Layers of Fear 2 looks to bring the scares to your summer, and it does deliver on that somewhat, but there is so much to discuss. The biggest thing a horror game needs to do is create the right kind of atmosphere to instill the player with the right amount of fear for what is to come. Layers of Fear 2 does this to a certain extent, but it is let down by instances of poor pacing. This game does make you feel like you are on your own against a being that is waiting for you to offer yourself up on a plate. The claustrophobic tunnels and corridors instill this high level of paralysing fear that something is going to attack you, and it is in these quiet moments that Layers of Fear 2 will leave you in a cold sweat.
The way this game starts is superb. You are on a boat and are playing the role of an actor. This game has similarities with other games in the genre like The Evil Within as its tale is that of an artist gone mad, and in this case there is a movie director who has lost his mind and is essentially torturing the protagonist through a twisted movie. The game plays out over five acts, and there are several moving parts in this tale that the player has to decipher.
The player character never speaks or has any internal monologues, so it is hard to tell how they feel about the events they are suffering through, but I can imagine it is not particularly pleasant. This does damage the game as it stops it from being a deeply personal experience. You never even find out the name of your character, which is either something that was just forgotten about or a massive oversight on the developer’s part. Your character also does not seem to have any sense of urgency at all. They don’t ever think, “Hmm, I might die, so I better lock this door quickly.”
As you make your way through the ocean liner, the game’s problems begin to rear their head. The run time for Layers of Fear 2 is significantly longer than the original game, but that works against it in this case. You can tell the developers were running out of ideas as the game becomes very routine and thus loses its scare factor the longer you play it. The jump scares become all too predictable, and all that brilliant atmosphere and dread that the game has built up, especially in the opening hours, disappears completely, like the world’s most disappointing magic trick.
As the game continues, it begins to really drag out as the pacing is completely warped. As I keep saying, the opening is incredible, but the boring middle and end ruin the game completely. There are also irritating insta-kill moments that really made me want to turn the game off. There is also a push to keep moving you forward by making sure all the doors and exits that take you to previous areas mysteriously lock themselves or just disappear entirely.
Whilst the game does takes influences from the horror game genre, it also does not hold back on the horror movie influences as well. You can see all the influences quite clearly from films ranging from Psycho to The Shining to even the flies from The Amityville Haunting. There are apparently multiple endings, but I got the same ending all three times I played the game, and I had no idea what I could have done differently to actually get a different ending.
To sum up this game, it is one part an amazing piece of horror art and one part the most frustrating game in the genre. Most horror games are able to spread their scares evenly throughout the experience, but this game really does struggle. If the developers stuck to the length of time of the original, then this game could have been a must buy, but by doubling the run time, you halve the fun. If you were a fan of the original game, then you will probably enjoy this one, but in all honesty, I would wait until Halloween time when this game will inevitably be involved in some form of flash sale.
Developer: Bloober Team
Publisher: Gun Media
Platforms: PC, PS$, Xbox One, Switch
Release Date: 28th May 2019