When the announcement of the Layers of Fear remake was made, I initially questioned its necessity. The original game, released seven years ago, still maintained its visual appeal and terrifying gameplay. However, after experiencing the remake firsthand, my perspective shifted. I now comprehend why the developers chose to revisit this title and why they deemed it essential to do so at this particular time.
A Remake that Transcends Boundaries:
Layers of Fear 2023 is an intriguing amalgamation of the original 2016 release of Layers of Fear and the 2019 release of Layers of Fear 2, meticulously recreated in Unreal Engine 5. Although the game drew inspiration from PT, the canceled Silent Hills demo from 2014, it also shares gameplay elements with the Amnesia series. Throughout the game, players navigate various haunted locations, solving puzzles, gathering clues, and evading different monsters, resulting in an intense and fear-inducing experience.
Unraveling Distinctive Stories:
Each story in Layers of Fear centers around a different silent protagonist, with the primary focus placed on The Painter, a man obsessed with creating the perfect portrait, and The Actor, a disgraced thespian chosen for a leading role in a new film. As the tales unfold, players venture into unique and haunted locales such as an abandoned lighthouse, a dilapidated family home, and a film set on a cruise ship. These narratives gradually reveal how the characters' obsessions with artistic perfection have inflicted harm on those around them, with their haunting experiences serving as a reflection of their own misdeeds.
An Expanded Narrative:
The standout feature of the 2023 release of Layers of Fear is the introduction of an entirely new story called “The Writer.” This addition intertwines the original stories from the first two games, offering a cohesive narrative that resembles a horror anthology akin to The Twilight Zone. This inclusion enriches the overall experience, providing a fresh perspective and elevating the game to new heights.
Subtle Enhancements and Immersive Horrors:
Layers of Fear 2023 is far from a straightforward 1-for-1 remake. The developers have made numerous subtle changes and improvements, enhancing the scares and subverting players' expectations. The utilization of Unreal Engine 5 intensifies the photorealistic horror, creating a visually stunning and immersive environment. Additionally, the game caters to accessibility by introducing previously absent options, ensuring a more inclusive experience. Every note and collectible now features fully voiced dialogue, enhancing immersion and enjoyment for players.
Lengthy and Engaging Gameplay:
Players who have not experienced the original games are in for a treat. With four distinct stories and multiple endings for each, Layers of Fear offers a captivating and extensive gameplay experience. Furthermore, the game's price tag of $30 / £25 provides exceptional value given its quality and length. Completing all stories and endings took me approximately 30 hours, and I anticipate an even longer playtime for newcomers to the series.
Layers of Fear 2023 represents more than just a cash grab or a lack of original ideas. It serves as a testament to the growth and improvement of Bloober Team since 2016. This remake showcases their dedication and expertise, making it the best game the studio has released to date. Furthermore, it instills confidence in their ability to successfully handle the highly anticipated Silent Hill 2 remake. Personally, my skepticism regarding Silent Hill 2 has transformed into cautious optimism, thanks to the impressive execution of Layers of Fear 2023. The remake stands as a declaration of intent, proving that Bloober Team has the capability to create exceptional and terrifying experiences.