Review

Blair Witch (Game) Review - Prying Eyes

  • First Released Aug 30, 2019
    released
  • PC

A strong start without a strong execution to carry it through.

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The woods are easy to be scared of. It's difficult to reorient yourself if you get lost, with each passing moment bringing night closer and making an already unsettling wrong turn seem life-threatening. In Blair Witch, the woods are a character you have to fight against at every turn. Each cracking branch underneath your feet will startle you, every bit of movement in the distance trying to trick your senses into believing something is there. At its best, Blair Witch does a lot with very little to instill a strong sense of paranoia and dread, but it struggles to maintain that atmosphere throughout.

You play as Ellis, a former police officer that takes it upon himself to head into the infamous Black Hills Forest in Burkittsville, Maryland to investigate yet another child disappearance during 1996. Ellis is troubled; he suffers frequent panic attacks that allude to post-traumatic stress from his time in the military and the police force, and he's pushed away everyone who cares for him as a result. Ellis is the perfect candidate for the persuasions of Black Hills Forest, making his ventures deeper into the woods more perilous with each passing second.

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To keep you from succumbing to stress and anxiety, you have Bullet--a gorgeous and loyal police dog given to you by your former sheriff–to keep you on track. Sticking close to Bullet keeps you calm and also lets you follow his helpful hints. Bullet will sniff out clues for you to inspect and trails for you to follow, making the labyrinthine forest easier to navigate. Bullet is also great at alerting you to imminent dangers nearby, barking at enemies lurking in the trees and unseen foes buried in a thick fog. In a way, Bullet's job is to escort you throughout most of Blair Witch's runtime, and it's truly disconcerting when he's not by your side.

Ellis' vivid and violent panic attacks are just one side effect of Bullet's absence, letting the horrors of Black Hills flood his reality and warp it. The woods themselves twist and turn, with trees overlapping each other to trap you in looping pathways or rearrange your understanding of where landmarks are. It makes it difficult to ever feel safe in any spot, since you don't know where to run should you need to. The general, overwhelming silence of the woods is undercut delicately with reverberating environmental sounds that heighten your sensory tension, making you jump at every little noise. Blair Witch achieves its most tense moments when seemingly nothing is happening at all, letting your imagination get the better of you just as Ellis begins to question his own sanity.

This doesn't persist all the way through, and it's Blair Witch's more surreal elements that don't quite stick. There are two types of enemies: those that burst into dust when you shine your flashlight on them, and those that you can't kill at all and have to avoid instead. When Bullet alerts you to enemies ahead, you can simply shine the light in the direction he's barking if they're killable; if they're immune, you can easily spot them as red outlines on your camcorder and sneak past them with little trouble. Either approach doesn't require much thought and neither of these encounters are that suspenseful, going so far as to remove you from the tension of the environment around you.

There's also the occasional puzzle as you venture through the woods, and although they are less intrusive to the overall atmosphere, they're hardly any more inventive than the enemies. The main puzzle mechanic works with your camcorder and red-labelled tapes, which in tandem let you manipulate parts of the environment around you. A massive log might be blocking your path ahead, but you're able to move it by rewinding a tape shot from the same location backwards a few seconds and continuing on your way. A locked door can be overcome in the same way, so long as you keep the tape associated with it paused at a point where the door stands open. The idea of manipulating time to your advantage is clever, but the solutions are so obvious that it's never satisfying to solve the puzzles they're attached to.

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So many of these enemy encounters and puzzles disrupt the flow of navigating the eerie woods that they get in the way of its overall effect, as well as the story's pacing. Blair Witch doesn't tell a complex tale, and its twists are drawn out over such a long time that it's easy to see them coming way before they have any chance to land impactfully. Each narrative thread comes to a head in the final chapters, where the subtlety of the woods is replaced with over-the-top surrealism that attempts to quickly wrangle all the loose ends thrown at you up to this point. Their resolutions are disappointingly predictable, making the promise of "your actions are being watched" at the beginning of the game an empty one.

There are additional endings to see if you follow some incredibly strict rules on subsequent playthroughs, but the one you're probably going to see on your first run-through is likely the one that will stick with you. You're only given one big choice to make that is both obvious and has a tangible impact on one facet of the ending you get. The rest of the choices are almost impossible to follow without looking up what they are first, and even then, they seem more like mundane challenges than intelligent pivots for the story to make based on your actions. The lack of clarity in the choices makes subsequent playthroughs far less inviting, especially when the faint spark of new puzzles and unfamiliar scares is no longer there to entertain you.

For all the gripping tension that its setting instills, Blair Witch can't maintain its initially frightening atmosphere and ends up losing it entirely by its conclusion. It doesn't capture the paranoid horror of its namesake in the same way, partly due to wonky enemy encounters that tread on the ambiguity of its central antagonist and one-note puzzle-solving that rips you out of its meticulously crafted atmosphere. While it's still unnerving to have the silence of empty woods pierced by the alerted barks of your canine companion, Blair Witch can't recapture its tense opening moments and carry them through to a strong and captivating finale.

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The Good
Black Hills Forest is an eerie and suspenseful setting that plays with your expectations
Bullet is a well-designed companion that is both emotionally calming and mechanically useful
Great sound design lets small noises instill a sense of unease and dread
The Bad
Combat and stealth are trivial and interrupt the atmosphere
Puzzles follow the same pattern and are rarely satisfying to solve
Story twists are easy to predict and are rushed to a conclusion in a messy final few chapters
5
Mediocre
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Alessandro got lost in the woods but always kept Bullet by his side during his six hours with Blair Witch. He always told Bullet he was a good boy and fed him treats, if only to try and forget about the foreboding darkness around him. Code was provided by the publisher.
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Izraal

I enjoyed Bloober's Observer quite a bit, but from the very start Blair Witch seemed a bit aimless. Leading off with a "lost in the woods simulator" didn't give my any real hook to motivate me to continue on. Observer let Bloober create their own cyberpunk setting and premise, but even given a licensed game they still have control over the method in which the story is told, the pacing, etc. I would have preferred a more linear opening with a bigger focus on storytelling and creepiness from the start, since that's what the developer seems to do best.

Instead, it felt a bit like playing a Cabella's Hunting game (or so I assume, having never tried one) without a gun. Obviously there's more content to the game than following your dog around in the woods, but for what was a "hard sell" concept anyway, this opening didn't put its best foot forward.

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jerusaelem

"Who asked for this?" and "why?" The two thoughts that first popped into my head when I first heard they were making this game XX months ago. Fast forward to the present as I read this review and I...am still asking those same two questions. This franchise has been DOA for almost 20 years now without a film reboot in sight (and hells do I hope it stays that way), and I still can't even grasp the existence of this game. Weirder still, the entire time I'm reading this all I can imagine is how much funner this game would have been as an irreverent Warioware clone - in odd detail - with mini games like "stack the stones", "wrap the twig effigy", "kick the map", and a gross one where you have to tap fast af to make Heather sniff and snort the snot pendulum back up her nose during the "I'm so sorry" scene. Is it dumb as hell? Sure. Would it have been better than THIS game...almost undoubtedly.

On a side note, from a supernatural perspective, the movie will almost always leave you disappointed. On the other hand, film theory came up with a much more grounded plot that may have been the directors intention all along, and if you watch the theory and re watch the movie, it's actually a lot more thought provoking and even chilling when you re imagine the whole "found footage" angle they attempted to pull when the film was originally released. Won't lie and say the screaming isn't still annoying as hell tho...

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Speranza318

Unplayable mess that copied RE7 and added a dog. A 5 is generous, props to the reviewer for honesty...hopefully more of that in the future.

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lamprey263

Considering this and Layers of Fear 2 released just months apart I think explains a lot of my disappointment in both, they must have rushed both. I was excited to see where they'd go after Observer. Guess I gotta wait until their next game t he y take their time on.

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redviperofdorne

The bad doesn't include framerate drops, freezing and glitches throughout? I'm surprised. It was a solid game IMO but all of those issues really took away from the final product.

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JesterOfBass

I tried for 5 minutes before I turned it off, nauseous.

The framerate is horrible, even on the XB1 X. And my attempts to play it on PC were over after the 5th crash before the game even started.

I think a 5 is generous for something subjectively unplayable.

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sethfrost

I am still in the very early stage of this game. It is captivating in a surprising way. The first game with "player with dog" that I find engaging, due to the dog mechanics and interactions.

Also, the visual tricks (Chromatic Aberration etc.) and the wood itself looks very convincing. Not your vanilla foliage assets dump. From your first steps you are immersed and busy in trying to find clues and interacting with you dog.

Early on, you learn, the character you play has his issues. It is something you want to explore and feels convincing in the execution. Narrative elements done right.

I can see how this game may fall apart later on. But I still enjoy the part that works. It is the kind of cinematic, interactive story-telling, where you are in control. A 'movie'-ish game, or a game-ish movie.

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NickBasile

@sethfrost: Very good synopsis, thank you for adding your insight.

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Daidochus

I kinda liked it. I don't have high expectations when I go into games. I just change my expectations to that of the game to enjoy it. I love games and to explore them.

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GNS

IMO, trash movie franchise, trash video-game. Sorry, if I offended movie franchise lovers out there.

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off3nc3

Damn , I was hyped asf for this one , being a huge fan of the movie , how did this receive a 5 , seems way too low even for GS standards.

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Undeadzombie

@off3nc3: so you going by gamespots review instead on your own?ok

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DeadlyMustard

Can't say I'm surprised... at all.

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cetaepsilon

I knew IGN wasn't reviewing but shilling.

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PCVirginRace

5 because it's not on ps4

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JustTheTip

@pcvirginrace: There’s always one of you.

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JimAbadon

@justthetip: I know right? They're like weeds and cockroaches, always popping up where you don't want them to.

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saltymemesoup

@jimabadon: Kind of an intense reaction no?

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JustTheTip

@saltymemesoup: It’s pretty accurate.

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NaturallyEvil

The real question is: Would this score make it another crappy licensed game, or would it be the best licensed game in history because it's a full 5X better than the movie it's based on?

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RestatBonfire

For a horror game I didn't feel tense or scared at all but it was a great game with a story I wanted to see the end of. It did an amazing job of making you feel like you're in the blair witch universe.

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SickBigJigg

8.8 on Ign, pretty big difference in opinion.

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ginxeno

@sickbigjigg: but IGN rate Alien isolation 5.9, so it really depends on who's reviewing what

maybe Barbossa doesn't like this type of game

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DEVILTAZ35

@sickbigjigg: It is a fantastic game that's why. It is let down a little due to performance issues on console but at least on Xbox one X it's not really a big deal and it is still fully playable.

It looks stunning at times in 4k too. Water is rendered surprisingly well for a budget title and there are some really decent animations and effects too.

It kind of reminds me of Alan Wake at times.

You will fall in love with Bullet the dog as he is awesome :).

Gamepass now offers such incredible value for money i haven't touched my PS4 pro in months other than to nab whatever monthly games are offered free.

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videogameninja

Ouch!

While initially I didn’t expect much in the way of this take on a well known movie franchise some of the first reviews making the rounds indicated that perhaps there was something more to this title than many had envisioned.

It’s kind of disappointing to hear it succumbs to some of the usual “run and hide” mechanics that have become commonplace in horror titles as of late (Outlast, etc…) but I guess in terms of following what the franchise represents this does somewhat make sense.

Still, despite the relatively low score, it might be worth checking out on a lonely stormy night or perhaps around Halloween when one finds themselves in the mood. Only problem is trying to go to sleep after, I guess.

:/

-I’M… NOT SO SCARED RIGHT NOW NINJA APPROVED-

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JimAbadon

Meh, this game seemed like a mediocre idea from the beginning. This doesn't surprise me.

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DEVILTAZ35

@jimabadon: It's actually a brilliant suspense game and Bullet the Dog is seriously just awesome. Try it out and ignore Gamespot. They rated Gears 5 far lower than most too yet it is a spectacular return to form for the series and being highly rated as much as 9.5 on Youtube.

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JimAbadon

@deviltaz35: with 72/100 on Metacritic, I doubt it's anything "brilliant".

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PlaystationZone

And it’s Xbox exclusives lol ? haha even on pc

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JustTheTip

The movie wasn’t good, so I didn’t expect the game to be. Yes, I know. The movie was innovative and the marketing was genius, but the movie wasn’t the least bit scary. It was just boring and annoying.

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pinkfloyd6789

Its always fun to have horror games but when i saw this CG trailer in microsoft e3 (balir witch) i kinda suspected it to be a mediocre game ( i didnt played it yet and wont cuz its not ps4 but watched it through online plays). And it was mediocre.

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lostn

Been interested in this one. Will take review with a grain of salt since everyone else loved it.

I'm a horror afficianado, but a different kind of horror. If you take away my gun, I become a lot more of a wuss. This one might be too scary.

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Mogan

@lostn: I watched Giant Bomb play a bunch of it and it looked pretty boring. The atmosphere was pretty good, but the acting was weakish and nothing really happened the whole time.

Moderator
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AfroMakka

@lostn: dont buy it , ive finished it and i hated myself by the end , nothing will ever come close to Amnesia or Silent Hill when it comes to Ghostly Horror

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videogameninja

@afromakka: -"ive finished it and i hated myself by the end"-

LMAO!!!

-LOW SELF ESTEEM NINJA APPROVED-

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AfroMakka

@videogameninja: haha yeah , did you play it ?

Spoiler alert

The whole house section where you " deal with your past " is a full 45 ~60 mins of garbage , its repetitive , predicted and been done shit tons of times

Avatar image for videogameninja
videogameninja

@afromakka:

To be honest I’m a little reluctant to dive into it now (especially when you consider all the other big name games coming out soon.).

While I have read a few reviews bordering on the 7/10 zone this one really made me second guess whether I wanted to really invest the time in this type of a game at the moment. Perhaps when the slew of new releases trails off a little but right now do I really want to jump into a game that is receiving mixed reviews or go with something that is receiving more universal acclaim (Control, Gears 5, Borderlands 3, Death Stranding, Shenmue 3, etc…)?

-You should change your name to Videogame Snob, Ninja.-

Currently I am playing Control and am having a great time. Would I feel the same way about Blair Witch or would I be thinking “I can’t wait to finish this so I can play game X” during my playthrough?

I probably will check it out at some point as It did peak my curiosity when it was first announced but I’m totally fine with holding it off until I get some of these more anticipated big name titles out of the way.

-I’M… NOT SO SCARED RIGHT NOW NINJA APPROVED-

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SaltSlasher

I tread on some spoiler territory. Hard to disagree with on account some walking sections went on for way too long, and the last 2 chapters took way too long that I just yawned to get it over with. And was real annoyed it took me like 5 times to finally do the last thing, and absolutely hate games that end, and told through text what happened after.....bitch, make a freaking CGI trailer that ends with a tease of a sequel.

Sadly there is a part where I have to give up something and felt the game was gonna pick up emotionally, yet, at all times, never felt scare or any emotion cause was so displaced from the character, yet in Gone Home or Outlast I often found myself stuck inside the game, cause atmosphere was just spot on.

It's like BotW, yeah they did some really neat shit that is cool but overall the beat to beat and ending makes it a 5.

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pinkfloyd6789

@saltslasher: Outlast and Alien are great games.

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SaltSlasher

@pinkfloyd6789: I love Alien Isolation and Outlast, I was scared in them games cause got connected. Blair Witch just doesn't seem to draw you in. Feels more like Until Dawn where you're a spectator, yet its first person and was meant to put you in Blair Witch.

I really liked the camcorder like to change enviroment, yet all those videos give you little sneak peaks into what is happening, despite endless mystery, there was no mystery in this game, and the only true mystery, I easily came to the conclusion and if had actual good writing, the psychiatric papers should have been made to think its the madman.

I liked the area where fixing railroad tracks, that was kind of things I liked, cause I was getting game lore about the area and what happened there. Everywhere else was just hog pog of shit, and is basically random and nothing mandatory really helps you understand. So a lot of "trippy" walking that does random pop ups and it felt like a cheap haunted house. Especially the final place your in, it literally felt like I went in circles in same ride for 30 minutes. This game could have been a clear 9.0

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Joplinite

@pinkfloyd6789: Alien Isolation was a great game. Outlast 2, not so much..

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pinkfloyd6789

@joplinite: I figured u would say that. Outlast 1 is a sadistic horror game. Impressive presentation on that game. But Outlast 2 is also good, but in another criteria, its good on its obssesion on universal ideas like religion, human psyche, i dont wanna be so dramatic on this but its ambient was good enough. I do respect ur idea anyway. And strictly talking lore and presentation here and not about gameplay which was kinda repetition of its predecessor.

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pinkfloyd6789

@pinkfloyd6789: When i first watched Silence of the lambs(movie) it moved me, but i wondered why? And then My brother said this which was right, he said the movie is talking about new crimes (sexual duality, its not about killing a person, but its about a new wave of human ideas on gender and relationships, now outlast 2 also dwells on these waters too, its about human getting too obsessed with christianity (wether its good or not) them school scenes were psychological and deep, again this should be regarded as a peculiar interest and wont catch a passive eye.

Blair Witch More Info

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  • First Released Aug 30, 2019
    released
    • PC
    • Xbox One
    6
    Average Rating16 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Blair Witch
    Developed by:
    Bloober Team
    Published by:
    Bloober Team
    Genre(s):
    Adventure, Survival, 3D, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature