Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Blair Witch: VR Edition is a welcome addition to the PSVR, bringing an immersive, story-driven approach that provides plenty of tension and scares over the span of about a half dozen hours of gameplay. This is a rebuilt version of the popular 2019 release (See Izzy’s Nintendo Switch Review) that does a lot of really good things in bringing the adventure to virtual reality.
The premise has you taking on the role of Ellis, who is in the Black Hills Forest looking for a boy who has gone missing. As a protagonist, Ellis is a good enough medium to immerse players into the storyline. There are things during the gameplay that can impact the ending, which certainly helps with replay value. Especially for a game like this where exploration and finding things is key.
Ellis is an ex-police officer, who makes for an unreliable protagonist. People around him are often quick to point out that he has issues of his own, and as such there is a sort of tug-of-war that occurs throughout the game that has us questioning whether or not what we have just seen was real or not. This, combined with the immersive visuals, audio and controls really help to sell the experience.
Thankfully, Blair Witch: VR Edition doesn’t beat you over the head with cheap jump scares. Certainly there are some, but they feel well-placed and help to provide tension without being a gimmick that replaces atmosphere for frustration. The audio design is fantastic – and really ratchets up the tension quite a bit as you hear whispered words and creepy sounds throughout the game’s roughly six hour duration.
Of course, the shift to virtual reality comes at a bit of a cost in terms of video fidelity when compared to high resolution screen outputs, but the developers do a nice job of hiding many of the imperfections in fog and shadows while creating just enough ‘did something just move’ tension along the way. You have a handful of tools such as your flashlight and a camcorder that plays in nicely with the ‘found footage’ aspects the Blair Witch has so long hung its hat on.
All of them pale compared to Bullet, your pupper companion. Seriously, just reaching out in VR to rub the lovable little guy’s head is cathartic in and itself, but he actually serves purpose to your adventure too. He can warn you of impending danger and help to find things in the environment I would have certainly otherwise missed. That said? He’s not some annoying companion talking your ear off with a bad accent or the like. He really is your best asset on this adventure. Did I mention petting him in VR? As a pet-lover, it’s worth noting twice. That being said, ol’ Bullet is probably the most frequent culprit when it comes to breaking the illusion of reality in this virtual environment, since he seems to clip into objects or moving weirdly when you use the whistle to call him to you / reset him.
I appreciate how well the move controls work for interacting with objects in the environment and manipulating the camcorder (which is used to solve many of the puzzles in the game). Blair Witch: VR Edition keeps a pretty brisk overall pace, never hitting you with so many monsters or puzzles that momentum feels lost, but with just enough variety that it feels like more than just an environmental walker with creepy sound effects.
For those worried about motion sickness, there are a handful of locomotion options that can help make the experience a bit more palatable for those prone to queasiness, but most of the game ran pretty smoothly for me while simply walking around the environment as intended. It helps that there are not many instances of tight passageways. Much of the game takes place in the woods where they seem impossibly large and creepy, despite obviously having limits to just how far you can go. The overall level design is pretty well done, and I didn’t seem to struggle with getting hung up while walking through environments, which is a common issue in VR that the team seemed to handle pretty well.
Blair Witch: VR Edition has to make a few gameplay compromises to make it work for virtual reality, but the end result is still worth it for fans of horror. Having played and enjoyed the prior console release about a year ago, I have to say that the sights and sounds of PSVR make for a compelling experience even if you have played it before. It helps that there’s a decent bit of replay value to be had here in finding different things along the way and experiencing a handful of different endings as a result.
Score: 8 /10