Layers of Fear 2 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Justin Prinsloo 19.06.2019

Review for Layers of Fear 2 on PlayStation 4

While 2016's Layers of Fear was ironically a flat and singular experience, Layers of Fear 2 steps out in style and aspires to trump its predecessor in every way. The former played it safe and as a result was panned by critics, so it's encouraging to see its sequel takes some risks. Can Bloober Team's most ambitious title to date shrug off its tech limitations and forge an identity in gaming's burgeoning horror genre?

From its opening moments to its dying breath, Layers of Fear 2 seeks to flourish in its uneasy atmosphere and layered storytelling. As its mystery unfolds and twists unwind, the plot only grows in strength and is nothing short of a joy to experience. Heavily influenced by early 1900's cinema, it pays homage in both style and substance to cinema's formative years. There are multiple stories that unfold simultaneously and ultimately link in clever ways; first, an actor hired for a film being shot on a massive ocean liner must navigate his director's increasingly warped and morbid challenges in order to form the ideal character. Simultaneously, the tale of two sibling stowaways is uncovered, as well as the circumstances that lead to them running away from home and how the shadow of their abuse follows them.

Screenshot for Layers of Fear 2 on PlayStation 4

The scriptwriting here is simply excellent. It's poetic without being pretentious, brought to life thanks to a talented cast. As the protagonist ventures through the dark twists and turns of the morphing cruise ship, the player is tasked with exploring the depths of the horrors hidden within, solving the occasional puzzle, and running away from the formless monster that stalks in the shadows. There aren't very many mechanics beyond navigation and picking up clues along the way, some of which are inconsequential and some of which significantly complement the plot. This is classic survival horror aided by Bloober Team's budding skill at crafting scares.

Aiding the morbid plot is an atmosphere that is absolutely to die for. Jump scares abound, but they are not even the scariest part of this game - it's the chills induced by a radio suddenly turning off when the player looks away from it, or the quiet terror when a mannequin changes position when out of the protagonist's line of sight that truly set Layers of Fear 2 alight. The soundtrack is haunting and fits the rest of the experience like a glove, and there is some excellent and immersive level design in both the tight confines of the ship and the nightmarish plains that sprout herein. Furthermore, the game has three different endings which all drastically change the meaning of the story, and while the choices that lead to these endings are very clear and one-dimensional, the complex variety between the endings more than makes up for it.

Screenshot for Layers of Fear 2 on PlayStation 4

The control scheme is simple enough: it is comprised mostly of the basic first-person horror move set but has an interesting quirk: the interaction button is mapped to the right trigger, which works in tandem with the right stick so that directional inputs are built into most interactions. Opening a door requires the right stick to be moved in the direction the door is opening, turning a wheel is a matter of rotating the right stick, and so on. It's a minor detail that considerably heightens the immersion.

However, Layers of Fear 2 is unfortunately not without its faults. It is not as polished as it could have been, and various glitches and bugs abound; assets can randomly disappear at times and the audio periodically sounds as though it's playing underwater. Framerate stutters destroy the carefully crafted atmosphere and the loading times are bordering on overlong.

Screenshot for Layers of Fear 2 on PlayStation 4

This reviewer encountered nothing game-breaking, but there are certainly some immersion-busting niggles that could use ironing out. Additionally, many of the scripted scares count on the player facing a certain direction when they go off, which lead this reviewer to miss a few. It can be frustrating when a jump scare twang sounds but only a glimpse of the scare itself is caught out of the corner of the eye.

Nevertheless, the atmosphere is eerie and memorable. Colour seamlessly draining from the screen for environments to become reminiscent of black and white film can instil a sense of dread at what lurks in the shadows. Bloober Team has honed its talent for capturing nightmarish scenarios and warping natural expectations. It is a pity that Layers of Fear 2 is not as polished as it could be, but it nevertheless provides a great horror experience via the marriage of its story and level design.

Screenshot for Layers of Fear 2 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Layers of Fear 2 is narratively brilliant but lacks some much-needed polish that would truly make it great. The game subsequently struggles to deliver consistently over the course of its roughly eight-hour length, but it is ultimately this short campaign and its thrilling atmosphere that saves it from becoming monotonous, allowing its expertly crafted story to truly shine. The game lives up to its name as a layered and nuanced tale of horror, making it worth experiencing for any fan of the genre.

Developer

Bloober Team SA

Publisher

Gun Media

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date 28.05.2019   North America release date 28.05.2019   Japan release date 28.05.2019   Australian release date 28.05.2019   

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