Polish studio Bloober Team has become known over the past several years for creating psychological horror games. They were the minds behind games such as The Medium, Observer, Blair Witch, and the upcoming Silent Hill 2 Remake. Their first project was called Layers of Fear though and it went on to get a sequel and a VR version so more than anything else that is the world the team has spent the most time on. Now they have returned to it again with Layers of Fear (2023) which combines the previous Layers of Fear games together into one package along with some new content. Here is my review of the PlayStation 5 version.
Layers of Fear (2023) contains all of the content from the original Layers of Fear, the DLC Layers of Fear Inheritance, and Layers of Fear 2 along with some new narrative content called The Final Note. Along with that, the entire game has been rebuilt using Unreal Engine 5 which brings a whole host of visual improvements and all of the stories are weaved together from the perspective of a new character called the writer. Things pick up at the start with you playing as the writer in a secluded lighthouse as she tries to work on a new project. While doing so, she retells the story of the two games and so you’ll be bouncing back and forth between them and the lighthouse. This is a really neat addition and helps to make the whole thing feel more cohesive.
If you never played the Layers of Fear games, they are very linear, walking simulator like games. If you weren’t interested in these games before and don’t typically enjoy this style of game then this new version won’t do anything to change your mind. The first game has you playing as a painter in a mansion while the second game takes you to a cruise ship to play as an actor. There is also a new Final Note chapter that ties into the first game where you play as the painter’s wife. What I really enjoyed about these games when I first played them is how the environment would shift and change around you leading to some really cool moments. These shifting mechanics are used to represent the unstable mind of the painter and are very effective. If you’re looking for scares, I would say these games didn’t scare me very much but they do try with jump scares and can be quite unnerving at times. There are also chase sequences at certain moments and a new lantern mechanic has been added to help fend off the terrors temporarily. Failing these sections isn’t a big deal though as you’ll just be sent back to a very close checkpoint usually to try them again.
One of the biggest new selling factors of this new release is the fact it was rebuilt using Unreal Engine 5 and the results are great. These games already had great atmosphere to them when they first released but now they look even better with the lighting effects being the most praiseworthy improvements. It’s also nice that all the games are now on the same level visually. HDR support is present and there and you can play in Performance mode for 60FPS or Graphics Mode if you want the best visual experience. The audio design is also stellar and I highly recommend playing with headphones. There are so many cool little sound effects that add to the uneasy feeling you’ll get while playing through these games. The audio side of things is let down somewhat by some average voice acting at times though.
Layers of Fear (2023) is the definitive way to experience this series. The new narrative content helps tie together these previously released titles more effectively, the Unreal Engine 5 visual overhaul is very impressive, and the sound design is top notch. If you don’t enjoy linear, walking simulator like games then you probably won’t enjoy this but if you have any interest in the horror genre and don’t mind that style of game then I highly recommend this.
*Layers of Fear is available now on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series, and PC. PlayStation 5 version reviewed. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.