Whilst Bloober Team are probably best known for their work on the Layers of Fear series and the Blair Witch game, their 2017 cyberpunk thriller Observer always stood out to me as their most special release. With its gripping and horrifying story, its slick dystopian world, and the brilliant Rutger Hauer taking on the role of protagonist Dan Lazarski, it had all of the ingredients to offer a memorable and disturbing futuristic thrill.
It makes sense then that they decided to re-visit the game to coincide with the launch of the new consoles, with Observer: System Redux revitalising the experience on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X with enhanced visuals and a few additions to make the game look and play better than ever. If you’re looking for a visual treat to show off how good your new console is, look no further than this.
Observer: System Redux’s tale kicks off with protagonist Dan Lazarski attempting to reach out to his estranged son following a strange call that came from a desolate apartment block that is full of seedy and suspicious folk. Things take a harrowing turn when he discovers a dead body in the room that the call originated from though, sparking an investigation that’ll not only see you uncovering the disturbing secrets that lie within the apartment block itself but also from within the memories of its inhabitants that you uncover along the way. You are an Observer after all, which means you can hack into people’s brain implants to re-visit their memories for interrogation purposes… it’s a good skill to have.
If you’re a fan of horror with a sci-fi twist, you’re going to love Observer: System Redux’s story. There’s plenty to see and do across the adventure that’ll both intrigue and horrify players in equal measure, whilst some neat twists and the great voice acting really bring it all to life. It’s a story-heavy experience but thankfully it always delivers – even if there are one or two moments where the pacing can be a little bit off.
You won’t see any significant changes in the gameplay between the original release and Observer: System Redux, with it still following the formula of having you explore your surroundings, uncover clues, interact with the inhabitants of the apartment block to find new information, and complete puzzle-like hacking segments. There have been some changes made here and there to make some of the stealth segments and puzzles easier to get through, but overall it pretty much feels like the same game.
That’s not a bad thing, though. Observer: System Redux was a lot of fun to play in its original form anyway, with enough interactivity to be found during its mystery to keep you completely immersed in the experience. Going through it all again with a fresh lick of paint is certainly worthwhile for returning players, whilst those completely new to the game will find it just as engrossing to play as those who experienced in its original form did. And hey, there are some additional side quests to be found this time around that bump up the adventure a bit, giving you a bit more creepy cyberpunk lore to dive into. It’s good stuff.
So we already know that the story and gameplay of Observer: System Redux is great across the board, but how do the new enhancements hold up? I’m happy to report that the game looks fantastic on the PlayStation 5, with the improved textures, ambient effects, and ray tracing helping make the futuristic setting even more beautiful than it was before, whilst playing at 4K ensures everything looks sleek throughout too. Bloober Team have made a lot of effort to make Observer: System Redux look and feel like a next-gen (or current-gen now, I guess…) game and it really pays off in the final product. It is guilty of seeing the frame rate drop here and there, but it never affects the gameplay or stops it from being sublime to see in action.
One thing I was a big fan of was the way that Observer: System Redux implements the DualSense controller, with a satisfying sense of resistance found when performing actions throughout the game world. It really helps immerse you in the dangerous situation that you find yourself in and it offers the most effective use of the controller that I’ve seen outside of Astro’s Playroom. It certainly sparks hope in me that it’s a feature that’s going to be widely used across the board on the platform, with Observer: System Redux showing third-party developers how to do it right.
Observer was already a great game when it released in 2017, but this new release makes it even better thanks to its array of impressive enhancements. It really is a beautiful looking game (in a horrifying cyberpunk kind of way), whilst the innovative use of the DualSense controller makes exploring its eerie world all the more immersive.
Add to that the fact that the narrative and gameplay is impressive throughout too and you’ll quickly find that Observer: System Redux is definitely worth your time three years on from its initial release. This isn’t just some quick resolution bumping enhancement, but a quality-focused remastering that makes an already great game even better.
Developer: Bloober Team
Publisher: Bloober Team
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), Xbox Series X|S, PC