Layers of Fear 2023 | Not to be confused with the 2016 entry from the same developer, Bloober Team has released an updated, definitive version of the same game, along with the same name just to add some confusion to the mix. Layers of Fear 2023, has been updated using Unreal Engine 5’s newer engine technology which now uses Nanite for its meshes and Lumen for its realistic lighting. On top of this, we now have a recontextualised story which adds some extra scares and acts as the game’s reasoning behind each of the stories. Each game comes with the previously released DLC as a bonus. But don’t expect much more past the updated visuals.
|Developer||Bloober Team / Anshar Studio|
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on Twitter!
What We Liked!
- The Graphics | Looking back at the 2016 release of Layers of Fear, it is easy to see where the focus went. Graphically, Layers of Fear 2023 is one of the prettiest-looking games I have seen this year. Bloober Team did an excellent job at realising their vision with great art direction and execution of how it looks in-game. The colours really pop when matched with an HDR display, and the house in the artist’s story really looks abandoned. The surreal aspects of the game are where Bloober Team really gets to shine by adding all of the out-of-this-world elements. Taking creative liberties and going above and beyond on the effects really make this stand out and grab your attention.
- Audio | When creating a horror game, you will need to pay extra-special attention to the audio. It is probably the most important part of ensuring your game captures your attention and helps deliver the tone of how you intended it to be seen and heard. The gentle crack of thunder in the distance, to the larger, closer thunder claps that happen right outside the window. The creek of the floorboards beneath your feet as you carefully walk through the halls of the house. Each noise you hear makes you think twice about walking around the corner, and what you might find there. There is music at certain points in the game, but these are mainly reserved for cinematic moments that happen, and not actual gameplay. I like this approach as I find sometimes music can take you out of the atmosphere.
- Horror Elements | Layers of Fear was great at how it handled the changing house and locations from Layers of Fear 2. Here it is no different. The updated camera work is more precise than it has been, meaning every twist and turn will have you scratching your head as to how you got here. Rooms will change before your very eyes, turning around will change the room entirely. It’s very well managed to ensure the player doesn’t immediately notice. Despite this not being too far from the original entries, they have been cleaned up to make them more airtight and engaging.
- Seamless | The stories in Layers of Fear 2023 are now seamless as you jump between writer, artist, and actor. From time to time the game will come out of its storytelling to bring you back to the writer’s perspective as she struggles to deal with writer’s block. These moments are short-lived, but it’s really well managed and it just shows how quickly and non-existent the load times are.
- Bugs | Sadly, Layers of Fear 2023 presents the best of the worst of Bloober Team. Part of me wants to think that given how technical this game is, it is bound to have some issues. But for some reason, there were some strange bugs in the game that just seem downright silly to have not noticed and fixed prior to launch. Sphere traces were left on in debug mode, which meant I could see where the enemies were attacking. This was only available in the Actor’s story, however. Puzzles would soft lock occasionally, meaning I had to retreat to the main menu, redo them, and then attempt to move on. Enemy AI would just T-pose and stand still on the spot. The scaling of objects in the world was also way off. Early on in the game, there is a piano you can walk up to, when compared to my character, it was the equivalent of a doll’s piano in size. This was also the case for other items around the house such as chairs, desks, lights, and banisters along the stairs. I can only assume these were assets that were not scaled properly in accordance with the player. The final issue was that rooms would not render into view quickly enough, with one instance of a room, not loading in at all until I was essentially in the doorway. This allowed me to see through the room and into the empty outside world, totally breaking immersion.
- It’s Short | There will be more on this below, but essentially you are re-buying the same games from 2016 and 2019. They are incredibly short coming in at around 3 hours each with little to no replayability. There are different endings to unlock but nothing that would warrant a second playthrough unless aiming for achievements. Even then, you can load into a chapter and easily secure the other endings. The game does add a small section at the beginning, middle, and end now in the form of a struggling writer. This is the new content. It’s very small and hardly worth re-purchasing to experience it. The writer is now essentially writing the stories of the first and second games, set within the backdrop of a lighthouse. There is some creepy stuff that happens at the lighthouse, but nothing that hasn’t been seen in the main games that you will be spending most of your time with.
What we Disliked
- Not enough new content | The new content in Layers of Fear 2023 is strictly limited to the recontextualised story. Before, Layers of Fear 2016, and Layers of Fear 2 were single entities with their own story being told from the perspective of the character within that game. Here Bloober Team has changed it so now these characters are being written by the struggling writer that you play in the lighthouse. Throughout each of the games, there is some voice-over work by the writer to remind the player these are now just figments of the writer’s imagination, but this is quickly removed by the fact that the characters quickly resume their own inner dialogue making the whole situation seem confusing and messy. Simply put, the new content wasn’t worth remaking the game and only adds confusion to the game, especially if this is your first playthrough.
- No Innovation on Gameplay | With an updated version now available it would have been nice to see some additions to the gameplay. More puzzles, more use of the player’s surroundings, and new mechanics. All we have here is the same walking from room to room, reading notes, and collecting keys. While the addition of Layers of Fear 2 does introduce different mechanics, it is still the same as the 2019 entry. Even the scares are no longer scary because this is something we have seen before. I would have much preferred some changes to the overall game to ensure it catches players off guard, but instead, players of the previous games will be well prepared.
How long to beat the story | 6 hours
How long to get all achievements | 8 hours
You’ll love this game if you like these | Blair Witch, Observer Redux, Amnesia
Layers of Fear 2023 is a bit of a confusing mess, and begs the question did we actually need this remake? While it was nice to have Bloober Team scratch their creative itch, it doesn’t warrant the £25 ask, especially if you have played them before. Couple this with the bugs and short nature of the game, what we have here appears to be a simple cash grab release now that Bloober Team has more eyes on them given their impending Silent Hill 2 Remake release.
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I make my own games as part of my profession and love playing co op games with friends in my spare time. Avid dog lover and camper van enthusiast.