Film directors. We’ve all heard stories about how difficult they can be to work with. Francis Ford Coppola has more than a few to his name. Now imagine being trapped on a creepy ship with one such cinema auteur and they've lost their mind. That’s the premise of Layers of Fear 2, the latest game from the masters of first-person horror over at Bloober Team.
Although not tangibly connected to Layers of Fear, the follow-up certainly shares some DNA with 2016’s breakout spookfest. Both games have you delving into the mind of a seriously unstable artist and neither are shy about their influences. While the original was enamored with Konami’s PT, Layers of Fear 2 owes its inspiration to classic cinema and unnerving horror iconography.
Sensory Overload in Layers of Fear 2
You play as an actor aboard an impressively large vessel. An intriguing kind of Hollywood boat filled with film sets, props, and seriously creepy mannequins. The nightmare begins as mysteriously as it continues. You’re in your room - which serves as a kind of hub between chapters - as the wonderful Tony Todd (who serves as the game’s narrator) growls thinly-veiled threats at you.
Delving too deep into the specifics of Layers of Fear 2 would spoil the experience of seeing it firsthand. It’s an unpredictable and consistently surprising rollercoaster of thrills and spooks. Gingerly roaming through narrow corridors and bizarre film sets wouldn’t be nearly as engaging if it wasn’t for the thick coating of atmosphere found throughout. Sharp and carefully utilized lighting helps highlight disturbing imagery, leaving you jumping at every shadow.
Meanwhile, the impressively suffocating sound design elevates the fear factor. Accompanied by a powerful and unsettling score, the soundscape of Layers of Fear 2 is brilliantly realized. Every creak, rattle, and bang adds another sweat to your brow as you delve deeper. Tony Todd’s narration is fantastic. His penetrating voice fits perfectly. Bloober Team clearly has a knack for securing big-name talent and I'm so glad. Headphones are a must for the best experience.
Layers of Fear 2’s Unsettling Sights And Inspirations
As seems to be a tradition in first-person horror games, manual interactions are aplenty. You’ll be carefully opening doors, pulling levers, and methodically making your way through winding corridors and film sets. Horribly distorted monsters will also chase you through these environments. These tense and thrilling moments remain effective thanks to their sparing use. The visual effects deployed on the shapeless darkness are extremely unnerving. They move with twitchy, unnatural movements that are seemingly inspired by the weirdest moments of Twin Peaks.
One of the greatest tricks Layers of Fear 2 pulls is its ever-shifting environment. You can’t trust what you see, and what you see might not last for long. Corridors and rooms shift seamlessly as you look around, making you feel as though you’re truly in a nightmare you have no control over.
Although this is perhaps another sign of the clear PT influence, it’s executed well enough to feel fresh. The game also makes clever use of perspective with puzzles that make use of light, shadow, and more to create some neat little moments that keep things engaging.
PT isn’t the only clear inspiration. A love of classic cinema echoes throughout Layers of Fear 2. Neat vintage film posters (some real, others not) serve as collectibles. It also makes stark use of black-and-white and contrast, a staple of classic noir cinema. There are also overt references to the iconic horror moments and imagery, such as The Shining and Twin Peaks.
Layers of Fear 2 Review | Final Thoughts
Layers of Fear 2 is an unnerving and memorable descent into madness. Bloober Team reminds us why they're the masters of psychological horror. The stellar lighting, fantastically disturbing set pieces, and engaging narrative make it bolder and tighter than its predecessor. If you’re looking for a good spook with the lights down low, this is something you won’t want to miss. Just don’t forget your headphones.
TechRaptor reviewed Layers of Fear 2 on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher.
- Unsettling and Unpredictable
- Stellar Atmospheric Lighting
- Great Score
- Tony Todd
- Infrequent Audio Mixing Issues