We went hands on with the upcoming Blair Witch video game, and while the demo was short, we think that the new horror game from Layers of Fear developer Bloober Team will terrify players when it launches on August 30, whether they’re fans of the iconic 1999 movie (20-years-old this year) or just love a good scare.
Set in the year 1996 (two years after The Blair Witch Project’s plot is to have occurred), the game casts players as Ellis, a member of search party who goes deep into the creepy Black Hills Forest looking for a young boy named Peter Shannon, who mysteriously disappeared; Ellis has a connection to the boy, but we don't know what that is yet. Unfortunately there’s no one by your side, but you still won’t go alone. Accompanying you on this spine-tingling journey is Bullet, a trusty canine that sticks to your side and sniffs out threats.
In the demo, we relied on Bullet to lead us down the correct paths through the forest, and most importantly, inform us when monsters were nearby. Enemies in Blair Witch are unique in the sense that Lionsgate gave Bloober Team creative license to expand upon the universe and conjure new creatures that are now part of the series, twisted wood-like adversaries that move quickly past trees and tall grass. Their camouflage makes them difficult to spot, but this is where Bullet proves his worth. Whenever one of these enemies comes within sight, Bullet will growl in its direction, giving you a chance to repel the monsters with an in-game flashlight.
This flashlight was our primary means of defense. Some people who have seen the game compare the combat to the Xbox 360 adventure, Alan Wake, but it’s different in the sense that in that game, you rely on Wake’s flashlight to expose his ghostly adversaries and then finish them off with a revolver. In Blair Witch, the flashlight “scares” away these monsters and they retreat back into the forest, no firearms necessary.
Bullet is invaluable in these situations because it’s nearly impossible to spot these monsters on your own. You might see flashes in the distance as they zip past trees and other objects, but without Bullet directly looking at these creatures, you won’t see them coming.
The good news is that according to Bloober Team, players won’t have to dog sit Bullet. He’s in Blair Witch to give you a hand and not become a burden, so don’t worry about feeding him, or worrying about his well-being. In our experience he was just there, ready to alert us to monsters and accessible through a user-friendly on-screen wheel that let us issue a handful of commands, like search, come back, etc.
The coolest feature, though, are the Red Tapes that you insert into your camcorder; this camera, by the way, looks straight out of the nineties. It’s all part of a gameplay feature that Bloober Team refers to as Found Footage, which is a callback to The Blair Witch Project movie. Using your camcorder, you’re able to solve puzzles and manipulate the environment.
During the demo, we inserted a Red Tape into our camcorder and watched footage of an unidentifiable man running through a house. In the game world the door to the house is locked, but if we pointed our camcorder at this locked door, fast forwarded and then stopped the footage at the scene of the man running through said door, then when we put the camcorder down, that previously locked door was open, like magic.
The camcorder is used to do more than give you access to new areas. You also need it to spot enemies. Towards the end of the demo we came across some scribbling on a wall that said something to the effect of, “don’t look.” If we looked towards the floor a bit but kept the camera pointed straight ahead, we saw a red figure down the hallway through the viewfinder; failing to heed this advice and actually looking at the monster results in death; we didn’t follow directions and looked at the creature, which immediately ended the demo.
These are just two ways Bloober Term plans to use the camera, and we look forward to seeing how it’ll expand upon the concept in the final version of the game.
Although the demo ended after roughly 25 minutes, we came away from Blair Witch wanting more. Bloober Team has spent the last few years cementing its place in the horror genre with Layers of Fear and Observer, so we have high hopes that this movie licensed Blair Witch adventure will pay respect to the series. What remains to be seen is how the witch will use its psychological advantage to break the player’s mind. Bloober Team mentioned that the witch will use the environment and the lead character’s past to torment him, but did not go into detail on how.
Thankfully the game is out soon, so on that note, we invite you to help us celebrate the year of the Witch when Blair Witch debuts on August 30. The game will be available for $29.99 standalone on Steam and Xbox One, or free as part of Xbox Game Pass.