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Layers of Fear Review (PS5) – Palpable Visuals That Set the Unreal Engine 5 Bar High

Layers of Fear Review (PS5) – The Layers of Fear franchise has seen some healthy success since its release in 2016. Now, Bloober Team pushes all of the content from the franchise into one shiny new package using a brand new engine. Does it bring it all together nicely? In a word: quite.

Layers of Fear Review (PS5) – Palpable Visuals That Set the Unreal Engine 5 Bar High

Much of what you experience in Layers of Fear on PS5 is what you experienced when playing the first and second games (as well as accompanying DLC), at least in terms of story content. Please feel free to check out our dedicated reviews of Layers of Fear and Layers of Fear 2.

Where this release differentiates itself from the original games is how it combines those two titles together into one cohesive concept.

At the start of the game, you take on the role of The Writer. The Writer won a publishing deal with a book company to write her next work and use the company’s lighthouse as an inspirational space to write.

From the beginning, she feels nothing but weird vibes from the lighthouse. Lights come on and off, and certain parts of the lighthouse are locked off, opening up only when the lighthouse wills it.

After her publisher passively strong-arms her with her contract, she gets to work on the first story, which ends up as the original Layers of Fear game. What makes this additional story so great in this entire package is it puts the events from the original game into a common context.

Even though they have very little to do with each other in story beats, both games come from the mind of The Writer. This not only unifies them, but Layers of Fear also gives each story additional purpose in regard to The Writer and her circumstances.

For the lack of a better word, it truly adds a welcome layer to the entire series.

Ever Closer To Realism

There were several points in the game where I just sat back in awe at what I saw. Without even thinking, I snapped screenshots constantly, so much that I realized afterwards some were ruined by the save icon in the corner.

Lighting is absolutely fantastic. The benefits of Lumen embedded in Unreal Engine 5 take center stage and never let go. When going into darker areas, your eyes take a bit to acclimate to the lower light.

I mean this legitimately in that you don’t adjust in a second or two. It takes a good ten seconds before you can start to see. I personally love this authenticity.

In low light as well, Lumen flexes its technological muscles. One particular thing to notice is how candlelight flickers across the room. Instead of light being a fixed area around the candle, the surrounding light shifts along with the flame, pouring over every object in range.

My absolute favorite lighting effect comes when you point your lantern light at rain as it rolls down windows. The rain itself illuminates, but it also creates small reflections of light back at you, adding such wonderful realism to the rain.

It also ripples that light on the rolling water. Lighting effects are nothing short of spectacular.

Where’s That Sound?

Let me tell you something: This game’s sound design is out of this world. I played with a 3D headset, which worked beautifully on its own. Sounds are crisp and clear and vibrant.

One thing that stood out was when an entity speaks directly into The Writer’s head. The voice sounds like it originates from between your ears.

At the same time, when I play sound from my TV, I still feel the 3D effect. Not just to the left side or right side either. I mean, it somehow gives me impressions of being behind me or beside me.

The internal voice work doesn’t have the same effect as when using headphones, since you can’t wear your TV on your head.

Naturally, the absolute best experience is with a headset, but the game will give you a great experience anyway with just a television.

For the sake of transparency, I have a TCL 55-inch TV that I bought 3 years ago. Somehow, Bloober Team and Unreal Engine 5 makes magic work with old televisions.

There’s a sequence in the game where an entity chases after you in the dark. Your lantern can only be used for small bursts, so the directional audio pays dividends to your success. It also adds extra suspense when you run out of charged light, especially if you hear she’s close.

Also, a couple times while playing the game, there was either crying or laughter coming from different parts of the mansion in the first half. I always pursued it out of sheer curiosity, but I didn’t always find the source of the sound.

Occasionally, I would be in a room with the sound, but there wasn’t a source or sign that it visibly came from there. These were likely creative choices, but I still couldn’t help but wonder where they came from and why.

Full, Vivid Environments

Fans of these games know just how saturated these games are with detail and nuance. I only played the first Layers of Fear, but the sequences that I remember the most all felt more substantial than they did the previous time.

Bloober Team promised that these games are built from the ground up in Unreal Engine 5, and it shows constantly.

Some of the best effects come when objects fall out of paintings or streak, disintegrate, and burn. Everything looks so tangible. When things fall from the ceiling and smolder into dust, I just stop and watch. I can’t get enough of it, even if it startles me.

One particular scene that I loved from the original game stood out yet again this time around. There’s this part in the basement where a piano plays, and all of the objects in the basement move along with the music.

Combining the sound quality with the sophisticated lighting technology and all the objects bouncing off each other makes it a spectacle like none other.

Then, there’s a point where you pick up a half-full wine bottle. As you rotate it around, the wine literally sloshes and froths as you move it. It doesn’t look shiny or artificial either. It sounds like a ridiculous thing to focus on, but I literally jostled that wine bottle for a good five minutes.

This is a detail that many people won’t even see, since you can just pick something like this up and put it down right away. Bloober Team put that extra touch into literally everything.

A Couple Oddities

Occasionally, when I run through a corridor, the game hiccups and rubber bands me back to a previous spot. Oddly enough, those situations occur when running around tight corners. It only happened 3 times in my entire playthrough.

In fact, all 3 happened in what would be the first Layers of Fear game content. These glitches don’t break the experience, since they don’t occur in hectic points, but they certainly break the palpable immersion.

There was also one weird tutorial that popped up randomly after getting onto a boat. After having played the game for the better part of four hours, the game told me again how to interact with objects.

This was shortly followed by a command to crouch, which was introduced in the second Layers of Fear. I suspect that this was just left in the second game, even though it proves itself redundant in this complete package.

It’s nothing a good patch can’t fix, but it’s still there right now.

Layers of Fear Paves the Way for Unreal Engine 5

Layers of Fear proves its quality once again with its rebuild in a new, more powerful engine. It also acts as a clinical showcase for the engine itself, flexing its capabilities by enhancing its realism much more than before.

A couple oddities are one or two patches away from fixing, so not much gets in your way. The PS5 release of Layers of Fear is by far the definitive way to play this series.

Unless this type of game is absolutely not your thing, Layers of Fear is an easy recommendation.

Layers Of Fear is now available on PS5.

Review code kindly provided by the publisher.



The Final Word

There's no better way to play this series than the PS5 release of Layers of Fear, combining both stories under one cohesive umbrella. It also shows fantastic early potential in Unreal Engine 5, showcasing exactly what it can offer the rest of the gaming industry.