Layers of Fear 2 is a slow, horrifying descent into madness. It earns every jump scare thanks to a dense atmosphere that haunts you to the very end.
Layers of Fear 2 took me by complete surprise. I was expecting another narrative horror game with a heavy emphasis on weird visuals and jumpscares, like Bloober Team’s previous work: Layers of Fear and Observer. And while the game is indeed a “horror walking simulator,” it’s one of the most effective I’ve played.
It’s a Horror Show
“Effective” may sound a bit lackluster, but in fact, it’s high praise. A horror game that manages to keep you engaged, and better yet – terrified, with atmosphere alone is somewhat rare these days.
Layers of Fear 2 creates an unbreakable tension right from the start and keeps you on the edge of your seat all the way through. It’s all about the eerie undertone, the sense of uncertainty about what’s going to happen next, and the freaky visuals that put to in constant unease.
Sure, the game does rely a lot on jump scares, but they never feel cheap – Layers of Fear 2 works hard for every squeal that escapes your lips, and every time you squirm your seat. Unfortunately, it does so without giving the player a sense of agency. The horror happens around you and to you, but for the most part, you don’t take an active role in it.
As I mentioned, the game is what you might call a “walking simulator,” just like the studio’s previous titles. Most of the time, you simply push forward, absorb your surroundings, and listen to the narration. But occasionally you have a puzzle to solve. It can be figuring out a code for a lock or trying to navigate a maze with a giant cyclopes shots beams fire at you from above. Still, the gameplay never raises above walking, opening drawers and sometimes running away.
Stay in Character
The one thing you actively need to do is search for collectibles. There is plenty to find in each of the game’s stages, and they range from movie posters, slides, and mysterious items you need to figure out what to do with. Collecting them is pretty fun, especially the mystery items which hold a few secrets if you can figure out how to unlock them.
However, I did feel that searching around the environments for these collectibles can take you out of the game, so to speak. Layers of Fear 2 builds its scares slowly, with immaculate pacing, so if you’re busy opening every drawer and staring at the floor so not to miss an item, you’ll miss out on the game itself.
I suggest leaving the collecting to New Game+. Some items can only be found during a second playthrough anyway, so there’s no reason to ruin the immersion the first time around.
Lights, Camera, Action
Layers of Fear 2 is the kind of horror title where you can’t really discuss the story since you only really figure out what’s going on as you play. It deals with loss, trauma, and identity. But this time, instead of a tormented painter, these themes are filtered through the mind of a haunted movie actor.
You start as a Hollywood actor who boards an ocean liner to film a new movie by an enigmatic director, but soon props, movie sets, and directorial instructions get mixed up with the protagonist’s wounded psyche. A traumatic event in his past resurfaces, and as the story progresses, it becomes impossible to tell where the make-believe ends, and your nightmares begin. The game expertly blends everything together into one terrifying jumble of your past, your acting career, and your inner demons.
A lot of times, the game uses other movies to convey its themes and ideas. I particularly enjoyed spotting as many movie references as I could. A hammer with the words “Old Boy” curved into it, tethered fragments of the iconic Overlook Hotel carpet in the hallways, and an Easter Egg lifted directly from Fight Club are just some of the many, many references you’ll undoubtedly recognize while playing Layers of Fear 2.
These references make it to the visuals as well. Each chapter has its own visual style inspired by a different movie genre. One’s inspired by old detective films, while another is stylized after classic adventure movies. As a horror fan, I especially like the chapter that channels older horror titles, with plenty of reds as if you are inside a Giallo movie.
While every chapter is visually different, they all look great. Environments are catastrophic and highly detailed, with plenty of items cluttering the hallways and rooms. Even though the game takes place onboard a cruise liner, it still offers various spaces to explore and see, some twisted beyond reason but all beautiful and inventive. Character models are admittedly where the graphics falter a bit compared to other modern games, but the monster that chases you around is well-crafted and disturbing.
The game also sounds fantastic, with a top-notch performance by the cast (yes, even the kids). The audio diaries, echoes from the past and the director’s evil monologues (voiced by non-other than Tony Todd) never break the immersion; they only serve to enhance the game’s general creepy mood.
Layers of Fear 2 is a slow, horrifying descent into madness. The story and visuals combine to create a dense atmosphere that continues to haunt you all the way to the end. I wish there was more of a challenge, like puzzles or a real sense of threat, but that’s not what this game is about – it’s about messing with your head and make you question the idea of identity. Layers of Fear 2 is probably the best narrative horror game by Bloober Team to date, and I hope they continue going down this twisted road.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.