enjoying myself, but they were still noticeable, particularly in the beginning. Layers of Fear 2 ran at 60 frames almost seamlessly throughout, and looked great. Blair Witch stutters and dips at the most random of times. It looks great at night and has some solid lighting effects with your flashlight, but during the day everything looks a bit washed out, and many of the textures, especially the grass and foliage, look muddy and flat. There was also many moments in the games concluding hour, when I was exploring an abandoned house, where I got stuck in almost every doorway I tried to go through, and could only get through by crouching. Yes it's minor, like all the bugs and graphical glitches in this game, but they stack up over time and bring down the experience. Bullets pathfinding/AI could also use a patch. Overall it's quite good, but there are times where he either doesn't follow orders, fails to detect enemies, or gets caught on sections of the forest while guiding you. The real purely positive aspect in the technical department is the wonderfully creepy sound design Bloober Team uses. It's subtle when it needs to be, and yet perfectly anxiety inducing as well. You can hear anything from the crack of a branch under your feet, to the loud shriek of a nearby monster.

The Verdict: Should You Play Blair Witch?

I played this through my game pass subscription, so if you already have game pass I would definitely recommend giving it a try, particularly if you're a fan of the film. If you don't have game pass, then I'd recommend waiting for a sale, maybe when the game is about 50% off. There's elements that are quite good. The narratives strong, the atmosphere is thick and tense, Bullet is a likable companion, and there's a few interesting gameplay mechanics.
But it still drags a bit too much for its own good, has too many little graphical/gameplay glitches, and doesn't utilize that things that make it interesting enough.

Pros

-Strong narrative and voice acting
-Good sound design
-Interesting gameplay mechanics
-Bullet is a great addition

Cons

-Too many bugs
-It's too easy to get lost, which hurts the games pacing
-Doesn't utilize the things that make it interesting enough

PS: This is only my fourth review, so any comments/feedback would be greatly appreciated.
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Raptures Lost
1,057,701 (568,089)
Raptures Lost
TA Score for this game: 512
Posted on 04 September 19 at 14:53, Edited on 05 September 19 at 21:48
This review has 7 positive votes and 1 negative vote. Please log in to vote.
Blair Witch is a psychological/survival horror game developed by Bloober Team and published by Lionsgate Games. At the time of writing, it’s a console exclusive for Microsoft’s Xbox One and launched via their Game Pass program in 2019.

I’m surely not the only one that was shocked to see this game announced at E3 back in June. Let’s be honest, Blair Witch isn’t exactly hot right now. The most recent film in the franchise released to mostly negative reviews. Before that was the disastrous Book of Shadows (2000) and there is even debate on how well the original holds up. Regardless, I’m sure we can all agree that the very concept alone is a solid one. More often than not, movies translate better into games than vice versa. How does Blair Witch fare?

The game is set in the year 1996, two years after the events of the first film. Ellis, a former police officer and a veteran, travels to the Black Hills Forest to join the search party for a missing boy. He brings with him, his pet dog, Bullet. When he arrives at the Forest, he takes his flashlight, acquires a Walkie-Talkie and begins his search. A primary mechanic is the ability to interact with Bullet and give them commands.

It isn’t long before Ellis will come to realise that he is simply a pawn, stuck in the twisted playhouse of the Blair Witch.

Blair Witch is a fantastic horror experience but it does have some glaring issues. Firstly, I’d like to compare it to Outlast which is a similar game. Many of the issues that people have with that game are improved upon. Gone are batteries for flashlights/camcorders that run out in mere minutes. Also, unlike Outlast it doesn’t make you feel completely powerless to the threats surrounding you. There are a few enemy encounters in Blair Witch. You can fight off these monsters by pointing a light at them, Alan Wake style.

One of the strongest aspects of this game is surprisingly, the narrative. At first, it seems simplistic but as you progress you’ll come to understand its complexity. As a character, Ellis isn’t as straightforward as he seems. Blair Witch deals with some rather sensitive themes. Personally, I felt that it dealt with them in a very believable way. The voice acting in the game is tremendous, better than it needed to be.

Blair Witch has a number of creative gameplay mechanics that I enjoyed. Firstly, Bullet as a companion is a clever addition. I liked how therapeutic his presence can be for Ellis and the player themselves. Simply taking a moment to stop and pet Bullet after something harrowing can be very comforting. He cannot actually keep you safe but his mere presence feels like something of a safety blanket. Unfortunately, his A.I. isn’t perfect but it mostly works as it should.

Secondly, the camcorder is utilised in interesting ways. It pays homage to the original film and found footage films at the same time.

An important question when reviewing any horror game, is it scary? The game has an eerie, claustrophobic atmosphere. I never felt completely safe, as if I was always being observed. Simply put, it depends on each players individual sensibilities on whether or not the game scares you. My heart rate increased throughout and it even got a few jumps out of me. However, it does get cheap on a couple of occasions. Much of the fear will depend on your ability to immerse yourself in the experience. I really enjoyed the psychological horror opposed to the jump scares. The sound design and effects are excellent as well.

Visually, the game certainly looks the part. The vast woods are filled with sprawling, twisted trees that make for some cool screen shots. Blair Witch shows a lot of restraint in the early hours and then just goes batshit near the end.

Yes, you do get to explore the Blair Witch cabin. This is something I’ve never had much desire to do. Mainly because I knew how creepy it would be and it didn’t disappoint me.

There are a number of alternative endings in the game which help add a good amount of replayability.

In terms of negatives, there a few. Firstly, feeling lost and disorientated is the bread and butter of Blair Witch. However, it can get boring wandering mindlessly through trees hoping to stumble across the right path. This can be damaging to the pacing of the game and a real tension killer at times.

Enemy encounters are frantic but cumbersome. Thankfully, there aren’t too many. Repeated deaths can damage tension as well. A big issue is with Ellis getting stuck on small branches or even when trying to go through doorways. It’s frustrating and happens a little too often. Finally, the inventory system is poor. It’s impossible to know how much of one type of item you have and how many remain.

Overall, I had low expectations for this game and I believe most did as well. However, Bloober Team have definitely exceeded those expectations. Not only have they delivered a memorable horror experience but they may just have given us the best Silent Hill game in years.
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Blaizicus
764,820 (404,640)
Blaizicus
TA Score for this game: 408
Posted on 11 September 19 at 07:35
This review has 6 positive votes and 0 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Bloober Team's Blair Witch (2019) was a strange game for me to try and review. Horror in general is quite a difficult genre to try to project thoughts on, as what people find adherently scary may be different from one person to the next, however, this game does make it pretty easy for me in general, as unfortunately, a lot of the time, it's not very scary at all. It's resoundingly tense at times, with a few moments that feel like pure genius, and with a little more time, effort, or maybe money, I feel like they could have tipped Blair Witch into becoming a real gem. As it stands, the game feels like more a proof of concept rather than a full game. But does that mean it's a bad game?

The game starts with a slight against it, to begin with, as the opening cutscene was very stuttery and had a really poor frame rate. The game also cut between these cutscenes and in-game graphics for very small exposition dumps with phone calls, which ended up being rather jarring to begin with. However, overall when you land in-game the experience overall ran relatively smoothly in my opinion. The game should have just started straight away rather than being indecisive. Indecision was overall the biggest issue with the game as a whole mind, as this wasn't the only time I felt like the developers couldn't decide on a tone they wanted to take.

You immediately get left to start exploring the small clearing you enter, and the strengths of the game are immediately apparent with the character work. Most of the dialog and voice acting is top-notch. Characters feel very natural in conversation and it feels very authentic, with clear stories laid out for the player to feel like they're immediately filling the shoes of the lead protagonist. It was intriguing for me from the get-go to learn more about the past of my character, as well as piece together different pieces through interesting conversations you can have through your mobile phone, or through a walky-talky, you acquire early into the game. I would like to credit the developers for putting the effort into small details such as the mobile phone, as if you pay attention to it you can catch bits of information you may miss, such as texts or calls, and you can play Snake on it, which I thought was a neat touch to the authenticity factor.

One of the problems though after that initial clearing, is the map and level design in general. The levels are all nice to look at, and all have things to keep your eyes occupied. However, I found it far to easy to get lost, and unfortunately, you can spend a lot of time pretty clueless as to what your next objective is, or exactly what you are looking for. There were several points where I was looking around the same spots trying to find my next goal knowing for a fact I wasn't going to be scared doing so. You can always tell in some horror games if you have a jumpscare or a particularly spooky spot ahead of you, but when you are trying to find puzzle objects or look for a hidden object with your dog, you feel frustrated walking back and forth while the dog sits there wide-eyed at his owner smacking his head in to every nook and cranny attempting to find what amasses to be a needle in a haystack time after time. So all you end up doing is getting irritated by the dark rather than scared by it.

On the bright side, however, when you do find a critical path, it usually ends up being these special red tapes, which you can put in your camcorder to get clues about your next objective, or to freeze the tapes in certain spots to affect the world around you. These were an awesome addition, as you had to pay full attention to your surroundings and what was going on in the playback to either get items to show up where they were on the clip or unblock certain pathways. It was a clever addition that should have been used more to add a few more puzzles at times, as Blair Witch sometimes lent a little too much towards the side of walking simulator at times.

Although this does lead us to by far the biggest strength of the game, your faithful "Good Boy" Bullet. Bullet is your go-to for any real problems you confront. Looking for an item? Get Bullet too search or track. Enemies stopping by to take a bite out of your face? Bullet will watch them by your side, so you can try to keep an eye on them and defeat them by lighting them up with your flashlight. He is an excellent idea, even if it cuts the tension slightly, as because he is such a tell at scarier times, it often means you aren't ever caught off guard. It's hard to be mad at him as he is programmed so well and is so faithful to your character, even when the game occasionally glitches you just want to pet him and carry on. Granted when he ran off track one time and got me killed on a part of the game which was quintessentially "the floor is lava", That too alleviated tension, as after my first death, I realized there was no real punishment for dying, so I couldn't stay mad.

Again, the lack of tension kept becoming the re-occurring issue. every time the game would build up a bit of momentum or would start getting me truely invested, something would happen like a bug or I would get lost. Occasional story beats made me realize that I was safe again for a while. This truly culminates near the end, where you get trapped inside a house. This part was the point where I felt the game was trying to stall for time whilst leaving no-one behind with the plot twist. About a quarter of my playtime was in these tight corridors without my faithfull Bullet. The house part started resorting to cheap jump scares and a couple of sections where there was Outlast style patrol enemies in the critical path. This was a shame as I thought one of the strengths of Blair Witch was refraining from doing the standard Horror game procedure of scary enemies that walk in and out of rooms like they forgot their keys. I enjoyed the "combat", as the flashlight being your weapon whilst you erratically try and blind the creatures trying to pounce you was a good idea and was quite frightening at times.

At least the house was home to one of the strongest parts of the game, with an interesting mechanic where you had to follow a lead on your camcorder and had too slowly creep past still enemies. This part was excellent and genuinely had me worrying about stray hairs on my character being within millimeters of death.

The final real problem with Blair Witch is the ending. Now, I liked the ending I got, however, I went in with the information from the game that the way you treat your dog and the things you do affect the ending, however after seeing all the endings to the game, there is barely any difference between how the game can end. This was disappointing to me, and perhaps the developer should have committed to focusing efforts on a singular narrative. The lack of any real difference in what happens through makes a second playthrough pretty unenticing.

Don't get me wrong, go into this game expecting the next horror classic, you will be disappointed, but I think that this game is very well worth your time. I would highly recommend it for a single playthrough. There are plenty of great ideas in Blair Witch, but the problem is it just needs a hell of a lot of refining to make it truly stand out. It is a welcome difference in the genre, and I'm excited to see if there will be another entry in the series in the future.
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