October is the perfect month to dive into some great horror games, be it playing them yourself or watching a Let’s Play from the comfort of your pillow fort. Halloween is all about the spookies, after all, and I wanted to draw attention to some of my favorite lesser-knowns in the genre to help spread the holiday… cheer? Yay for murder, I guess?
Anyway, this is where Holiday Horrors comes in! These will be short little posts that serve as an introduction of sorts and will hopefully give you a decent idea of what to expect, should you decide to take the plunge for yourself.
Today’s game released earlier this year for the Xbox One and PC, which is Bloober Team’s atmospheric take on war, PTSD, the comfort of emotional support animals, and, of course, their supernatural take on the Blair Witch universe.
Now wait, you say? Isn’t Blair Witch bursting with name recognition? Why yes, yes it is. But you’d be surprised to hear that not many folks have played the franchise’s newest video game, let alone remember it even released this year (if my Twitter feed is anything to go by).
The Blair Witch Project is my absolute favorite horror film of all time — and, yes, I even like the “shitty sequel” Book of Shadows. I’m a Marylander (born and raised in and around Baltimore), the film took place in Burkittsville (which I often drove through on the way to visit an uncle), and it released at the start of the internet boom where the film’s marketing team swung for the fences.
Mockumentaries aired on television claiming the Blair Witch legend and the three missing filmmakers was a legit phenomenon and people bought it hook, line, and sinker — unless you lived in the midwest, where the film’s main actress was well known for her appearance in commercials for the restaurant chain Steak & Shake.
Found footage horror films are a dime a dozen here in 2019, but back in July of 1999, I’d never seen anything like it before. I wouldn’t turn 18 until two months later so I had to ask my parents to take me to see it, which they weren’t too thrilled about. Seeing the original Halloween at the drive-in may have been their first date together (which explains a lot about my horror obsession, I guess), but they both hated horror movies. Thankfully, they caved, and I was glued to the screen for 90 horrific minutes. The first thing I did when I got home was hopped online and talked to my AOL friends about it, theorizing the outcome and what had been wrapped in the bloody flannel when Josh went missing.
But anyway. Yes, The Blair Witch Project is my favorite horror film and I still watch it two or three times per year. It’s incredibly special for various reasons, so when I heard a brand new video game was coming out 20 years later, I lost my shit.
Blair Witch is a first-person psychological horror game by the masters of the genre, Bloober Team, who brought us the fantastic Layers of Fear and Observer. If any team could tackle such an interesting concept, it’s them, and they definitely delivered.
You play as a former police officer named Ellis in the year 1996 (two years after the disappearance of the original film’s cast) who suffers from PTSD. He’s had a string of terrible luck (explained throughout the game) which eventually saw him wound an unarmed man in the line of duty. When said man’s younger brother goes missing in the Black Hills Forest of Burkittsville, Ellis feels he has to make up for what he’s done, so he sets out with his emotional support dog Bullet (the best boy) to aid the police in their search.
Anyone who has seen any of the three Blair Witch films can tell you that all sorts of crazy, unexplainable shit happens to people who go into the Black Hills Forest, and Ellis’s fate is no different. What begins as a routine search goes all over the place, venturing into Ellis’s cause of PTSD, the importance of emotional support pets, choice and consequence, and solving some really cool puzzles by watching creepy tapes in your camcorder.
Bloober Team really captured what made the films so special to me, but seems to draw more inspiration from the 2016 film than the 1999 original (where time loops weren’t a thing). There’s plenty of creepy woods exploration to do and weird noises to freak out about, but ultimately, the lion’s share of the experience is inspired by 2016’s film of the same name. And, man, there are so GOOD scares along the way.
Regardless, the atmosphere is incredible, the story that plays out is super interesting, Bullet is the goodest dog, and every horror fan should play this game. As a fan of the series, I was 100% blown away.
Blair Witch is available on Xbox One and is a part of the console’s Game Pass subscription ($10 USD per month). I’m not sure if it’s included in the Game Pass PC lineup since I’m a console guy, but it’s worth looking into. It’s console exclusive to the Xbox, but Steam users can pick up the game for PC for $30 USD.
If you’d rather watch someone else stumble through the Black Hills Forest, I recommend the Survival Horror Network’s no-commentary run on YouTube. It’s about 4 hours long and supports 4K/60fps playback. It’s also worth noting that they read important story documents incredibly fast, so be prepared to pause during them so you can read for yourself.
Check it out here…
Have you played Blair Witch already? If so, what did you think of it?