Psychological horror has always been my thing, so I was all over it when Layers of Fear was first released in 2016. Driven by great storytelling, the original and its sequel, Layers of Fear 2, were bogged down somewhat by clunky gameplay and the occasional lack of tension. Now packaged with both games and an additional story weaved in, Layers of Fear (2023) uses Unreal Engine 5 to improve gameplay and allow the story to shine.

If you’re looking for a horror game where you’re fighting off waves of monsters, skip Layers of Fear. It’s just not that type of game. If you’ve ever been inside a haunted house, Layers of Fear is essentially a really cool version of that. There will be some jump scares and the occasional enemy to fight off. But at its core, Layers of Fear is more about discovery than survival.

The Complete Edition of Layers of Fear

Layers of Fear 1

A couple of factors separate this new, remastered edition from the original releases. The remaster includes both Layers of Fear and Layers of Fear 2, including all DLC. In the new 2023 edition of the game, you can play through the complete story of both the artist and the actor, experiencing their battles with madness and their demons.

However, Layers of Fear (2023) is also part sequel, as it contains a new story woven throughout the two original games. The writer’s tale is introduced, and it is meant to connect the narratives of the artist and the musician. Essentially, the writer is added to make the original games make sense when packaged as one game.

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Why You’ll Enjoy Layers of Fear

Layers of Fear Painting

Unreal Engine 5 makes a huge difference when it comes to the presentation of Layers of Fear. Textures and lighting are fantastic, and a significant step up from the original games. Simply put, Layers of Fear looks fantastic. Since it’s a very visual story, that is no small thing.

The flashlight is also a good addition to the new version of Layers of Fear. It might not sound like much, but once you take hold of the flashlight, you can do two different things. First, you’ll be able to find your way through more areas of the house more easily, and the flashlight allows the improvements in lighting to shine. Pun intended.

Second, the flashlight provides the opportunity to introduce some combat into Layers of Fear. You won’t exactly be fighting off the horde, but you’ll have to use the flashlight to “burn” enemies as they chase you. Not what I’d call challenging — the flashlight batteries recharge way too fast to ever present any real tension — but it’s better than the zero combat in the first game.

Why You Might Not Like It

Layers of Fear

A critical element of horror — whether it’s movies, books, or games — is that the stakes are always high, and the cost of failure is severe. That’s my biggest issue with Layers of Fear. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy the game. But it’s also hard to take it too seriously at times because there’s no price to be paid for death in the game.

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It’s pretty hard to die in Layers of Fear. When you do, it’s more accidental than because of anything you messed up. In the approximately 30 hours it takes to complete the new Layers of Fear, I bit the bullet very few times. A “not even needing one hand to count them” number of times. And when you do meet your virtual maker, you start right back up as if nothing happened. It’s hard to get scared when the stakes get stripped from a horror game.

On that note, if you don’t like psychological horror, you won’t find Layers of Fear scary. Those who found films like The Blair Witch Project boring will likely consider Layers of Fear to be little more than a walking simulator in a house that needs better lighting. In addition, the controls are pretty clunky. More than once, I got frustrated because it took multiple attempts to do something simple like opening a drawer.

Verdict

My biggest critique of Layers of Fear (2023) is that I’m not sure it was even necessary. Unreal Engine 5 added some improvements, and the writer’s story is nice, but aside from that, it’s the same games repackaged. Still, if you enjoyed the first ones, or are looking for some good psychological horror, Layers of Fear won’t lead you too far astray. Layers of Fear is worth picking up, especially if you can find it on sale.

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Layers of Fear (2023) is available now on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.

THE GOOD
Atmospheric horror done right
Unreal Engine 5 adds a lot in the lighting and textures department
The story of the writer is a nice addition
THE BAD
Gameplay is still clunky
Will feel like a walking simulator to some
7
Good

Review Summary

Layers of Fear gets you inside the heads of some tortured artists in a game that’s high on atmosphere but short on tension.

Tyler
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