Layers of Fear Review - PS4's Scariest Game?

I often find myself disagreeing with reviewers when it comes to horror games. To me, a horror game is successful when despise any other things, it scares me. However, it seems like many people have particularly exquisite taste when it comes to these games. I guess I'm a simple man. Anyways, that's pretty much what happened with 'Layers of Fear.' A lot of critics seem to be hating on the game, but I thought it was awesome!

So what is Layers of Fear all about? Well, it's a first-person horror video game. More precisely, it's a walking simulator, inspired by other titles such as P.T. In the game, you play as an insane painter. You don't know much about him, except that he has to finish his final masterpiece at all costs. After that, you explore an enormous house (the entire game take place in this location) while trying to collect the items needed to finish the painting.

The first thing I want to talk about is the story. For the most part, horror games aren't known for having a compelling plot;but I actually feel like Layers of Fear tells a very interesting story. Going in, the game tells you that your character is a married painter about to have a baby. Sadly, this painter has gone mad. But as you progress through the game, you start to understand why his life fell apart, and the things that happened afterwards. Funny thing is, none of these details are delivered by cutscenes. They're rewarded to you if you decide to explore the world.

Indeed, Layers of Fear does a fantastic job at rewarding you for being thorough. As you traverse the house and its many rooms, you find a tremendous amount of drawers, chests and closets. 90% of the time, these storage compartments will be empty. However, every now and then you will find something. It can be a small thing like a picture or drawing, or more significant elements like letters and newspaper clippings. But all of them add context to the story. All of a sudden, you want to take the time to really explore every room, in order to get the most out of the experience.

Now, let's answer the million dollar question: "Is Layers of Fear scary?" Yes it is. Quite scary, I would add. Most of the game's horror comes with jump scares. For some reason, certain fans of the genre immediately get turned off as soon as they hear this. But I think that developer Bloober team did a clever job in the way they delivered these jump scares. Usually, most games accomplish to accelerate your heartbeat by having a huge, creepy man chase you down a dark hallway. And while Layers of Fear does some of that, a ton of the horror is psychological. Sound effects like piano melodies, sinister scenery like a kid's room, and bizarre psychedelic moments that alter the way the game looks. One mechanic I particularly enjoyed came when I knew something's was about to happen, without really knowing what was about to happen. At times, I'd walk down a corridor only to find out the door is locked. At that moment, you know something's going to appear when you turn around, but you're not sure about what it is. That second full of regret and panic before turning around had me shaking like a baby.

Finally, let's talk about the negatives. I only have one: the game doesn't run that well. This surprised me a lot, because the game is not graphically demanding. I wouldn't say it's ugly, but it's definitely not beautiful. A big portion of the textures and objects are shown multiple times, which is a weird stylistic choice. So I don't understand why the game has framerate and stuttering issues. It's probably because it runs on Unity. But hey, I'm not a dev. These problems never ruined the experience, but they certainly held it back from being amazing. Length-wise, the game doesn't overstay it's welcome, clocking out at about 5 hours.

Verdict: Layers of Fear gets the job done. It's tense, scary, clever and unique. While small performance issues hold it back from being the absolute best horror game I've played on my PS4, it surely is up there.

The Good
- Clever, Psychological Horror
- Interesting Story
- Game Rewards Exploration
- Short and Tight

The Bad
- Performance Issues

Developer: Bloober Team
Publisher: Aspyr Media
Available on: PS4 (reviewed), X1 and PC
Release Date: 2016-02-16

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