While it has been difficult to find PS5 consoles, those of us lucky few who were able to secure one can absolutely assure everyone else that the wait is worth it. One of the games that piqued my interest for the new system was the remastered and expanded Observer: System Redux.
I reviewed Observer for PS4 back in 2017 and found it to be one of the best horror games in recent memory. After all, you combine the voice of the late Rutger Hauer with a dystopian cyberpunk setting and horror, and you’ve got a recipe for something truly special. The question is, does this new release surpass the original and wipe out some of those performance and gameplay issues? Let’s find out.
A Gorgeous Return to a Fully Realized Cyberpunk World
Cyberpunk and horror aren’t something you would immediately associate with one another, but Observer makes the combination feel as natural as peanut butter and chocolate. For those who haven’t played the PS4 release, Observer takes place in 2084 after humans have augmented themselves with cybernetic parts and suffered a plague known as the nanophage which only affects those who have been augmented.
You play as Daniel Lazarski, who is a futuristic detective known as an observer. He himself is augmented with the ability to jack into suspect’s mind and interrogate them via their own subconscious. The game chooses to keep its story smaller in scope than you would think with this premise, focusing on the pursuit of Daniel’s son, who mysteriously reaches out to him in the beginning of the game and sets you on a hunt to discover what is happening to him.
A lockdown in a giant apartment building forces you to interact with the myriad of different residents, some of whom will offer unique stories that add more to the world. Side quests are also on offer, with some new ones added in this PS5 version that I really enjoyed. Particularly, one quest involving shrines spread through the building was very haunting and intriguing in equal measure.
When you’re not exploring the dark and winding neon tunnels of The Stacks, you’ll spend your time jacking into the minds of suspects, which is where Observer: System Redux truly shines. Bloober team has always been masters of environmental manipulation, and the only game that has come close to the sheer existential terror of Observer’s sequences is Layers of Fear 2, though I think Observer: System Redux wins out.
These levels are designed in such a way that they convey the story and the memories of the person you’re jacking into the mind of, but it’s presented in a fast, sometimes completely chaotic fashion that is both abstract and horrifying in equal measure. Shifting rooms, flashes of light, mysterious figures, and harrowing chases await you in the minds of your suspects.
You’ll never know quite what could come next as you turn a corner in these sequences. Observer: System Redux also modifies and adjusts some of the later sequences to be less confusing and frustrating, and it works to the game’s benefit.
From a gameplay perspective, you’ll explore, interact with various items in the environment, solve puzzles, and utilize both an electronic vision and an organic one to scan things. A calming sedative also allows you to settle your nerves if you find yourself on the edge and spiraling out of control.
All of this worked well in the original release, but Observer: System Redux smartly utilizes the DualSense controller to enhance the experience in several ways. Firstly, the haptic feedback allows for very specific vibrations in response to things like jump scares, mind jacking, and other events.
Secondly, the adaptive triggers offer a little vibration and kickback when you try to open a locked door. Similarly, there’s a satisfying click and a drop in tension as you turn the handle of a door and swing it open. Will say that these types of feedback didn’t always trigger for me, such as opening doors, but I wasn’t sure if that was intended, a controller issue, or a bug in the game’s feedback.
From a gameplay and story perspective, Observer: System Redux takes a near perfect horror game and manages to improve on it by crucially improving character models, environmental graphics, and overall frame rate stability. The DualSense feedback is just icing on the cake.
A Rich and Detailed World, Done Justice By The Power of Next-Gen
Every time you start Observer: System Redux, you’re treated to a memorial for Rutger Hauer, who passed away prior to this new release. I think the highest praise I can offer for this enhanced, polished, and frankly definitive edition of the game is that Rutger would have been extremely proud of the work done here to preserve the spirit of the original, while realizing the potential of the concept and producing the best possible iteration of this experience.
While you have the option for ray tracing, some will opt for the buttery smooth frame rate you get without it. I for one didn’t mind the 30 FPS feel with ray tracing enabled, as it adds so much to the atmosphere and visuals that I wanted to keep it around.
Observer: System Redux is an even better version of an already excellent horror game, and as an introduction to horror on the PS5, it has me more excited than ever to see what this generation brings for my favorite genre of gaming.
Final Score: 9.5/10
A copy of Observer: System Redux was provided to PS5 Gamers for review purposes.
Article by – Bradley Ramsey
Insert date – 11/16/2020