Remakes have been far and above some of the most noticeable releases over the past few years, some for good and others for bad reasons. Mostly, though, re-releases of not nearly as old games that don’t immediately pop into mind as needing remakes, such as The Last of Us, tend to be more of a thread than anything else, but that’s certainly not the case of Layers of Fear, Polish studio Bloober Team’s re-imagining of their hit first-person horror series that’s centered on the troubles of creative minds, and how it eventually drove them insane.
Not everyone’s into that sort of videogame horror, instead preferring something more in the lines of Resident Evil, where the scares literally jump onto you and do horrible things to your character; instead, Layers of Fear has always relied on spooking players through shifts in the environment, playing tricks on their minds with some clever camera tricks and the such. It’s something that Bloobler has always been really good at doing, even so far as expanding upon that idea with Observer, which is an off the wall investigative adventure game that’s quite unique.
What might come off as weird to some folks is the fact that both Layers of Fear games were not that old to begin with, making this care package featuring both of them together in a concise single story mode – rounded out by a completely new in-between tale called The Writer, which serves as an attempt to tie all the stories together – at first glance might naturally seem unnecessary. However, the technical aspects of this current release have to be taken into account, mostly the team’s shift to Unreal Engine 5, which makes these look absolutely stunning.
Then, there are the changes to the script that will leave those who have engaged with the old version of the two Layers of Fear games left with an entirely new set of scares to deal with when playing this package. As someone who has enjoyed those games years ago, and getting to review the second Layers of Fear for this very site, I was mostly into the idea of engaging with a thoroughly reworked version of what I already considered to be a very effective way at scaring the bejesus out of me in 2019.
If you stopped me months ago, before the announcement of this re-release, and asked me if I wanted to go back to Layers of Fear, especially the second one, I would have likely said no, because in all honesty, I had gone through and closed the book on both. Now, having had the opportunity to play them again, only differently, well, I kinda changed my tune. For those like me who know what they’re getting into, Layers of Fear as it is now is definitely familiar, but what’s been changed and added in make it worth revisiting these games.
Now, to anyone completely unaware of Bloober’s work prior to Observer, Blair Witch and their upcoming remake of Silent Hill 2 most certainly should give it a shot. The team’s approach to delivering horror is unique, polished and very out there. If I had to draw a comparison to a real life experience, I would put Layers of Fear as a fantastically put together house of mirrors, where nothing you see is exactly what it seems, and anything can change at the drop of a hat, somethings in jarring ways.
It’s a little ironic that Bloober Team is very much alike its protagonists in the way they are looking to achieve perfection with previous releases, but to their credit, this is a worthwhile endeavor given the huge advances that took place in tech in such a small amount a time, basically only a couple of years. Still, the fact remains that these guys are hardly ever satisfied with what they put out, something that’s made obvious by not only this new iteration of Layers of Fear, but also Observer: System Redux and what’s likely to happen with Blair Witch at some point or another.
So with that in mind, this game comes as an easy recommendation if you come into it with the right expectations. It’s the sort of thing you’ll cruise through and not find much difficulty in the general sense of gaming, but the real challenge is keeping it together when the entirety of the game is pushing you towards the other way, daring you to step further into what Bloobler Team is so accomplished at doing, and will very likely do with Silent Hill 2 later this year. Boy, I’m really looking forward to that after having this trip down a very unreliable memory lane with Layers of Fear.