Blair Witch: Volume I - Rustin Parr
|a game by||Terminal Reality, Inc.|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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If the aim of Blair Witch Volume 1 - Rustin Parris to mimic the disturbing atmosphere of the film, this is the most faithful film tie-in we've ever played.
Without actually copying the plot of the cult hit, developer Terminal Reality has reached into the Blair Witch folklore and taken the player back to the '40s and the horrific murders of seven children by an old hermit named Rustin Parr. The player assumes the role of Elsbeth Holliday, a paranormal investigator who is not too dissimilar in attitude and style to Infogrames' own Edward Carnby. She sets off to find out whether there's more to the murders than meets the eye.
In fairness, the whole game is a blatant Alone In The Dark rip-off, using the Nocturne game engine -but that's not necessarily a bad point. There are literally dozens of different engines that could have been used but, for whatever reason, somebody decided that the Nocturne engine would be the one. And credit is due because a better choice could not have been made. Think about it: what if the Quake III or UTengine had been used? What would we have been left with then? Another poxy, formulaic first-person shooter? The thought is terrifying, but the resulting game probably would not have been.
So, with an engine that occasionally looks dated in places and a bolted-on plot, you find yourself hooked from the start. Even the training mission inside the haunted house induces the feeling that you are being constantly watched.
Ironically, that is what's actually happening. Your superiors look down on you from a glass-fronted gallery analysing each tentative step you make. They offer the odd bit of cautious advice on how to use your weapons, how to control Elsbeth and stuff like that. Generally, though, they look at each other and nod in that knowing and sinister way that is the cue for your immense paranoia to begin. It's all very unnerving, but what's more, with plenty of horrific zombie-like creatures to kill and very limited ammo, this is a seriously challenging training exercise. It's essentially the perfect test for the rigors of what's to come.
Once you reach the town where the murders took place, the graphical style of the game leads to some very frightening and disturbing moments. The excellent use of shadows combined with the superb torch effects creates the illusion of flitting movement all around. In the graveyard, the beam of light scans across gravestones producing long, twisted shadows that play havoc with your brain. You can even switch to a first-person, night-vision view, which is by no means the most graphically impressive thing you're ever likely to see, but the grainy infrared texture is very effective.
You can't help but be affected by the tension. As the game progresses, you feel yourself becoming more and more of a pathetic gibbering wreck. You keep telling yourself: "It's only a game", but for some reason the tingling sensation all down the back of the neck never relents. It's like there's a spider crawling down your spine and whatever you do you can't brush it away.
The suspense is enhanced with excellent camera direction. The views and angles used in all of the locations have been designed for maximum fright. The eerie sound effects throughout the game add to the tension as well, because, like the film, it's impossible to work out just what these sounds are. Sometimes you can hear what appears to be an odd knocking or cracking sound that changes into an eerie kind of breathing. It's subtle horror, yet highly effective. Ultimately, you just want a monster of any kind to appear because it's the suspense of what could be out there that's most terrifying of all. But at least it's a change from the wave after wave of salivating creatures that are usually thrown at you under the guise of 'horror'.
Blair Witch really does have relatively few enemies to begin with - and for some lovers of the horror/action genre, this might be disappointing. But if you can get into the spirit of the game and spend the early part of it talking to the locals and learning what you can about Mr Parr, the woods and the Blair Witch legends, you soon become gripped.
When you eventually get out into the woods to make some proper investigations the game shifts into top gear and takes psychological torture into a new dimension; the map starts reading wrong, you glimpse sightings of creatures in the distance, and then suddenly, in pitch black, you realise you are lost.
From that point, you need to use your limited ammo wisely. Various monsters start attacking, including large rabid dogs, bizarre creatures made out of twigs and the odd ghostly spectre or two. You can make it back to town after a while and to what seems like safety but, as you'll find out, this game has a habit of knowing when to shove its evil little fangs right back in your face.
So far, so good. Like we said, the atmosphere is so consistent with the film we can't help but give it our full admiration. However, as is always the case, there are elements that could be better.
For one, the level of interaction with objects and backgrounds is pathetic - you literally can't pick up or use anything apart from your own weapons. Also, some of the textures on characters' faces are terrible.
But there's no point in dwelling on those kinds of points. The fact is this game is incredibly good fun. Blair Witch is really an unforgettable gaming experience for all the right reasons. If you loved the film, you will adore the game. Get it now before it gets you.