LAYERS OF FEAR 2
Developed by Bloober Team
Published by Gun Media
Available on Steam, PS4 and Xbox One
For your new role in a movie, the director has asked you meet him onboard the ship where the film will be shot. Expecting to find out more about the character you play once you’ve boarded, you’re instead greeted by taped messages from the director who has hidden clues throughout the ship for you to discover who your character truly is. With nobody around to question this mysterious production, you must explore the abandoned ship to find out clues as to who your character is and why you’ve been chosen for this role.
LAYERS OF FEAR 2 is a psychological, first-person horror game that focuses on exploring the environment, solving puzzles and discovering clues via point-and-click.
Set on an ocean liner, the game wants you to feel claustrophobic as soon as you start the first act, however, rather than feeling hemmed in, I felt the sea-sickness brewing as the visuals decide to sway as though you’re actually onboard a ship. Not good if, like me, you suffer from motion sickness!
For an exploration game, I was quite surprised to find that LAYERS OF FEAR 2 is incredibly linear and feels in many ways like an on-rails game. Some videogames, like Silent Hill for example, will have multiple doors unlocked so you must enter them before you find the right one you need to pursue. In LAYERS OF FEAR 2, the doors are locked except for the one that the game wants you to go through. This means you can easily blast through the gameplay without a care in the world because you seem to know exactly where you’re going, thus it loses the opportunity to scare the player. Games that allow you to wander around, opening the doors to many rooms that boogeymen and spirits could be hiding within, often have a much better effect on me as a gamer as the fear factor ramps up as I wonder just what’s around the corner. Not having this in a supposed horror game feels a bit of a missed opportunity.
Stuck on a ship with little to do other than explore it leads the player into familiar territory – jump scares, rooms that morph or change location/position, objects being thrown and fleeting glimpses of spirits. It’s all been done before and I found it all a bit monotonous and not really that scary. I didn’t even jump one bit even though the eerie environments, with their poised mannequins and steampunk set pieces, lend themselves to effectively setting a spooky vibe throughout the game. The enigmatic director of the film that you’ve been cast in seems camera shy himself but his voice, that of horror icon Tony Todd, is enough to give you the creeps even if he talks in riddles. The voice talent is there to create a suspenseful game but unfortunately the rest of game just doesn’t live up to its namesake – it’s lucky if it has even a single layer of fear such is the stilted, flat gameplay.
Exploration isn’t the only gaming mechanic employed here. There are puzzles in this game however they’re not that challenging and can be easily solved if you care to look around (one puzzle is even spelled out in front of you). Outside of this, LAYERS OF FEAR 2 tries to bring in an intense element with chase sequences and elements in which you have to dodge the light or steam in order to progress. These are few and far between and the rest of the gameplay, which involves clicking on objects and clues, feels like pointless filler even though its the main beef of the game. Without the clues, there would be no story but the story itself isn’t that interesting to begin with. A game like this, that relies on storytelling so much, needs to follow the rules of filmmaking and make people care about the story and the characters involved, like the recent A Plague Tale: Innocence has done. Seeing as we know nothing about our character to start with anyway, it’s hard to keep playing through the linear acts without getting bored or frustrated with the lack of real storytelling or build up of fear.
Having not experienced the first game, I cannot compare LAYERS OF FEAR 2 to its predecessor. However, as a standalone game I feel it lacks in all areas apart from design. The game itself looks wonderful but it simply doesn’t have the story or gameplay substance behind it to truly chill the player and instead becomes a test of patience if you’re looking to see it through to the very end.