I normally don’t touch anything scary. I’m not built for it. But when developer Bloober Team originally came out with Observer in 2017, I was intrigued. Then I heard the developer was creating an updated version for the next generation of consoles. I knew I had to jump onto this noir game. Observer: System Redux is an updated version of the 2017, which boasts new side quests, features, and quality of life changes.
Observer: System Redux takes place in a gritty, cyberpunk future in which most humans have some form of cybernetic enhancements. This can be anywhere from robotic arms to SSD drivers placed directly into someone to store memory. But first came a digital plague, the Nanophage, which killed thousands of individuals.
After that came the War, which left both the West and the East decimated. When a power vacuum appeared, corporations stepped up to fill the void. This is where players come in.
Players take control of Daniel Lazarski, an observer for Chiron Corporation. An observer is an investigator who has the capability to perform neural interrogations by connecting, or “jacking,” directly into an individual’s neural chip. During the interrogations, players experience anything the individual felt, thought, or remembered. These visuals are used to solve mysteries.
The world of Observer is dark, dirty, and holds a certain level of equal parts charm and intrigue that reminds me of a weird mix of Blade Runner and Akira. Honestly, Observer is one of the most atmospheric games I’ve ever played. From the second I booted it up until I finally placed the controller down, I was absorbed into the world and mystery. The rundown apartment building the game takes place in is just the right amount of maze-like that it leaves the player feeling rundown and hopeless.
The atmosphere is equally met by the main story of Observer. Daniel gets a phone call from his son, Adam, asking him for help. This leads Daniel up to the Stacks, a run-down forgotten apartment complex. Think of the apartment towers in Judge Dredd. And of course, upon arrival, things are nothing like they seem. Players must use all of the tools available to Daniel: from neural interrogations, both sets of forensic visions, and good old fashion gum shoe ability.
Apart from the main story, Observer: System Redux offers three new side quests, which take Daniel all over the Stacks. These were honestly my favorite parts of the story. The air of mystery and the thrill of trying to figure out what is happening is one of the best aspects of Observer. Some of the puzzles and challenges lasted a little longer than I wanted them to, but I never found myself frustrated or lost with what I needed to do. Observer gives the player all of the clues, but it asks the player to think critically to move along some of the side quests.
Honestly, I found myself sucked into the atmosphere and story that I forgot I was playing a scary game at times. Observer relies more on atmospheric and psychological scares rather than jump scares, which I personally found refreshing. I spent most of my time on the edge of my couch with my stomach in knots because I was nervous about progressing. And at no point did that emotion go too far or not far enough. Observer struck a great balance between horror and game play. It was hard to guess when the game would lean to horror or puzzle, which was so great.
It would be a disservice to this game to ignore the reference to 1984 with “Big Brother” always watching and making sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to. That ideology is the true back bone of Observers story, but it isn’t afraid to stray from the path and make serious deviations. Observer tackles loss, family issues, domestic violence, abandonment, and regret so beautifully. I felt myself grieving for characters and wanting even the worst of the worst to succeed and find happiness to some degree.
Unfortunately, I did experience a few graphical glitches and game slow downs while playing. There would be hallways I would enter and the game would freeze, textures would load, disappear, and different textures would load. Or I would be walking around an apartment and the game would drop frames to stutter then jump right back like nothing had happened. While it does affect the end of the game more than the beginning, I never found these incidents to distract from the gameplay.
Technical issues aside, Observer: System Redux is a great scary exploration/detective game that left me in awe. Being able to piece together clues from scans, to talking to witnesses, or being able to make decisions in game made me feel in control. The story left me satisfied, although I prefer the rejection ending more. Observer: System Redux is a great quick indie title to break in your next-gen console.
Images provided within the review were taken in game on the PS5. Featured image provided by Bloober Team. Game provided to reviewer from publisher/developer for review purposes.