Blair Witch

So here I sit, in my first press related meet the dev and play the game experiences, thinking I am a proverbial badass. I have a bag of goodies, which later turned out to be a hoodie, hat and press kit, but it was fun to take something away none the less. I take a seat, a computer loaded with the demo sits in a booth, I can use a mouse and keyboard or xbox gamepad. There are about 10 other people with me, each a representative of some news outlet or trader.

Now those who have read my other articles will know I love horror games. I love the thrill, the anticipation, the jump scares, so I was very excited to get my hands on Blair Witch. The film had been as iconic in my childhood as IT was to the 70s. I vividly remember my brother, older by 7 years, sitting me down when I was around 11, my mother had gone somewhere, and he was left to babysit. I was in for the fright of my life, so The Blair Witch Project for me holds a special place in my horror loving heart.

Anyway, back to the task at hand. We are taken through a quick presentation where they outline a few of the mechanics and features that they hope to make this psychological horror game different from the likes of outlast. 

But before that, let me give you a quick overview of what is going on in Blair Witch. It is set before the film, where the legend of the witch has captivated Elis, an ex cop on the search for a missing child that disappeared a few weeks ago and hasn’t been seen since. He is with his trusty canine sidekick Bullet, and the two of them head into the forest with no knowledge of what lies ahead. Is it in your mind? Or is the legend of the Blair Witch true?

I start at the beginning of the game, I assume, as Elis and Bullet arrive by car to the forest. They happen across a few police cars that were clearly part of the search party, but the cars are abandoned; spooky. This is when one of the first game play features is shown. It tells me that Bullet, isn’t just a way of easing your anxiety, or increasing it, dependant on how much you love dogs, but is an integral part of the gang. Not only can you command him to search for valuable items or clues in the world, but his behaviour can signify whether enemies are close, and he can help fight them for you too. But here is the bit that got me, not only can Bullet do all those good doggo things, how you interact with him, i.e if you pet him after he finds something, or tell him to stay close, or come to his aid when he fights the monsters will determine how he reacts to you in the future. If you don’t pet him and leave him to fend for himself too often then he won’t randomly find things in the environment for you, or help you progress with clues.

The demo then moves me on, clearly wanting to show me all elements of the game. Combat is next, which is a first for Bloober games, whose previous games, Observer and Layers of Fear did not involve combat. However, don’t get too excited about being able to hack at monsters, because your weapon, in the style of Alan Wake, is your flashlight, and you won’t kill any monsters, only scare them away. I tackle a few of the witch’s minions while taking a leisurely stroll through a tree sunken path on my way to, you guessed it, the horror game staple, a sawmill. Easy to fight and dispatch, what was interesting to see was Bullet, whose growls and barks genuinely gave me an added layer of fear.

Next up was the camera, and unlike outlast, that only used it for night vision, Blair Witch uses it for puzzle solving. The example I got was at the sawmill, where the door I needed to get through was locked. In another I found a tape, which when played through my camcorder depicted a chase of a man from a demon, it showed him running through the same door I needed to get through. It becomes clear that pausing the video when the door was open in the recording meant that is was now open in-game, and hey presto, I was right.

Finally, I get to the dreaded house, the one from the film that you saw the dude with his back facing the camera, head against the wall, the scene that captured an entire generation of horror fans and brought the camcorder /  mockumentary style horror film to mainstream popularity. It is dark, scary and just as tense as I remember the film being. Low light and tiptoeing down very narrow corridors while trying to navigate the crumbling maze that was the house kept me on the edge of my seat, face pressed to the screen, just where it wanted me, when a jump scare sends me screaming, to the communal laughter of the others in the room.

Blair Witch is a game that promises to track your play style and react accordingly. Walk slowly through the game and the monsters become more aggressive, chasing you. Use your flashlight all the time and the number of monsters will increase, these are all speculations on my part but Bloober promise to make each play-through uniquely different, to a degree.

I for one can’t wait for Blair Witch to drop, which has a release date of August 30 2019.

Keep an eye out for more Gamescom coverage.