Layers of Fear (2023) review
need to know
what is it? A remake and repackage of two psychological horror games about an artist falling into madness.
release date June 15, 2023
expect to pay $30/£25
developer Anshar Studio, Bloober Team
publisher Bloober Team SA
Reviewed on i7-7820X, GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER, 16GB RAM and Ryzen 9 5900X, RTX 4080, 64GB RAM
multiplayer game No
steam deck not applicable
associate Official website
When the Layers of Fear remake was first announced, I didn’t understand the need for it. Even though the original game is seven years old, it still looks great and is still as scary as ever–so why bother? Especially when developer and publisher Bloober Team are already hard at work on Silent Hill 2, a highly anticipated remake. After playing it though, I get it. I understand why the devs felt they had to remake it, and why they felt it was more important now than ever.
Confusingly, Layers of Fear 2023 is both a remake of 2016’s original Layers of Fear and a remake of 2019’s Layers of Fear 2 — both games fully developed in Unreal Engine 5. Remade, and merged into a whole. The original game was inspired by 2014’s PT (the demo for the now-canceled Silent Hill), but has more in common with the Amnesia series in terms of gameplay. You’ll spend most of your time discreetly lurking in several different haunted locations, gathering clues, solving puzzles, and trying not to get wet while being hunted by a slew of different monsters.
(Image credit: Bloober Team, Anshar Studios)
Each story focuses on a different silent protagonist, but most importantly the painter, a man obsessed with crafting the perfect portrait, and the actor, a disgraced actor handpicked to lead a new feature film. Each story takes you to a unique (and haunted) location, such as an abandoned lighthouse, a dilapidated family home, and a movie set on a cruise ship. As the story unfolds, they slowly paint a larger picture of how each character’s obsession with artistic perfection damages the lives of those around them – and how their thematically appropriate obsessions may be their own consequences of misconduct.
The main difference between the 2023 version of Layers of Fear and the first two games is the introduction of an entirely new story, the Writer, which ties together all the original stories that appeared in the first two games. This inclusion puts the first two games back in context and makes them both part of a larger narrative, giving the whole game a sort of Twilight Zone-esque horror anthology vibe.
Far from being a straight-forward one-for-one remake across stories, it features a plethora of minor changes and improvements to the original game. Fans of the original Layers of Fear will find that many of the scares have been tweaked to subvert your expectations and keep the horror fresh, while the expert use of Unreal Engine 5 helps amplify the realistic horror to level 11.
However, those who haven’t played any of the original games will be in for a greater treat, with four different stories and multiple endings to choose from each. There’s also a special focus on the introduction of certain accessibility options that were conspicuously missing from the first title, as well as some overall quality of life additions – such as full voice dialogue for every note and collectible. Considering the $30/£25 price tag, Layers of Fear is an absolute steal for its quality and length. It took me about 30 hours to play through each story and achieve each ending–I suspect it will be longer for those unfamiliar with the original.
(Image credit: Anshar Studios, Bloober Team)
I played Layers of Fear on two different builds, one a bit underpowered (i7-7820X, GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER, 16GB RAM) and the other a bit underpowered (Ryzen 9 5900X, RTX 4080, 64GB RAM). Both versions play the game at an extremely consistent frame rate, and I didn’t experience a single crash during the entire session. Considering how dated the hardware is, I was impressed with how well the i7-7820X build performed, especially considering Layers of Fear is visually impressive.
I did run into a few bugs, but I’d say it didn’t hurt my overall experience. For a moment I managed to pinch myself out of bounds and softlock myself, but this was resolved with a quick reload, only costing me about 30 seconds of progress. There were also several times when picking up items caused them to momentarily move through the scenery, and reading notes at the wrong time often caused dialogue to cut itself off.
paint in your imagination
(Image credit: Bloober Team, Anshar Studios)
My biggest criticism of Layers of Fear is that some of the fear loses its edge the longer you play, especially once you realize how trivial the consequences of death are and how generous the checkpoint system is – although it may Will rush through it for review to let those seams show a little more. It’s fair to say that the Layers of Fear 2 update feels less impressive compared to the original, given that the game is only four years old–although that’s probably more of a comparison to Layers of Fear 2. Below the level of aging compliments to the first game. Regardless, the take from the first game certainly feels great–but thankfully, that contrast is offset by the introduction of an all-new story that ties together content from the original two games and their DLC .
It’s hard not to see the story in Layers of Fear as a metaphor for the remake’s existence. Every story, including the new ones created specifically for the remake, deals with themes of perfectionism and art criticism in some way – remaking these titles gives Bloober Team and Anshar Studios a chance to show how important it is Improved since 2016.
Layers of Fear 2023 doesn’t feel like a remake for an easy cash grab, or out of creative studio backup; it feels more like a statement of intent. It’s easily the best game Bloober Team has put out to date, and its existence shows everyone why they believe they’re the right person to helm the Silent Hill 2 remake – and I have to admit, they convinced me. And just like that, I went from ambivalent about Silent Hill 2 to cautiously optimistic.
Layers of Fear: A Price Comparison
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