Appearing on the GDC 2023 show floor in the same booth as Epic Games, Layers of Fear didn’t look all that scary surrounded by the hustle and bustle of hundreds of professional nerds. But then a few developers from Bloober Team handed me a headset and I was immediately engrossed in this chilling, atmospheric psychological horror game. The team described Layers of Fear as one half reboot and one half remaster, settling on the word “reimagining” as the best way to sum up what is an upgraded compilation of both the first Layers of Fear, Layers of Fear 2, all existing DLC for both games, and several pieces of new content all made in Unreal Engine 5. It is, in essence, the magnum opus for the series.
Layers of content
To be specific, Layers of Fear adds a new DLC chapter called The Final Note that provides the supplementary perspective of the wife to the events that happened in the original game. It will also provide another story for The Writer that will tie the storylines of the first two games together. For fans keeping score, this means it will include the story of The Painter from the first Layers of Fear, The Painter’s Daughter in the Inheritance DLC, The Painter’s Wife in The Final Note, The Actor from Layers of Fear 2, and The Writer in the new “The Lighthouse” chapter. So, if anything, this compilation looks like a solid deal with all the content it’s packing.
On top of that, using the power of current-gen consoles, this compilation will support 4K resolution, HDR, and ray tracing, making the experience as immersive and realistic as Bloober Team can muster. It was difficult to see these graphical enhancements on the relatively small monitor that the game was playing on at the booth, but I felt engrossed in the demo nonetheless.
Pulling myself out of the fire
The GDC 2023 build mainly bounced around the remastered content, going from the lighthouse in the first chapter to The Painter’s story in the second and fifth chapters. I wandered the slender hallways of the lighthouse, passing a line of locked doors before answering a call from a rotary phone. Then as if in a waking dream, I stood in the dusty remains of a studio in front of a painting of two blood-red flamingos caught in a hazily dark backdrop. I ran through the dusty mansion, turning and twisting in a labyrinth of shifting corridors and burning portraits, the fire spreading with the cloying intent of a phantom.
I scampered around the corners of one passage, then the next, until I found a door with three missing gears. The first gear rested at my feet, while the others had me scouring the hallways toward an intersection that looped upon itself. Every loop led to a dim, bare, grayed-out corridor. And suddenly, there she was. Disfigured by flame. Commanding me to leave. I raised my lantern to burn away her spectral form, but I knew she would return undeterred. So I snatched the gears and dashed recklessly back, not turning around to see if she would follow.
Waking from a spell
And then I realized that the show floor was closing down. I looked around and the crowds had dissipated. The developers tapped me on my shoulder and said they didn’t want to disturb me, but they needed to leave for the next day. It took a few moments for me to gather my belongings and thank the attendants for staying late, and as the lights were shutting off around me, I walked away knowing I had some unfinished business.
Layers of Fear is scheduled to release in June 2023 for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via Steam. The developers indicated that there may be special editions and a demo for the game, but no details have been announced.
This preview is based on a hands-on PC demo provided by the publisher on the show floor at GDC 2023.
Nick Tan posted a new article, Layers of Fear reimagines the original games while adding a final chapter