Layers of Fear is one of the best looking games this generation but the substance remains canvas thin

Like most things in life, art is quite often taken for granted.

We might just glance at a painting hung in a museum or on a family wall but hours of painstaking preparation will have gone into making it.

Such is the premise behind Layers of Fear, a story of an artist who is consumed by his passion, potentially at the cost of everyone and everything around him.

The game was a cult horror hit was a cult hit back in 2016 and is now interestingly the subject of a remake. Because, you know, 2023 hasn’t had enough of them yet.

But this one is a little bit different as it’s not only a remake of the first game, but also the second as well. And all of their accompanying DLC.

What’s more, they’ve brought together in a unique way by adding a third protagonist – The Writer – with the aim of bringing all of these stories together.

So it’s sort of a remake and sort of Layers of Fear 3, making it something of the definitive Layers of Fear experience. And that’s a fascinating approach which I commend because you’re not just treading familiar ground, you’re filling in some gaps, creating new story and tieing up all the loose ends.

I have to say, this is a great way to approach a remake. It’s kind of what Square have done with Final Fantasy VII, only here the dialogue is very much intact and the essence of the story is very much the same. The difference is how they’ve made all the content feel less like seperate entities, more one long, terrifying tale.

Did I mention that it’s also in gorgeous 4K, completely redesigned in Unreal Engine 5, with 3D Audio to boot? There’s no question that this is the most stunningly crafted horror game ever.

I was in awe at the level of detail in each of the paintings, at the lightning flashing through the windows, illuminating the entire gloomy house, and the use of lighting within the lantern and the flashlight as you not only navigate your environment but repel the forces encroaching upon you.

The stories are designed to be a bit vague. You get the general gist of things eventually as you pick up pieces of story via inanimate objects, scraps of paper and pieces of parchment. But for the most part it’s up to you to piece things together as the game doesn’t spell it out.

Where the purpose of the Writer comes in is splitting up the stories, making their own assumptions and interpretations of what happened, all while telling a story of their own.

It adds an interesting dynamic as it can confirm your own suspicions and even make you consider things from an alternative point of view.

But largely the original games remain intact, though there have been some changes to the puzzle design to be a bit more free-flowing and interactive. You’ll need to make more use of your environment now, looking for clues, rather than just relying on a bit of dumb luck.

Unfortunately, the game does still suffer with the issues I had with the original – it’s essentially one long walk around. And the difference here is where the games have previously been shorter excursions, by making the experience lengthier it kind of exposes the limitations of the game in general.

After a while I just felt like I was an autopilot wandering the same corridors, opening doors. The game never really evolves beyond that and it just got, well, boring.

Simply put, this is a game that would feel better suited in VR right now than as a flat screen experience. It’s beautiful to look at, there’s some haunting writing in here and some powerful cinematic-esque scenes along with trippy effects, but you’re still wandering aimlessly from room to room, double backing on yourself, looking up, looking down, picking stuff up, rinse, repeat.

From an aesthetical point of view, this game is art. You’ll be wowed by its appearence, by the way things move and shift around, how things degrade and evolve from one minute to the next. One could even say this is one of the most spectacular looking games on PlayStation 5 right now.

On the other, it just feels limited and dated, especially after playing Amnesia: The Bunker which launched just recently and is doing new things for the genre, while respectfully looking back at things that previously worked well.

From a gameplay point of view, Layers of Fear feels like a bit of a step back.

That said, if you’re a fan of the series, have played both games and are wondering whether the game is worth it, I’d say absolutely. This is a massive upgrade in visuals, there’s new ways to solve puzzles and the Writer really helps bring everything together in some clever ways that you’ll find quite satisfying.

It also incorporates the fear of the second game into the first by having your enemies kill you, so the merging of playstyles makes the game feel cohesive and consistent.

But in terms of evolving horror, the game is still riddled with cheap jump scares, of the slowest walking you can imagine in a video game and that age old trope of revisiting the same locations at least four times in various different ways.

While the writing can unnerve you and the graphics wow you, Layers of Fear very much feels like a product of its time. Less a reimagining of horror, more a retreading of familiar steps freshly coated with slick new paint.


Layers of Fear is one of the most visually impressive games this generation, most certainly the most stunning horror game ever made. It’s a smart, creative approach to a remake by mixing up puzzles as well as incorporating a new storyline which links everything together with compelling, haunting writing. However, it is product of its time, with slow, aimless walking, constantly retreading familiar steps and cheap scares at almost every turn. The definitive way to play Layers of Fear but also a cautious reminder the substance is mostly at a surface level. 


+ A massive visual upgrade over the original and the most striking horror game ever made
+ Good use of 3D audio and building of suspense
+ Smart remake which adds new content while making the original definitive
+ Haunting writing that effectively slow burns throughout the game


– Tediously slow walk cycle adds frustration with backtracking and aimlessness
– Cheap jump scares
–  Probably best played in VR 

Layers of Fear is out now on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox

Code Kindly Provided by Bloober Team for review purposes

Played on PlayStation 5

About the author

Brad Baker

Brad is an absolute horror buff and adores the new take on I.T. He also fancies himself as a bit of a Battle Royale master but never when anyone's watching.
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