Review in 3 MinutesReviewsVideo GamesVideo Series

Layers of Fear (2023) Review in 3 Minutes – It Could Use a Few More Layers


Layers of Fear is a first-person psychological horror experience from Bloober Team and Anshar Studios that tells the story of three obsessive artists who are struggling to come to grips with their reality.

It’s also a remake of Layers of Fear (2016), its Inheritance DLC, and 2019’s Layers of Fear 2 that recreates the original games with gorgeous environments, fresh gameplay elements, and more using Unreal Engine 5. You can see from my footage here that there are a collection of differences between the original releases and the remakes. Along with these night-and-day visual changes is additional story content — a chapter about The Painter’s wife called “The Final Note” and a new story about a writer trapped in a lighthouse.

The original narratives remain nearly intact in Layers of Fear (2023), with notes and dialogue ripped straight out of their respective games. Layers of Fear (2016) especially holds up well in this regard, with The Painter’s story a bit more enthralling now thanks to more streamlined and polished gameplay segments. However, it’s where the original releases failed that the remakes continue to stumble.

If the original Layers of Fear is a haunted house, then the remake is, well, still a haunted house but with the occasional game of laser tag against an opponent who is begging you to blast them. Those densely atmospheric opening hours had me optimistic about what Bloober and Anshar’s remake would achieve, but Layers of Fear (2023) still suffers from tiring tricks and by-the-numbers puzzles. While some tension-breaking moments, like the infamously hilarious baby that runs into walls, were gutted, many segments remain exactly the same or ever so slightly, unremarkably tweaked.

One attempt to break up the monotony is a new lantern mechanic that allows players to illuminate areas, uncover secrets, and ward off enemies. It’s easily the most meaningful alteration to the Layers of Fear formula and a welcome change of pace, but Bloober needs more than a point-and-shoot lantern to elevate the previous foundation.

Though the remake is absolutely an improvement on the original, the enhancements to the DLC and sequel aren’t as apparent. Two playthroughs later and Inheritance seems to be little more than a glorified remaster. That’s fine, except in both runs, I encountered an autosave glitch that kept the final cut scene from triggering, leaving me unable to complete the story. Layers of Fear 2, meanwhile, has a creative version of the lantern mechanic that ties into its gameplay more cohesively, but the sequel also lacks the polish the 2023 upgrade grants the original.

Two of Layers of Fear’s bright spots are The Final Note and The Writer’s story. The former is a brisk perspective flip on Layers of Fear (2016) with crisp, golden lighting and some mind-boggling environments. The latter is a noble attempt to tie the entire Layers of Fear narrative together with a standalone story. I had more fun exploring these angles than I did the majority of the remakes.

You’ll probably hear others say the new content brings these stories together with a pretty bow – and that’s true. Unfortunately, the prettiest Unreal Engine 5 bow doesn’t change the fact that the gift it wraps up isn’t much of a gift at all. It’s still the same decent-at-best, tedious-at-worst horror experiences we got in 2016 and 2019. This much is true: Layers of Fear (2023) is the definitive way to experience these games, but if you’re hoping this release will finally fix your problems with originals, I’m sad to say the flaws are more than a few layers deep.

Layers of Fear is out now for $29.99 for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X | S, with a 30% launch discount for those who already own the original games.

Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Layers of Fear (2023).

About the author

Michael Cripe
Michael joined The Escapist team in 2019 but has been covering games, movies, TV, and music since 2015. When he’s not writing, Michael is probably playing Super Mario Sunshine, Dead Space, The Binding of Isaac, or Doom Eternal. You can follow his news coverage and reviews at The Escapist, but his work has appeared on other sites like OnlySP, Gameranx, and Kansas City’s The Pitch, too. If you’d like to connect and talk about the latest pop-culture news, you can follow Michael on Twitter (@MikeCripe), Instagram (mike_cripe), or LinkedIn if that’s your thing.