The developers over at Bloober Team have been making their name known for years now crafting horror games for our pleasure such as the recently released games The Medium and Observer. Just over five years ago, one of the first reviews I wrote on this site was for their first-person psychological horror game Layers of Fear. I enjoyed the experience but it didn’t scare me as much as I hoped and it had some technical issues that bothered me too. Now five years later the team has gone back to that original game and made a PlayStation VR version of it. Does playing it in virtual reality improve the experience at all?
Layers of Fear is a first-person psychological horror/walking simulator game where you explore an old Victorian mansion playing as the painter who lives there. This man has gone mad and you have to piece together why he is the way that he is. This mansion serves as a very spooky setting for the game and I was always a bit unsettled exploring it throughout the course of the game. The game very much is an explorative game so outside of walking around and solving puzzles there isn’t much more to it. Another cool thing I liked about the game when it originally released was that the mansion is always changing. You may walk down a hallway to a dead end only to turn around and find that you’re now in a room. It’s a really cool feature and one of my favorite things about it.
The PlayStation VR version still mostly plays the same as the non-VR version but the controls take some getting used to. You’ll be using the two PlayStation Move controllers to play and because you don’t have analog sticks movement is handled differently. The Move button in the center will make you move while the face buttons are used to turn. While movement like this is never ideal, I was glad that at least I wasn’t forced to teleport around as that type of movement really pulls me out of the world. I really can’t wait for the next generation PlayStation VR headset so that movement in these games will be handled much better.
Now of course the game is a horror game so you can expect lots of jump scares throughout your playtime. At first some of them work pretty well but over the course of the 5-6 hour experience they grow old. You quickly realize when one is about to happen and that hurts the experience. It would have been nice if the developer tried some different ways to surprise the player rather than relying on the same old things over and over. There is also no way to die in the game so you never have that fear either. Playing it in on PlayStation VR did make it feel a bit scarier but I wish the game looked better. It’s a step down visually for sure from the original PlayStation 4 version I reviewed with worse textures, resolution, and lighting all of which was a bummer.
To piece together the story in the game you’ll enter rooms and pick up different objects like letters written to you, newspaper clippings, pictures, and more. I figured out pretty early on what was going on in the game but still enjoyed putting it all together. Going back to the changing rooms they too help tell the story in instances by changing to match something you may have just read. The voice acting I felt was average and could have been better but it doesn’t hurt the game too much. The game also has multiple endings so you’ll have a reason to go back and play it some more even after you finish it the first time.
The music and sound design in the game is another great part about it. This is a game you most certainly want to play at night and headphones on to get the most out of it. Every little noise from the wooden floor under your feet, something falling and breaking behind you, and something crying in the distance helped set the mood and immerse me more in this world. I got a shiver down my spine plenty of times just from the excellent sound design in Layers of Fear. Trophy hunters out there sadly won’t find a Platinum trophy here as the VR version mimics the same trophy list as the non-VR version had.
Layers of Fear VR is a solid scary game for those who want to immerse themselves in a creepy and well-designed atmosphere. The game managed to keep my attention for the few hours that it lasts and manages to be a bit scarier in virtual reality especially with the excellent audio in the game. The downsides to it are that it looks worse than the non-VR version, relies on too many jump scares which cause them to become predictable, and the Move controllers take some getting used to. Bloober Team has made much better games since the original Layers of Fear but if you’re looking for a new horror VR title then this is a good one to try.
*Layers of Fear VR is available now on PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive. PlayStation VR version reviewed. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review. ThisGenGaming is an official partner of vrgamecritic.com where you can find all of our PlayStation VR reviews.
Layers of Fear VR$19.99
- Awesome atmosphere and great detail
- Level layout that is constantly changing
- The already great sound design is made even better in VR
- VR version makes it feel a bit scarier
- Visuals take a hit in the PSVR version
- Scares grow old after awhile and don’t work
- Movement on the Move controllers is cumbersome