Blair Witch Volume II
The Blair Witch Project was a unique movie that audiences either loved or hated. Once the movie became popular, the inevitable backlash started. The merchandising began with clothing and lunchboxes, but then it was decided that a trilogy of Blair Witch games should be made. We know all to well how these licensed games usually turn out. While once in a while we’re blessed with something playable, we’re usually just given a rushed-out mess. After spending some time with Blair Witch Volume II: The Legend of Coffin Rock it becomes obvious that this game falls in the latter category.
The character you play as is troubled man named Lazarus. He’s a Union solder during the Civil War who gets lost in the haunted Burkettsville woods, which is where the movie took place. Lazarus blacks out and then wakes sometime in the future, most likely the early 1900’s. Blair Witch II employs one of the oldest clichés around: Lazarus doesn’t remember who he is.
Lazarus constantly has flashbacks of his Civil War days. He has so many that roughly half the game consists of the interactive flashback. Despite the fact that we’ve all played through games with amnesiac lead characters, I was genuinely interested in Lazarus’ past. The Civil War setting is a refreshingly unique time to explore in a game. The plot is definitely the only redeeming quality in this game. Too bad the gameplay ruins this potentially fun game.
Blair Witch 2 is somewhat akin to survival horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill due to its third person perspective and supposed “scary” elements in which you duke it out with ghosts. What sets Blair Witch 2 apart from those other two franchises is that there is barely any item searching at all. Instead, Lazarus runs through one part of the woods to another with very little to do besides shooting and triggering the next cutscene.
The lack of item hunting is a definite plus, and this could almost be considered fun if it wasn’t for the atrocious controls. The controls are set up like a first person shooter, which does not work well in this survival horror game. It takes far too long just too simply turn around. You’d think Lazarus was a 300 lb man who just jogged for the first time in years judging by the time it takes him to turn around. Dodging enemies’ attacks is nearly impossible. By the time you take a right you’ll be half dead. Aiming is also unnecessarily tough. Even when the mouse sensitivity has been lowered it still remains too inaccurate. It doesn’t help that the aiming cursor occasionally becomes invisible for some inexplicable reason.
The poor controls are most noticeable during a certain boss battle. In order to beat her, you have to somehow get behind her and then pickup an item to use against her. I somehow managed to maneuver around the wench with only losing ¾ of my health. When I clicked on the item to pick it up, it did not work. I clicked 6 times in a row, and finally Lazarus bent down to pick up the item. Unfortunately, by the time he got it he was dead. After replaying the said scene 8 times I gave up. Only by uninstalling this game did I feel better.
Here’s another painful anecdote. A few flashbacks involve Lazarus fighting with some fellow soldiers against the Confederates. Thinking that I was safe, I fired a few shots at a Confederate while my fellow soldiers covered me. While I was reloading, the Confederate walked over and started stabbing me with his bayonet. My fellow soldiers stood there and did absolutely nothing to save me. While I sat through the loading screen I realized that this is that the AI must have been incomplete before the game shipped.
Graphically speaking, the game is hit and miss. The good thing is that most of the characters are detailed. Their clothes even move in the wind and cast realistic shadows. This does not change the fact the Lazarus looks like a zombie straight out of Resident Evil or Night of the Living Dead with his pale skin and unhealthy figure. The citizens of Burketsville never seem to take notice of that. The pre-rendered backgrounds look rushed when compared to the decent character models. The woods of Burketsville and its surroundings are flat and lack any sort of mood, which is a shame since the story line does such a good job of setting it up. The woods are supposed to be haunted by an extraordinary evil, but it looks like just an ordinary forest to me. Another problem lies in the camera angles. Since it’s impossible to change the camera angles, you’ll constantly find yourself shooting off screen hoping that the enemy is there.
At least the many cutscenes feature above average voice acting. A few characters sport bad accents, namely the soldier from Kentucky and the crazy old immigrant, but overall the voice acting does not cheapen the cutscenes, especially when it comes to the protagonist, Lazarus. The music is minimal, which makes me wonder whether it was for dramatic effect or the result of laziness.
Blair Witch Volume II: The Legend of Coffin Rock has barely any redeeming qualities whatsoever. The whole thing can be beaten in a few sittings, but you won’t be having much fun. The plot is fairly interesting, but the gameplay will ruin your desire to advance the story. Read a good book instead. You’ll get an interesting plot without having to worry about things like frustrating controls and poor camera angles.