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Review: Now in VR Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition Adds New Mechanics, But Struggles in Its Transition

 

Blair Witch Oculus Quest

I only recently got my hands on the Oculus Quest 2. It’s an impressive little VR headset—there’s no doubt about it. I’m impressed with how must power the Quest 2 has, and am definitely excited to put it through its paces. When I got a chance to review Blair Witch Oculus Quest Edition for the Quest, I definitely jumped on the opportunity–when I originally played Blair Witch I thought it would be a perfect fit for VR. It turns out even with the great Quest 2 hardware, and a feature set that seemed a perfect fit for VR, Blair Witch struggles in its transition to virtual reality.

First of all, this review comes with a huge caveat: these are my individual impressions about a game on portable virtual reality hardware. The fact that this system can play the often pretty, extremely atmospheric Blair Witch at all is very impressive. I grew up in a time where mobile meant not just a huge concession in graphical fidelity, but sometimes an entire change in format—like from 2D to 3D. That’s obviously not the case here, and I’d even say that Blair Witc:h Oculus Quest Edition is asking for more than a mobile port normally would. Of course, this isn’t modelled as a mobile game—it’s a full VR experience. But it’s not that great for a few reasons.

Blair Witch Oculus Quest

Try as they might, Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition is not that great looking. It’s certainly impressive for its form factor, but most of the atmosphere in it that was great in the non-VR version of the game is lost in a haze of Quest’s lower resolution. The low graphical fidelity and fog wall are the most apparent in the light—and there aren’t that many well-lit sections, which is in Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition’s  favor. But even in the dark sections, you can see the draw distance is low. And it doesn’t help that, at least for me, the comfort level of this particular title is low.

I play a lot of virtual reality, but even so, I can get motion sick without the proper comfort measures implemented. This might not be the case for you—and if you have no problem with motion sickness in virtual reality, you can ignore this—but for others, this can be a real concern. Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition is labelled as “Moderate” comfort on the Oculus store, but it should be noted that I can play many titles with “moderate” comfort with no problem. This title, even with all of the comfort settings up to max, messed with my motion sickness in a way that other similar titles with similar movement considerations haven’t. I don’t know if it’s because of a low frame rate, or because of the low (ish) field of view of the Quest 2, but I could only play for a few minutes at a time without stopping.

­The non-virtual reality version of Blair Witch is a walk in the woods that get increasingly unpleasant. You play as former soldier and cop Ellis, who has had a lot of past trauma in his life. As a cop, he is haunted by a past mistake—one that he wishes to atone for by looking for missing Peter in the woods. But these aren’t just any woods—they’re the woods where The Blair Witch Project had taken place—and it was only two years since the events of that film that Ellis finds himself walking around, searching for a lost boy with his dog Bullet.  But it isn’t the witch herself you’ll face—but her influences, which work on you, and on murderer Carver, who is set up as the main antagonist.

Blair Witch Oculus Quest

One of the main features of Blair Witch and Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition is Ellis’ relationship with his dog, Bullet. Bullet can get to places you can’t—and find objects by smell that Ellis otherwise couldn’t. Your relationship with Bullet is an integral part of the gameplay—and Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition actually adds a few ways you can interact with your virtual dog. Instead of just pressing a button to interact with Bullet, you can call him over, reach down, and pet him. There’s even new interactions added just for the Oculus Quest Edition. If you’re tired of trying to find missing Peter,  you can take a breather and play fetch with your dog. These don’t do much to add to overall gameplay, but I think it’s a lovely touch, and easily my favorite part. I’d love to play pet the dog VR.

But what I got instead of “pet the dog VR” is “walk in the woods VR” because you’ll be doing that a lot. One of the main gameplay elements of Blair Witch when it released last year was its exploration. Lost in the woods, and looking for a young boy, the idea is you walk around in a semi-open world and find spooky locations, and clues to the boy’s whereabouts—as well as other potentially supernatural or grisly natural discoveries. Using teleportation (my body’s preferred style VR locomotion), walking is a chore. You can’t teleport that far, and since most levels are long lines of straight walking, teleport is definitely not the best movement method—but it’s the only one my body lets me use. Even so, these long walks from one discovery to another can be tedious.

Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition is simultaneously technologically impressive, while being disappointing. It looks okay on my Quest 2, but the fact that this game runs at all is impressive to me. New mechanics that add in more interactivity with Bullet are great, but being in virtual reality doesn’t translate well to other aspects of the game. This walk through the woods left me feeling uncomfortable—and not because I was scared.

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