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access_time December 18, 2020 at 6:00 AM in Reviews by Cole Nixon

Review | Observer: System Redux

Many futuristic games have taken to the genre of cyberpunk due to its recent popularity. Of course, one of the major contributors to this is currently experiencing scrutiny. Despite this, few games have taken advantage of the genre in the way Observer has. Now, coinciding with the release of next gen consoles, developer Bloober Team has remastered their sleeper hit with Observer: System Redux.

Observer takes place in a dark futuristic version of Krakow, Poland in the year 2084. A plague known as the nanophage leads to a series of brutal wars and humanity addicted to anti-psychotics. You play as Dan Lazarski, a detective part of a police unit known as Observers. Observers use a device called a Dream Eater, allowing them to interrogate criminals and victims by hacking their brains. After receiving a cryptic message from your son, you embark into a web of intrigue. The world is a dire place, giving a future most wouldn’t want to be a part of.

Gameplay in Observer may seem like a simple walking simulator, but like a film, its action grows with every beat. Mechanics like the crime scanner and hacking have new refinements and upgrades as part of the remaster. Primarily, you’ll be investigating and talking with various people. As a result, each character is fully fleshed out and unique. There’s really an impressive amount of completely optional dialogue here. Because of this, you can go about the case the practically any way you want. The game encourages replayability, especially with the added gameplay content.

Visually, Observer: System Redux excels at the gritty cyberpunk visuals. The apartment complex you spend most of your time in is dark, damp, and atmospherically depressing. I recommend occasionally turning up the gamma settings, since some segments can be too dark on the default preset. The graphical enhancements are an improvement almost across the board. While the apartment complex is where you’ll spend most of the game, you do get to go to other locations. The brief forays into cyberspace evoke books like Neuromancer to create a familiar yet unique cyber experience. Overall, while the visual experience in Observer will be familiar to genre fans, it’s unique enough to have some surprises.

Many narrative based games can fall apart based on their voice actors. However, this is not the case in Observer, as the protagonist, voiced by Rutger Hauer, gives a fantastic performance of a beaten man. This marks one of his last performances before his tragic passing last year. While the side characters are mostly bit parts, they manage to characterize the world in a way only emotion can. When you aren’t talking to the colorful cast of characters, the haunting ambient score fills the quieter sections perfectly. Instead of a stereotypical synth soundtrack, Observer has a borderline Gothic sound courtesy of Arkadiusz Reikowski. If you have an ear for game music, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the unique sound design.

The primary added features in this remaster are the updated mechanics, and while most of these work, a few fall short. The remastered stealth is vastly superior to the original, but it’s still slightly janky, and a source of some frustration. On the other hand, minigames like hacking and several puzzles show immense improvements. There’s also more side quests, fleshing out the world and providing a moving moment for genre fans. Bloober Team really did a lot to universally improve every aspect of play.

During my time with Observer, I was floored by an incredibly polished experience. It also looks glorious in 4K and performs admirably with consistently smooth frame rates. Overall, Observer: System Redux is a fantastic next gen upgrade. While the original was already a great title, this is easily the definitive edition. Few titles accurately capture the experience of a daunting mystery like this one. If you’re looking for a great cyberpunk thriller, this one should definitely be on your radar.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

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