Blair Witch is the next title in a series of ambitious attempts to port “larger” games to the Oculus Quest platform. How does this one fair in the conversion? We check out the Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition, with an advance warning that we tested on the original Quest headset – not the Quest 2.
Remember the insane phenomenon that was The Blair Witch Project? I can’t believe it’s been over 20 years already, but the PR campaign leading up the movie was so well done that I actually had a cousin who bought into the idea that all the footage in the movie was genuine – and thus even more terrifying than it was. A couple of so-so sequels later and we suddenly got a videogame based on the Blair Witch, which released about a year ago. Now, a scaled down version of that game is available for the Quest.
Content-wise, the story you play through on the PC and console versions is fully built into the Quest Edition as well. You’re a man called Ellis, who ventures into the woods with his dog Bullet in search of a young boy who recently went missing. There’s a search party doing the same thing, as these woods have a history of people going miss. Ellis isn’t without his own demons as well, suffering from a form of PTSD that haunts him from time to time when he doesn’t have his friend Bullet to rely on.
The sense of atmosphere and dread that Blair Witch conveys is great, and fits the source material very well. You know something’s out of order here, and something sinister lurks in the shadows at all times. Things stop making sense, and when you run into a house you get the feeling that perhaps it would be better to not step inside – it’s great stuff, and a wonderful fit for VR. That’s especially true because of the motion controls you use, where shining a flashlight suddenly feels like a stressful endeavor but petting your dog or playing fetch with him provides actual comfort.
At first, your search is all about the search for the missing boy, but as your sanity begins to unravel your own well-being and survival is suddenly not as certain anymore. A bigger picture opens up, and your own personal story begins to tie into other events that have happened here – and thus ties into the Blair Witch lore.
None of that is lost in the Quest conversion, but having played the PC version of the original release I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that I was playing a severely downgraded version of Blair Witch this time around. While the woods felt dense and lush with realistic vegetation on the PC, and while walking through them was almost as if I had to push branches aside and wade through the leaves on the ground, the environments on the Quest are devoid of much of the detail that made that PC experience so convincing. Instead, and especially up close, you get something akin to PS2-era visuals. I know this is par for the course on the Quest, but I long for the day where we get experiences like the original release of Blair Witch in VR.
So on the one hand you get increased immersion and interactivity, but at the same time you get a heavily downgraded visual experience. In short, if Quest visuals are the standard you measure you VR experience by then you’ll love this, but if you’re coming from any of the other versions of Blair Witch then you’ll miss the visual fidelity they offered and the VR element doesn’t make up for it.