We rather liked the original Layers of Fear. We weren’t all that keen on Layers of Fear 2, however. Thankfully, after a short hands-on with the new Layers of Fear, we think we’re going to like it. A lot.
Granted, our time with it has been very short. We’ve had early access to a demo that will be available for all next week – Monday 15th May, in fact. It allows players a quick peek at snippets from three of the game’s chapters, putting them in the shoes of multiple protagonists. Regardless, there’s enough to go at to get a sense of what Layers of Fear is trying to achieve, and we’re impressed.
Embellishing upon the existing stories found within Layers of Fear and Layers of Fear 2, players start in control of a new character called The Writer, whose story is set to tie everything together. She’s somehow become the owner of a lighthouse, and is using her time there to write a novel. But it isn’t long until something seems off about her new working environment.
It’s when you move to the short snippets of later chapters, putting you in control of The Painter, however, that you get a true sense of how Layers of Fear is trying to reimagine Bloober Team’s breakthrough series. There’s still plenty of wandering around in the dark, with the environment shifting around you, putting you on edge. You’ll still be opening drawers and investigating objects to see if there’s anything useful to progress the story forward, too. But there are also new gameplay elements to keep things feeling fresh.
A torch you acquire, for example, is not only useful for illuminating those dark corners you dare not venture into without light – focus its energy and you can dispel strange anomalies, triggering events and uncovering important items. And simple puzzles like finding and replacing cogs in a machine may be made more troublesome by a ghostly pursuer and a labyrinthine environment, forcing you to keep on your toes and navigate effectively.
Tying everything together is an audio-visual presentation that really elevates the experience. Thanks to the power of Unreal Engine 5, Layers of Fear looks phenomenal, with its environments made photo-realistic via detailed textures, subtle lighting and convincing effects. Technologies such as Lumen and Ray-tracing are put to good use, immersing you in the game’s dark work like never before.
We’re surprised how well it performs, too, in this age of poor PC ports. This is a demo, remember, but we were able to play this new Layers of Fear with maxed out settings at 4K resolution without any real hiccups on a Nvidia RTX 3070 paired with a Ryzen 5 3600. We did enable DLSS, though. Regardless, it both looked and played great at all times. We were particularly impressed by how the environment changed around us, which bodes well for the upcoming Silent Hill 2 remake coming from the same developer.
The final piece of the puzzle that has us excited for Layers of Fear is audio. There are hints of a brilliant soundtrack here by Arek Reikowski, but more importantly, sound design in general seems great. The voice acting seems top notch for the most part, and important for a horror game, ambient sound is appropriately unsettling. This is a game that’s going to be very creepy when played with headphones on, we’re sure.
Layers of Fear is set to launch this June, and it’s safe to say it’s shot straight up our must-play list. As horror fans it was on there already, of course, but our lukewarm reception to Layers of Fear 2 forced us to temper our expectations. Having now tried a taster of what this new Layers of Fear has in store, though, we’re quietly confident that it might just be the best thing that Bloober Team has created so far.
Layers of Fear launches this June on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.