Observer: System Redux is Bloober Team’s first entry on PlayStation 5 and Xbox One, even if it is closer to a definitive edition of a game than a full remaster.
The new release – dubbed Observer: System Redux – drastically fixes most of the problems people had with the original release. There are updates to lighting and visuals, as well as a poor frame rate. I never played the original release myself, but I heard it was great despite the technical issues.
Nevertheless, I jumped into the shoes of Dan Lazarski, a seasoned and gruff detective looking for his estranged son. Things take place largely in an apartment building that has just initiated a lockdown. Whenever a possibility of infection from the nanophage virus happens, an automatic lockdown occurs. Armed with body augmentations, Dan scours the building while talking to and learning about the inhabitants in this dystopian section of 2084 Poland.
A strong cast of characters
It’s a unique game and made even more so by the fact that there are almost no NPCs. Since the apartment building is in lockdown, Dan interacts with the people that live there through intercoms on their doors. Sometimes there are screens on the intercoms but often not even that.
Much like other Bloober Team titles, the Observer isn’t bloated or filled with filler. Instead, it’s a well-crafted title, one that gives each character their own unique style and voice, particularly Dan. Players will quickly learn that Dan’s augmentations make him sick, and he often needs to take a pill to keep it in check.
Observer: System Redux is significantly more open in a sense than other titles from the developer in recent years – save for maybe Blair Witch – but at least it’s filled with an interesting cast to get to know, even if you don’t see them. Easily the most interesting part of the narrative is using Dan’s Dream Eater to see and walk in people’s memories. Bloober Team is no stranger to horror titles, and these sections are the most disturbing portions of the game.
The puzzles are too simple
Since most of Observer: System Redux is a bit of a walking simulator (a la Layers of Fear), I would have liked to see more interesting and complex puzzles, particularly in the Dream Eater sequences. There are environmental clues throughout most of the game, but the majority of the puzzles are rather simple to get through or even nonexistent, opting for a bit of a maze instead. Conceptually, I think that a lot of the ideas presented in Observer: System Redux are great; I just wish the execution of some of the sequences was a bit better.
Major technical improvements
Luckily, the technical issues that plagued the original release aren’t here. The game already looked good, even if it sacrificed performance. Playing on an Xbox Series X, Observer runs smoothly at a much higher framerate than before. The apartment building is littered with run-down fences, doors, and hallways, and the craftsmanship put into each area is stellar. The design of each area also helps validate Dan’s gruffness and helps flesh out the character that much more. This is a dreary city; you understand just how bad it is from exploring one building, even if you don’t really get a full sense of the world.
According to some of the additional info we got for this review copy, there is also some new content for those that played the original. Since I never did I can’t exactly specify how different it feels, but new side missions and new levels have been added to the Fire & Sword minigame. It probably feels closer to a “definitive edition” of the game than a full remaster. Honestly, with how well it runs, who cares?
I’m a huge fan of psychological horror, and Bloober Team is one of the best in the business. Those who haven’t played Observer or even fans of detective stories should find something to like here. Bloober Team always manages to wind a tight narrative with intricate set pieces of sheer dread, and Observer is no exception. I’m really looking forward to The Medium in 2021 because it seems like the devs are locking down their genre and craft.
Game Freaks 365 received a free review copy.