Layers of Fear 2023 Review – Unreal Engine 5 Re-Layering

Layers of Fear 2023 Review

Layers of Fear 2023 from Bloober Team and Anshar Studios is the definitive version of the Layers of Fear franchise. The 2023 release is a repackaging of the first two games and their respective DLCs. It is also an artistic and technical retooling with the goal of heightening the tension and horror.
How successful were the two teams in achieving that goal? Here are my findings. Remember, the developers don’t consider this game a remake or a remaster. They consider it a reimagining in that this game combines new and old elements.

The Layers of Fear series comprises two games; Layers of Fear in 2016 and Layers of Fear in 2019. Both games featured artist as the main protagonist. In the first game, you play as the painter, for the second game, an actor. To continue the theme of the obsessive artist, Layers of Fear 2023 introduces the writer.
Layers of Fear 2023 takes the new writer content and weaves it through the first two games in chronological order. They did this shuffling to clarify the narrative and close plot holes. So the game starts with the new Writer’s Note content in an isolated lighthouse. Here the writer, looking for solitude to facilitate her next project, discovers information about the previous two games.

Retuned Story and Gameplay

As the, now unified, story progresses, the narrative shifts back to the writer to continue the connections between the previous stories. To further flesh out the existing storyline in the first game, the developers created new DLC content. Titled the Final Note, it adds the perspective of the painter’s wife as a way to provide further answers. However, it remains to the writer’s lighthouse sections to bring all the story elements together.
To further bolster the narrative, they tweaked the layout of each game too. They are close to the originals, but the paths and their content are modified to keep the focus on the horror aspects. That includes jump scares. From a story point of view, these changes are welcome.

However, if you didn’t like the originals, there is nothing here that will change your mind. The game is still linear, but even more so with the changes. The puzzles remain straight forward and the walking simulator nature of the game remains largely unchanged.

To be fair, the developers introduced a new game mechanic to spice things up and a change of pace. Added is a lantern/flashlight mechanic used in other horror games like Alan Wake. While this addition is welcome, it feels like what it is, an add-on. It does not alter the fundamental nature of the game.

Layers of Fear 2023 = Tighter Gameplay

Another change made is the removal of the gimmicky interactive objects that did nothing to further the game. Instead, they just created frustration. Now rooms feel less like playrooms and more like story set pieces designed to keep the player moving forward.

To keep things fresh for veteran players, the developers rearrange items within the environments. There are new animations, voice-overs, puzzles, and collectibles too. There are also multiple endings based on decisions made over the course of the game.

Using Unreal Engine 5 allowed Blooper and Anshar Studios to further boost the changes by redoing the games. Comparing the new graphics to the original content is a genuine revelation on several fronts. The original games are limited in their execution of mood and atmosphere because of the technical limitations of Unreal Engine 4.
The lighting and environmental capabilities of Unreal Engine 5 allow for greater immersive. With 4K resolution, HDR, and Ray Tracing, the environments of the game world are so much more rendered realistically. The lighting engine is now dynamic thanks to Lumen global illumination. Making the world even more vibrant and alive is the particle effects that are rendered in real time.

Horror Easter Eggs

These changes are apparent in the sections based on the previous games: the painter’s mansion and the ocean liner. The ocean liner from the second game is fun for horror fans on several fronts. The first is the voice work by The Candyman himself, Tony Todd. Additionally, there are plentiful Easter Eggs for movies such as The Shining, Psycho, and Se7en to name a few.

However, where the Unreal Engine 5’s capabilities really shine are with the new sections of the game. This is most notable in the Lighthouse and the game section linking hallways. Free of any restrictions from the original assets, the new environments show off much more of the new game engine. Also, the lighthouse and the surrounding world allow for more contrasting environments.


As with recent games on the current gen of consoles, there are performance and quality modes. I recommend the quality mode, given the slower nature of the game. The enhanced atmosphere because of the ray traced shadows and dynamic lighting is more than a worthy frame rate trade-off.
The net effect of all this new technology also extends to the sound design. With Unreal Engine 5, sound is more precise and reacts to the surrounding environment. Items in the game world will cause sound to bounce, echo and be muffled as it would in real-world situations.

Definitive Version

Never has the gap between artistic aspiration and technical limitations been so small. The result is a better balanced horror game where the horror and narrative elements can flourish better than what was achievable before.

This is the definitive version of the game and it brings all the previous Layers of Fear content together in a cohesive whole. Fans of the original game will enjoy revisiting these games in this tightened and polished version. New players who are horror fans should also find this a worthy experience.

*** PS5 code provided by the publisher ***

The Good

  • Gorgeous Unreal Engine 5 graphics
  • More coherent storyline
  • Quality of life gameplay improvements

The Bad

  • Story is linear
  • Original flaws still present
  • Object searching gets tedious