Let’s just get this out of the way right now: I spent most of my time in the Blair Witch video game trying to pat the dog.
Believe me, you’ll want to. Your trusty canine companion Bullet is the only thing you’ll have to help you in Blair Witch, which is shaping up to be a frightening little throwback to an era where camcorders were at the cutting edge of technology. He’s as important a part of your (limited) arsenal as your camcorder, mobile phone, and flashlight, but he’s also an extremely adorable partner who you’ll want to protect against the mysterious horrors of the Black Hills Forest.
As ex-cop named Ellis on the search for 9-year-old Peter Shannon in the depths of the said forest, you’re armed with a camcorder, a walkie talkie, a flashlight, and Bullet. All have their uses, but Bullet is the most utilized, minute to minute. You can command him in several ways – Come, Seek, Reprimand (WHO WOULD CHOOSE THIS COMMAND EVER), Stay, Stay Close, and Pet, and I’m told that the way you treat him will influence his behavior later in the game. So patting him isn’t just something you’ll want to do, it’s something you should do.
As I began my search at the entrance of the woods, I instructed Bullet to use Seek, which serves as a catch-all command for identifying key objects and trails. As I moved deeper into the woods, and the sky turned a sickly yellow, I started to get unnerved as he bounded off. I wanted my little buddy close if anything were to attack me, after all.
It didn’t help that the Blair Witch video game loves to disorient you. It takes its cues from the movie, where suddenly shit just starts going down and you’re not really sure what that shit is but you know you just have to run, which is what I spent a lot of my time in the demo doing. Environments will suddenly loop in on themselves, or start to phase in and out of reality, leaving you lurching blindly towards safety. It’s a clever way of making sure you feel utterly helpless; one slice of the demo saw me making my way through a pitch-black cave, my flashlight stuttering on weak batteries in the 1990s pre-LED era.
Like the film, the Blair Witch video game doesn’t want to be explicit about its horrors; the enemies in Blair Witch The Video Game are barely glimpsed blurs but very omnipresent. Bullet will help you locate them – his growls will alert you to their presence – and you essentially “fight” them by shining your flashlight on them a la Alan Wake (though certain events I also saw suggest this isn’t a consistent rule).
Later in the demo, I found my first videotape for the series’ iconic camcorder, which you can scrub through in order to change your environment. In this instance, I fast-forwarded through footage of a door being opened in order to open the same door in my reality. It’s a little basic as far as puzzle-solving goes, but it’s a neat little twist on making the camcorder relevant in an interactive setting.
The demo ended with a looping, disorientating stroll through the witch’s house, complete with creepy children’s handprints and a very effective jump scare. Unfortunately, Bullet was nowhere to be seen in this section; and while I’m told he can’t be killed in gameplay, his story arc remains a mystery. I’m looking forward to playing through the entire 5-6 hour Blair Witch The Video Game experience to make sure that darn doggo doesn’t die.
Lucy O’Brien is Executive Editor of Features at IGN. Follow her on Twitter.