Blair Witch has made its way to a range of different platforms ever since its debut on the Xbox One and PC last year, with the PlayStation 4 and even the Nintendo Switch graced with its haunting trip through the perilous Black Hills Forest. It has made for a somewhat divisive experience across these different platforms though, with the game’s blend of exploration, puzzle-solving, and frights not always hitting the mark with all players – myself included.
Despite this, the game’s release on Oculus Quest headsets was something I couldn’t ignore. Whilst it does have its flaws which bothered me when I played through it the first time around, the potential of the horrors it could offer in virtual reality were simply too tempting to pass on. I’m happy to report that it lives up to that potential too, with Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition an enjoyable horror experience that improves upon its original iteration.
Players take on the role of Ellis, an ex-Police Officer who looks to help the local Police Force with their search for a missing child named Peter in the Black Hills Forest. With your mysterious past haunting you as you scour the woods as well as the presence of the dark force of the Blair Witch, this search soon turns into a deadly struggle as you look to conquer your demons in order to save Peter’s life.
In fairness, the plot of Blair Witch is decent and offers plenty of little twists-and-turns as events unfold. Ellis has his mobile phone and radio with him that allows for interactions with other characters to learn more about what’s going on and how it ties into Ellis’ past, whilst the fact that information is slowly drip-fed to you as you progress ensures there’s always a sense of tension to be felt. There are multiple endings on offer too, though you may want to check Google to learn how to unlock them – it’s certainly not the easiest of processes…
Those who played Blair Witch when it launched on standard platforms last year will be familiar with the gameplay of this virtual reality edition from the get-go, with not too much changing as far as progression is concerned. You’ll explore an array of eerie environments that are full of little scares that’ll keep you on edge, you’ll uncover the clues required to find out more about what happened to Peter, and you’ll give your canine companion Bullet some treats as he helps you find your way around and gather items that you might have missed. The formula and events that occur remain the same, so you shouldn’t expect some revolutionary change to how the game actually plays (for better and worse).
Of course, whilst the gameplay remains the same, the transition to virtual reality has brought with it an array of changes that make for a more immersive (and spooky) experience. One of the flaws that I picked out about the original release of the game was that it could feel a bit aimless at times when wandering through the forest; that remains the same here, admittedly, but the fact that you’ll feel like you’re actually THERE makes it a lot more forgivable. I felt like I was the one brushing up against branches as I tried to dig out some clues and make my way to safety, and, despite finishing the game two times already, I was constantly on edge and left worried as to what might be lurking in the shadows waiting to get me. It was one of the most unnerving experiences that I’ve had in a virtual reality headset, but I bloody loved it.
And believe me, some of the later sections of the game are really terrifying in virtual reality and capture the atmosphere of the original movie perfectly. I’ll leave those for you to discover when playing…
Would you rather just spend time playing with Bullet instead of heading on a dangerous journey through the forest? Well, you’ll be glad to know that canine interactivity has been ramped up in Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition, with the player able to physically pet him, feed him tasty treats, and even play fetch if they prefer. I know that gamers are big fans of petting dogs (and it almost feels like a compulsory feature these days thanks to this Twitter account) and Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition does a good job of making it feel both immersive and sweet. Not bad for a horror game, right?
Comfort-wise, Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition feels good to play, with both free locomotion and teleportation-based movement controls available as well as snap and smooth rotation. I’m experienced enough with virtual reality for the free locomotion and smooth rotation to feel comfortable for me – they really made exploring the game’s haunting locales feel all the more immersive too. Sure, teleportation is fine if that’s all your stomach can handle, but there’s something harrowingly satisfying about lurking through your ominous surroundings freely.
I actually found that the controls made enemy encounters a lot less jarring on the Oculus Quest than they were when playing the original version of the game, which is something that is probably down to the freedom of being able to move your whole body around to see enemies that are surrounding you and the motion controls when using the flashlight. This was one of the things that bothered me the most when I played the game on the PlayStation 4 earlier this year, so it’s great to see that it feels better here. I didn’t encounter some of the technical bugs that I came across on the PlayStation 4 either, with my run through the forest a lot smoother and not requiring me to re-load my save in order to progress.
It all looks pretty decent too, even if it has taken a hit when compared to the original release. Whilst the lower resolution and some fuzzy textures here and there are a bit disappointing, there’s nothing hideous to be found that make the game feel ugly to play… well… outside of the monsters lurking around, of course. I found the visuals to be satisfactory overall though, with even Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition’s darker sequences standing out quite well in the Oculus Quest headset.
I should admit that I played on the original Oculus Quest as opposed to the new souped-up version though, which is meant to bring with it better textures, more detail, and a sharper visual fidelity overall. Whilst I’m sure these additions would have made for a prettier experience, those playing on the older hardware should still find Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition to be a decent looking game.
Whilst Blair Witch has made a great transition to virtual reality for the most part, it does have a few flaws here and there that weren’t a problem in the original release. For one, the cutscenes aren’t displayed in virtual reality, but instead play out in front of the player with no head movement or sense of presence with each sequence. Of course, this wasn’t a problem when playing on PC and console, but it just gave a real static feeling when playing in the Oculus Quest headset and could break the immersion a little.
There were a few sequences that have been cut down a bit from the original game too, with some puzzles and interactive moments playing out automatically this time around. Whilst these segments don’t tie into the game’s brilliant atmosphere and nor does their omission really affect the overall experience, it was a bit of a shame that things were a bit more streamlined for virtual reality players. On the flip-side, some of these puzzles were what caused me frustrations when I played the game originally, so maybe it’s a smart move by Bloober Team? I guess that’s up to the player to decide, really.
I was a little disappointed with Blair Witch when it originally launched on PC and consoles, so I’m happy to report that the Quest Edition of the game feels a lot more satisfying (and creepier) to play. Exploring the Black Hills Forest feels a lot more enjoyable this time around thanks to the extra immersion offer by virtual reality, the scares are a million times creepier and will constantly keep you on edge, whilst the improved interactivity with Bullet makes for a sweet little distraction when you want to pretend you’re not being pursued by a malicious force. I even came across less technical issues than when I played through the game on the PlayStation 4, which can only be seen as a big win.
Of course, it’s not perfect and some immersion-breaking cutscenes and streamlining of gameplay could be a little disappointing, whilst it obviously doesn’t look as pretty on the Oculus Quest headset as it does when playing on PC and console. Some of the flaws which stood out the first time around are still present too, with not a whole lot changing from a gameplay perspective.
Still, with its horrifyingly immersive atmosphere, tense narrative, and technical improvements, there’s no denying that Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition is certainly the best way to experience Bloober Team’s take on the dark and frightening legend of the Blair Witch.
Developer: Bloober Team
Publisher: Bloober Team
Platform(s): Oculus Quest