Observer: System Redux | PS4 Review
Updated: Nov 19, 2021
Observer: System Redux is a first-person, psychological horror game with some detective work and puzzles thrown into the mix. It is developed and published by Bloober Team and is now available on Windows PC, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, and XBox One/Series X/S. With it being widely available no matter your console, I’d like to start this review just by saying - if you’re even remotely a fan of horror games, you’re missing out by not owning this. Originally, the game was released as Observer in 2017 where it completely flew under my radar as I had not heard of it; however, with the updated graphics and the additional content that was released with this new 'System Redux' version, I’m glad to have now discovered this masterpiece.
The year is 2084. The place is a futuristic, cyberpunk dystopia set in Poland that is being ravaged by a Nanophage, a digital form of the plague that left the people turning to illicit drugs and incredible technological body modifications and all the while, there is an evil mega-corporation called Chiron who govern over everything. You assume the role of Dan Lazarski, voiced by Rutger Hauer, who is an Observer which is essentially a police officer who can plug himself into people’s brains and relive some semblance of their memories. Dan also has other tools at his disposal that help him with investigating crime scenes and getting a vivid and accurate picture of what had just transpired. Your key objective is to find your son, Adam, but to do so you must uncover the stories behind a series of murders and other corrupt crimes that have happened in the apartment building where you spend the majority of the game.
As you might be able to tell, I really enjoyed this game. The way the story developed really impressed me. I found the dialogue and voice acting excellent and the conversations that my character had with residents of the apartment building really were insightful. Often I find these kinds of dialogues can be quite mundane, apart from the odd one revealing lore to the player but in Observer: System Redux, more often than not if you knocked on someone's door, you were either going to discover some key story points or the political and social climate of this dystopia was going to be further revealed to you. The depth of the story constantly had me thinking and kept my brain ticking throughout, wondering how far away we are from such things happening. Will we soon have technological body modifications available to us? Could the digital world really turn into a physical virus? Will technology truly turn toxic towards us?
As mentioned previously, Dan can connect himself to victims and see their experiences through dream-like events. These events get constantly more psychedelic and insane as you progress through the game and are an amazing break from the drab and dreary apartment building where the game takes place so the game really takes care of the player and always keeps you on your toes. Sometimes I feel that horror games aren’t overly well developed and with them tending to be set in only one place, they can feel somewhat claustrophobic. However these constant breaks from reality so to speak and the constant feeling of “what the hell is going on here?”, I was always thankful to return to the real world found inside the apartment block. These dream sequences really ramped up the pace of the game every time they happened and often featured some excellently timed jump-scares that more often than not, caught me out.
Aside from the exceptional story line, the other thing I really appreciated about Observer: System Redux is that there was no combat, no hiding or seeking (one or two areas requiring stealth but nothing major) and no tangible enemy as such. Yes, you were tracking down a killer, but the focus wasn’t on the killer as such and the game was sufficiently scary without there being a killer on the loose that you had to dodge at every corner. The game showed itself to be scary in and of itself without needing typical and overdone horror mechanics to provide jump scares. Most of the gameplay focuses around exploration and discovery to drive home the plot points and without cheap and lazy over use of jumpscares, Observer: System Redux was really able to shine. Whilst I don’t hate a lot of horror games and have generally had some wonderful frights, Observer: System Redux really helped me to place where my issues lie with horror games in general. Firstly, as just mentioned, jumpscares are usually a really cheap and lazy way to instill fear into the player and become overused and almost become a joke. Secondly, a lot of horror games rely on darkness and obstruction to bring that feeling of isolation and fear to the player and because of this I feel like a lot of horror games are distinctly lacking in story development and depth. The balance that was found in Observer: System Redux made for an absolute masterpiece for me and showed me that a horror game doesn’t just have to be moving from one jumpscare to the next.
Observer: System Redux is a truly exceptional game that I couldn’t be any more happy to have played. It has went straight into my top 3 horror games that I’ve played and I feel like it deserves a lot more attention than it has. Last Halloween I was searching for good horror games to play on stream and I never found Observer: System Redux on any of these lists and I found myself saying repeatedly - why? I still don’t know but I hope this changes because it truly is an incredible game that any horror connoisseur should experience.
When writing these reviews, I constantly find myself battling between what rating to give at the very end. What makes a perfect game? Does 5 out of 5 mean it's perfect? What does 5 out of 5 mean? And in short, I still haven’t figured this out. I don’t know if I ever will to be quite frank but what I will say is that I have had to sit and contemplate this game for around a week now just to feel comfortable reviewing it. Not in a bad way, in fact, in an exceptionally good way! I found myself almost having to digest Observer: System Redux and take some time to really think about what I truly loved about this game and even in writing this, I’m still struggling because there is so much ground to cover and the story offers so much to the player that I absolutely can’t cover it all because I still haven’t digested it all. This brings me to my next point - replayability. There are two endings and that's the only significant choice that you need to make so there isn’t a whole host of story lines that will leave you replaying the game but I have already started a second playthrough just to help me fully understand and finish digesting the story.
Lj's Rating - 5 trippy dreams out of 5.
For more information on Observer: System Redux please use the following links...
Many thanks to Bope for the Review Key.