A great many men are mad, and no one knows it. They do not know it themselves. –Agatha Christie
It’s been a few months since I did our Early Access preview of Layers of Fear, and in addition to playing through a finished build for our launch review, I’ve gone back over my thoughts and feelings from my preview. To be honest, I could pretty much cut and paste the whole damn thing and wipe my hands of it. And while efficient, I feel that would do the game a disservice. I do, however, stand by every damn word in my preview. Only now, the minor little concerns I had about the development builds have been cleaned up and addressed, and Layers of Fear feels like a very, very polished experience. Which is a bit of a double-edged sword, to be honest, ‘cause it’s incredibly scary.
My wish is that you may be loved to the point of madness. ―André Breton
It’s both wonderful and horrifying to jump back into Layers of Fear after so many months. To discover things not quite how I left them in a game about things not being quite where you left them is particularly unnerving. But to find all of the detail, brilliant use of colours, architecture, lighting, and mannequins (oh God, the mannequins) still used to great effect is wonderful. Only now, things have been tightened up that extra little bit to elevate Layers of Fear into the masterclass of horror games. What I find truly incredible, though, is that having experienced the game already, it still managed to terrify me as if it were my first experience with it during this full review. That’s something pretty special, if you ask me, and it all suggests a true mastery of fear.
The cries of the dead are terrible indeed; you should try not to hear them. –Philip K. Dick
I’m also very excited to report that my two concerns about the EA version, the jagged edges on object and occasional slow-down to break immersion, seem to be completely remedied. When it first dropped into Early Access, Layers of Fear was already one of the most polished horror experiences on PC. Now that it’s been honed and refined, though, it’s truly without equal. The whole experience may not be particularly long—it can be digested in a couple of hours—but I stand by my past statement of being “flabbergasted that we’ve reached a point where it’s possible to walk around a cinematic experience such as this in real-time.” I still maintain that anywhere you look, anywhere you can stop the camera, the game looks like a painstakingly rendered slide from a point-and-click.
One is always considered mad when one perfects something that others cannot grasp.-Ed Wood
The emphasis there is on painstaking. There was very clearly a lot of research that went into creating the character’s house; the woodwork; the panelling; the detailing. No part of Layers of Fear feels like a stage for the experience it delivers. The obsession with detail is incredibly immersive, and an interesting parallel to the story of the player character. How far would you go to get it right? How far would you run from the horrors of your past? How long could you pursue perfection? It’s easy to lose perspective on self and other in the pursuit of our passions.
I am mad, and I embrace it. –A.G. Howard
Borrowing from my previous closing paragraph: “Truly, Layers of Fear is a masterpiece to behold. Buy it. Play it. Buy it and have a friend play it while you watch if you’re faint-of-heart. Or for the full experience, play it in a dark room with surround-sound headphones on, but do something with it; anything. Layers of Fear is a horror experience the likes of which I’ve never before experienced, and to not experience it is doing a disservice to yourself, the game, and the people over at Bloober Team SA who created it.“ In lieu of the late PT and the Silent Hills game that was to follow, Layers of Fear is, quite possibly, the greatest horror experience we may see for some time. Where it lags behind SOMA in its philosophicalponderings, it more than pulls ahead in its ability to horrify on a primal level. Without a doubt, Bloober Team SA are a team to watch out for. Now if only I could get the magazine to comp me for these ruined underwear...