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Blair Witch review for Xbox One, PC


Platform: Xbox One
Also on: PC
Publisher: Lionsgate Games
Developer: Bloober Team
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: M

It’s hard to describe just how revolutionary Blair Witch Project felt at the time of its release twenty years ago. The internet was still in its relatively early stages; there was no such thing yet as viral videos; barely anyone had even heard of “found footage” horror films at the time. I still remember my brother, on our dial-up modem, eagerly scouring the internet for clues related to the movie. It was such a sensation that even I saw it in theatres, and I’ve never been a fan of horror movies.

Blair Witch, the game, doesn’t feel quite so revelatory. There have been plenty of first-person horror games, and plenty more walking simulators. You could practically take a game like Dear Esther or Firewatch, tweak a couple of things here and there, and you’d basically have Blair Witch.

That doesn’t make it any less frightening, though. Blair Witch understands the same thing that made the movie so effective: that there’s a lot of tension that can be built just from having characters walk around a seemingly empty forest, with only an intermittently-functioning walkie-talkie keeping them connected to other people.

And, of course, once nighttime hits, that’s when things really get unsettling. With only a flashlight to illuminate your surroundings and your dog to keep you company (more on him in a moment), the darkness quickly becomes oppressive. Walking in circles and finding random lost items connected to the child you’re searching for only add to the creepiness.

Mind you, that’s also when the shadow monsters come out. Those, of course, aren’t part of that original Blair Witch Project canon, and for good reason: they’re a stupid addition. No matter how tense the game may have become, it can’t help but feel a little less so when you’re spinning around, following the sound of your trusty dog’s barks and trying to kill the monsters with your flashlight. I get that the developers felt the need to gamify things a little, but in this case, they don’t add much.

The dog, though — he does add something. Bullet is a faithful companion (as long as you treat him right), and much like the main character maintains his sanity by keeping Bullet close by, I found Bullet’s presence to be reassuring when I found myself lost in the woods with no idea where to go. Admittedly, at there are moments when Bullet suddenly appears next to you that have a faint hint of Creepy Watson, but those are offset by the fact he also acts as a guide of sorts — any time you’re lost, you can just send him to seek clues, which shows you which way to go. And even if you’re not lost, you can always pet him, which is something more games need.

It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that Blair Witch is so solid. After all its developers, Bloober Time, were also behind the very creepy Layers of Fear (not mention the frighteningly bad Basement Crawl), so for them to apply the lessons from that game to an established horror property like Blair Witch Project is clearly a no-brainer. Nonetheless, it makes for a very enjoyable — and, more importantly, very creepy — horror game, and one that any aficionados of the genre would be wise to check out.

Lionsgate Games provided us with a Blair Witch Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: B+