Get Lost in Blair Witch VR for the Oculus Quest 2
I am not a fan of horror games. I do not do well with most forms of horror. The original Blair Witch movie released in 1999, and in 2001 I saw it for the first time at 14 years old. I – like many movie goers – was not ready for what the film had in store. It is now 21 years later and Bloober Team’s 2019 continuation of the nightmare lost in the woods was not only a moderately successful game, but it is now ported over in VR to the Oculus Quest 2. Did I mention I’m not a fan of horror games?
Simply titled “Blair Witch,” the game takes place two years after the events of the film. If you’ve seen the movie, you have a pretty good idea what to expect from the video game, which borrows heavily from the original films premise but still manages to tell a new tale. Now, this isn’t a review of the game, strictly speaking. We do have a full review of the original release from 2019 available here if you want an analysis. No, this is a detailed account of how many bricks I !@#$ while playing Blair Witch in VR on the Oculus Quest 2. Just remember: I’m not a fan of horror games.
The 2019 version of the game is particularly terrifying due to its incredibly realistic graphical details which no doubt had countless hours of painstaking work put into them. The Quest 2 – for better and for worse – isn’t quite able to match that level of detail, so the somewhat-less realistic looking environment is marginally easier to bear. How does that get balanced out? By the absolute immersion of VR. If you haven’t played a game in VR before it is hard to describe. You feel like you are inside the world of the game. You can physically turn around to look behind you, you can lean to peek around corners. Being dropped into a forest where the early-game dialogue tells you these are cursed woods does not help in the slightest, let alone having seen the film and knowing how much worse it will be when night falls.
Just As Scary As You Want It To Be… And Then Some!
Bloober team did an amazing job making you feel lost. You have no real sense of direction save for following your trusty dog Bullet through the darkness and let me tell you; that dog is the one emotionally redeeming quality of the game for someone as scaredy-pants as me. While Bullet was always able to find clues for you, and help you calm down by taking a moment to pet him, VR now allows you to do so much more. You can control how you pet him, feed him treats, shake a paw, and generally interact with him like a normal dog. You can even change his collar! In moments of high tension the game wants you to calm your nerves – and Bullets – by stopping to pet him and show him some love. The game also has some shiny new VR improvements in how you interact with the world as well. Objects like doors and locks are manually interacted with to add that extra bit of immersion, but the addition of the marker is the one other feature besides Bullet that can lighten the tension. The marker lets you draw on paper and objects, but if you need to have a silly break you can absolutely doodle some nonsense to get a good laugh before turning around and being devoured – but at least you had a good chuckle!
If I’m watching a particularly unsettling film, I’m not too proud to admit I might look away or if I’m at home, put my hand up to block a bit of the screen and save my sanity a little. I instinctively found myself trying to do the same things as I traversed the haunted woods but it clearly wasn’t effective (in fact I smacked the Quest 2 a few times!) Most of the game is traveling from point A to point B, but VR is uniquely suited to this Walking Simulator formula because it puts you IN the environment itself. You are far more engaged with the world because those trees are literally in arms reach, which also means whatever might be out there in the darkness, well, that’s in arms reach too. Every time I found an object or the protagonist, Ellis, spoke up, I found myself with this feeling of sheer-dread that I would turn around and be face to face with… something. Bullet exists in the game not only as your guide (and helpful companion ala Dogmeat from Fallout 4) but as a focal point to keep you calm. I, however, was INTENSELY on edge through every moment because I had no idea what to expect… at least, for the first half of the game.
Somehow, despite my utterly high anxiety, the games narrative and mechanics regarding the camcorder were just compelling enough to say “it’s okay, you have Bullet! Bullet is a good boy, you can play a little longer. You can get a little further.” and if it weren’t for that dog I never would have progressed beyond the opening minutes of the game. I will say while the shading and lighting isn’t quite on par with the original game, there is still plenty here to keep you spooked – especially if you don’t like horror games. Without spoiling anything (is it spoilers if the game is over a year old?) there ARE entities you will encounter and your only defense is the illumination of your flashlight and the nose of your dog to point you in the right direction. It’s a bit clunky as you need to see which way Bullet is facing and look for the movements in the darkness, and the entities are VERY fast. I hate how they look, I hate how they move, I hate the fact Blair Witch put an incredible amount of work into their surround audio capabilities specifically to give you a minor heart attack every step of the way. Okay, I don’t hate these things, I hate how GOOD they are that it brought me to the brink of my flight response more than once.
I did, however, hit a snag about halfway through the story – the same one in fact noted by our review of the game last year. You encounter another character and have a conversation with them which somehow makes the subsequent stages of the game decidedly less intimidating. Perhaps its the fact you are no longer alone? Or that there is some manner of plot revealed other than the backstory of Ellis? Whatever it is, I found it slightly – SLIGHTLY – more bearable from that point on, however there were still plenty of moments I found myself clenching pretty darned tight.
So how is it as a VR game for someone who doesn’t like horror games? I was unsettled, creeped out, panicked, and breathing very heavily. But I was also immersed, engaged, and thankful it’s a game that doesn’t put heavy stock on jump scares. For those even mildly braver than I – or willing to take the plunge into horror games – this might actually be the right jumping off point for you. The entire game clocks in around four hours but it’s better enjoyed in short bursts so you can gather your wits and spare your sanity. Am I personally brave enough to use this as a jumping off point into more intense horror games? Absolutely not! This hit my threshold of comfort and pushed it a little further. Now I need a VR game about petting animals in a brightly lit room! But, if you want something to play this Halloween, I don’t think I can recommend anything better on the Oculus Quest 2 than Blair Witch if you want to be spooked but not crying in the corner.