I have to admit, despite being intrigued by the rather promising trailer I didn’t expect much from Layers of Fear going into it. Developed by Bloober Team, creators of the A-Men games on PlayStation Vita and the Bomberman-esque Basement Crawl and Brawl for PlayStation 4, I didn’t think they’d have the experience to make a solid first person horror game, let alone a visually impressive one.
So it came as quite a shock to find that Layers of Fear is actually good. In fact, it’s not only good, it’s great; maybe even surpassing the masterpiece that is P.T. Possibly.
Still in Early Access, Layers of Fear is obviously inspired by Kojima and Del Toro’s ill-fated horror creation. Waking up in a room in a seemingly vacant house, your natural curiosity will be to explore. You’ll notice that your actions are fairly limited; you can open doors, drawers and cupboards, look at objects, turn light switches on and off, but that’s about it. There’s also no inventory management or menus, or even a HUD apart from a hand symbol that pops up to indicate you can interact with something. Basically, there’s no clutter, nothing to take you away from the fact you’re just a man seemingly stuck in a house and something doesn’t seem quite right.
“In time your fears will become realised as the unfolding events become more and more disconcerting, confusing and downright terrifying”
What really stood out to me during my playthrough (which abruptly ended after around two hours of playing time) was how the game builds up suspense. At first everything seems fairly mundane. You explore the house with very little happening, harbouring feelings of isolation. There’s a sense of dread that you just can’t shake though, and in time your fears will become realised as the unfolding events become more and more disconcerting, confusing and downright terrifying. To say too much would spoil the experience, but let’s just say that I really was surprised at just how well Bloober Team had managed to create a game that is truly unsettling, with an underlying narrative that has you witnessing a man’s ghastly descent into madness.
Currently around 75% complete, you can’t play the game until the very end yet and some plot points are held back so as to not spoil the story before release. Regardless, it’s already shaping up to be something very special indeed, and an experience that will fill the P.T.-shaped hole quite nicely. By releasing Layers of Fear on Early Access, Bloober Team hope to receive feedback from the community in order to fine tune the game and add to its content. My only worry is that they’ll dilute the experience by trying to incorporate too many ideas or refinements. What they’ve achieved on their own here is highly commendable, and I’d hate to see their creative vision ruined by what is essentially mass focus group testing.
“It’s already shaping up to be something very special indeed, and an experience that will fill the P.T. shaped hole quite nicely”
Whatever happens, I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on this title as it stumbles towards a full release. My time spent with it was highly memorable, but with considerable additions to the content and systems to be made, only time will tell if Layers of Fear lives up to the expectations I now have of it.