Before the Xbox timed-exclusive The Medium and the forthcoming Silent Hill 2 remake got everyone's attention, the Polish studio Bloober Team worked on another psychological horror series - Layers of Fear.
In 2016, Layers of Fear had you exploring the photo-realistic dark and narrow corridors of a crooked house in first-person perspective, a sub-genre of psychological horror games that became quite evident with Hideo Kojima's PT and skyrocketed with Capcom's Resident Evil 7.
Back then, Layers of Fear got sandwiched between these two gigantic releases, but it's being brought to life again for a new generation with better visuals, quality-of-life changes, and an expanded narrative with the Layer of Fear remake. I recently tried the Layers of Fear public demo on Steam, and here are my impressions of it.
Layers of Fear is a looker
Before we get into the details, I would like to point out that I haven't played the original Layers of Fear 1 & 2, and my impressions of the demo could vary greatly from someone who had experienced these games before trying the remake. That said, I have played Blair Witch and The Medium, and there are a lot of similarities between these titles, both gameplay, and story-wise.
Right off the bat, I was surprised at how incredible the Layers of Fear remake looks. From the way light shimmers through the windows to the high-quality textures of curtains, everything looked photo-realistic to the point I forgot it was a video game. It's essential to add that Layers of Fear might be the first Unreal Engine 5 game to be released this year, and if this is any indication, we are all in for a good time.
I played the Layers of Fear remake on a high-end PC with RTX 4080 and 32 GB Ram and walked away impressed. I'm happy to report that even on the highest settings at 4K resolution and ray-tracing enabled, Layers of Fear ran buttery smooth at 60 FPS. There were a few dips here and there, but nothing groundbreaking. With all the unoptimized PC ports, it's safe to say that Layers of Fear is shaping up to be one of the best ones in a while.
The demo version of the Layers of Fear is spread across three chapters of the game. It kicks off in a lonesome house next to a lighthouse with a middle-aged author who was sent off here by the publishers to write their next book and ends in an artist's dilapidated mansion.
As you get out to explore the tight corridors of this muse of a house, it's soon evident that it's haunted. Someone familiar with Blair Witch or The Medium would find the exploration and moment-to-moment gameplay familiar though something that stood out to me amidst everything else is the way you open doors in this game.
It's not just about pressing the X button on your controller to open something. Instead, you have to press a button and use the analog stick to either push or pull the door. It's a subtle but clever addition that significantly enhances the tension in a psychological horror game like this.
In Chapter 5 of the demo, there's a section where you are being chased by a ghost, and opening or closing the door correctly could be a life-or-death scenario. I died twice because I didn't push the door correctly, and the ghost caught up to me. It was an intense moment!
With its photo-realistic visuals and captivating atmosphere, the Layers of Fear demo has me intrigued for the full game. There are bits and pieces of Alan Wake and PT in here, and that's far from a bad thing, in my opinion.
However, I can't say if the new coat of paint and the expanded story would be worth enough investing in for someone who has already played Layers of Fear 1 and 2. I guess we will have to wait for the final product. Thankfully, we don't have to wait much longer as Layer of Fear arrives on 15th June 2023 for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.