For reasons I can’t explain, I seemingly missed out on playing Bloober Team’s Observer in 2017, when it first launched. I find it especially odd as the game has all of the hallmarks of my favorite games, in a genre I completely love. Plus, it stars the late Rutger Hauer, one of my favorite actors. So, when the PlayStation 5 launched last month, and an upgraded version of the game, Observer: System Redux, was available at launch, I finally got a chance to play it.
Observer: System Redux is a detective story set in a Cyberpunk version of Krakow, Poland, in the year 2084. Hauer stars as Daniel Lazarski, an Observer, who uses a host of cybernetic implants to investigate crimes. One of the tools at his disposal is the Dream Eater, which lets him hack into subjects’ brain implants to experience their lives.
He can also scan crime scenes using electromagnetic and bio scanners built into his body. The scanner reveal clues that send him to the next part of the investigation. He also has to take pills to keep something called the nanophage, a technical virus, from corrupting his system.
The story open with Lazarski taking a call from his son, who is asking for help when the call is dropped. Lazarski goes to his son’s tenement building, and he discovers a crime that needs solving. This leads him down a horrific rabbit hole which made me question my own sanity in parts. Luckily, the adventure is pretty short, lasting only a few hours, but it was an intense few hours, for sure.
On the PS5, the haptic response and adaptive triggers of the DualSense controller are put to good use. Just as Lazarski has tools for his job, the DualSense acts a tool for mine. Observer: System Redux is a first person adventure, and using the various scanners while investigating creates a disorientating experience. I often wished I too could take a pill to make the effects go away. The HDR and ray tracing created some amazing lighting effects, as this dark future is full of neon and glowing lights.
The first time I hacked into someone’s brain with the Dream Eater was equal parts exhilarating and horrific. I’m still not sure of all that I experienced in those memories, and a small part of me thinks that in seven days, something might crawl out from my TV and kill me. In short, it was a haunting experience.
Lazarski’s investigation takes some seriously twisted turns, and as I got deeper and deeper into the story, I realized more and more that I wanted out. It was this unsettling feeling that makes the game so unique. Now, three years after it first came out, I’m shocked we haven’t seen a sequel, as this is the kind of game that demands another story.
Observer: System Redux borrows from so many great sci-fi/cyberpunk elements, while still staying uniquely its own IP. Developer Bloober team loves the horror genre, for good or bad, and this game is an indicator of that fact. Hauer is tremendous as Lazarski, in one of his last roles, and his performance is what helps set the game apart from others in this genre. The mood effects and lighting in the tenement building, as well as the supporting cast of grotesque NPCs all add to the experience.
As gamers sit on the cusp of the release of another Cyberpunk-themed game, Observer: System Redux should not be overlooked. If you’ve never had the joy of playing through this game, this version on the new generation of consoles is the way to go. Just be warned, you might come of this a different person… if you survive at all.
Observer: System Redux is available now for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. This review was based off the PS5 version, with a code provided by the publisher.
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