Over the course of the past five years, Layers of Fear has been released on pretty much every platform known to man, and I’ve heard rumblings deep within the darkest corners of the internet that it’ll even be a special hidden feature in the next line of Samsung smart refrigerators. All jokes aside, this is one of the greatest modern horror games that doesn’t have “Resident,” “Hill,” or “Outlast” in the title, and having been released on all of the other popular VR platforms a few years ago, it only makes sense that it comes to the PSVR, or what I like to call the best VR unit on a budget. So, how does Layers of Fear VR holdup? Well, let me paint a picture for you.
When it comes to Bloober Team, I’ve had some mixed feelings about a few of their releases, but I’ve loved every second of Layers of Fear, its not quite as amazing but still decent enough to talk about DLC, its sequel, and the way the world around you twists and turns, in some instances, right before your eyes. They are masters of tricking the player into feeling lost at the absolute worst of times, and even when there is no immediate threat, you almost always feel like something is there; watching; waiting, only to strike at the most opportune moment. The VR port is no different, but at the end of the day, it’s just that – a port of the full experience (lacking the previously mentioned DLC). As of this writing, this is only the third game I’ve played that attempted to pull this off, with the others being Resident Evil 7 and Doom 3, and sadly, it doesn’t stack up to the original, even if we’re not playing the comparison game between the other games.
Since the original release, we’ve seen almost an entire console generation come and go, and it shows. Even when revisiting the original game on my Series X, it looks pretty rough compared to today’s standards, but the VR port removes a few additional layers, likely due to the PSVRs not quite HD resolution. Most of the finer details have been painted over, and while the end result is close enough to the original, it’s not going to pull you in the way some of the other more recent VR entries would. There are some well-placed jump scares that caught me off guard and warranted an involuntary blink here and there, but nothing particularly jarring Maybe it’s the fact that I am desensitized to the occasional horrific image that popped up from swallowing every bit of horror I can get my teeth into, or the fact that I’ve played this game from start to finish multiple times to see every possible ending or nook and cranny. It is almost entirely plausible that this was a case where my expectations were too high, but by the time the credits rolled, I was content to uninstall the game and probably never revisit it. At least, not in this format.
I did appreciate the wealth of VR-specific options, going as far as to give you the option to turn off some of the more gnarly effects in an effort to combat nausea at the cost of most of the worthwhile elements, but regardless of how often I tweaked this or that, I still struggled throughout with navigation. To my utter dismay, this game only supports PS Move controllers and in case you haven’t looked at one recently, they don’t have any analog sticks. With most of the PSVR lineup, this isn’t a problem as you can teleport about like an overweight member of the X-Men who fell in a vat of blue paint, or by sticking to on-rails style gameplay. Nope, not here, this is a situation where we are asked to move about freely with face buttons. The end result is you using the main button to move forward with the smaller standard face buttons being used for turning and whatnot. This is a complete and utter nightmare that gave me flashbacks of trying to play Goldeneye 64 with this setup on my second least favorite controller of all time.
The plus side is that most of this experience is simply walking forward, hitting some sort of obstacle, then having to turn around to find the environment behind you has changed greatly; however, in the event you do need to open a drawer or pick up an item that has any static assets within reach, getting there is a challenge on par with trying to flawlessly parallel park a blimp. With this being said, I found myself pushing forward, ignoring most of the optional side bits of info that delve deeper into the troubled family history simply to say “I beat it” for this review. This became a mild issue with some of the scripted elements, as I found myself looking half at where the game wanted me, and half off to the side, far from where my attention was meant to be, and can simply be blamed on the lackluster, borderline unplayable controls.
One less impacting complaint I have is the ending; not because it doesn’t complete the terrorizing portrait of neglect and a family falling apart, but largely due to it making a similar misstep that Doom 3 VR did in its recent port. The cut scene is a flat image that just displays before you, as if you were using your headset to watch non-VR content, and then in a less than smooth transition boots you back into VR for the stinger at the end.
By the time the paint dries, Layers of Fear VR is an example of something that would naturally work well in the VR medium, but falls short due to the questionable movement mechanics. I sincerely hope Bloober Team sees this and considers adding controller support, or at the very least, adds it for any future ports. If you can tolerate the tank-like controls and have yet to experience the original masterpiece, I would recommend this as a good jumping-off point. For those who’ve seen the true Magnum Opus, I would simply say revisit it on your preferred platform, as it’s definitely a superior version.
5 out of 10
- Captures Most of What Made the Original Great
- Tons of VR-Specific Options
- Movement is Downright Atrocious
- Flat Cut-Scenes
- Lower Resolution Sacrifices Lots of Visual Details
Layers of Fear VR was developed by Incuvo S.A. and published by Bloober Team. This review is specific to the PSVR version of the game and does not reflect performance on the other VR systems. The game was provided to us for review on PS4 and played on a PS5. If you’d like to see more of Layers of Fear VR, check out the official site.
Here at GBG we use a rating method that you are more than likely familiar with – a scale of 1 to 10. For clarification, we intend on using the entire scale: 1-4 is something you should probably avoid paying for; 5-7 is something that is worth playing, but probably not at full price; 8-10 is a great title that you can feel confident about buying. If you have any questions or comments about how we rate a game, please let us know.