Man, I miss Rutger Hauer. He was such a brilliantly unique actor that can never be replaced. He was just so ‘Rutgery’. After he died in 2019, I decided to give Observer a go on Game Pass… only for it to be removed just as I was starting to really get into it. Then a few days back, I was offered a review code for Observer: System Redux and immediately jumped on it.
As with quite a few games recently, Observer had had a bit of a facelift for the next-gen of consoles, thanks to the developers Bloober Team. Improved graphics, lighting effects, textures, etc. 4K, HDR. New gameplay mechanics, new story elements and more. See the trailer above for more details. Anyway, I never got the chance to play the original release all that much before it was removed from Game Pass, so I’m not the best person to ask if the improvements are better or worse than the original version. All I can do is tell you what Observer: System Redux is like and if it’s worth playing.
A quick (no spoilers) synopsis of the story first I feel. You play as Daniel Lazarski (Rutger Hauer), an Observer… basically a detective working for the police. Daniel has the ability to hack into people’s minds using cybernetic augmentations, this is set in 2084. You are sent to a rundown apartment complex to investigate a possible murder. Along the way, Daniel tries to reconnect with his estranged son. I kept this brief and light for a good reason.
When you first play Observer: System Redux, I think it is pretty much impossible to avoid comparisons to Ridley Scott’s awesome Blade Runner flick. Everything about it just oozes futuristic dystopian fiction. I think the perfect way to describe this game would be if George Orwell and Ridley Scott had sex, this game would be the result. Daniel Lazarski is armed with all sorts of cyber enhancements to aid in his investigations. Bio vision to help him analyse blood, etc. EM Vision for electronic analysis. Night vision to help with the searching of the darker areas of the world that Observer: System Redux takes place in. This is where the main meat of the game comes in, the investigations. You scour crime scenes looking for clues, talk to and interrogate a variety of people (mostly via intercoms) and more. You can even ‘plug into’ dead bodies and relive their memories to help with your investigations too.
While everything is set in one location, there’s still a lot to see and do. The ‘hacking’ into people really provides a variety in terms of visuals and even gameplay. Observer: System Redux really is nothing more than a ‘walking sim’ horror game… but it manages to avoid a lot of the tired and clichéd gameplay that the genre has become bogged down with recently. While Observer does take place in one location, it still manages to feel very open as the game never seems to hold your hand, it never fully answers any questions that you will inevitably ask as you play it. Decisions that you make will affect the world the game exists in and even change the ending too.
The gameplay is slow and plodding, but I mean that in a good way. Like reading a novel that doesn’t want to give itself away too soon or watching a film with a three-hour runtime that feels more like swift ninety minutes. It’s a very slow-paced game, but one that is crammed with plenty of things to keep you busy. Unlike most survival horror titles, there are no scary monsters, no hiding, no bloody and violent combat. It is the atmosphere of the game, the dark and moody graphics that sell Observer: System Redux’s tone and style. That being very much a psychological horror/thriller over other games of its ilk. You won’t find any cheap jump scares here, just really solid game design and mechanics that work brilliantly. Particularly when you do enter someone’s memories, things can get more than a little ‘abstract’.
I’m actually kind of glad that I did miss this first time around as I heard there were a few technical issues in terms of the game’s performance originally. This updated version runs absolutely beautifully in 4K at 60fps. A really engrossing and very interesting take on the horror genre of games and one with more than a few surprises up its sleeve too. Plus, you get to be Rutger Hauer for a few hours and that is just awesome in itself. I have played a few of Bloober Team’s titles in recent years, none of them really impressed me much. Yet, Observer: System Redux really had grabbed and sucked me into its wonderful world. Definitely recommended.