>observer_ Hands On Preview
I’ve spent a solid five hours with Bloober Team’s newest psychological horror, >observer_, and I’m still trying to find out what it is. Even with this looming cloud of uncertainty, I’m enjoying what’s being presented, even if things are pretty on-rails most of the time.
The first, most awesomely blatant thing to be said is that this game is beautiful. It’s hauntingly unique, completely atmospheric, and detailed better than most every game within this budgetary ballpark. Most of the beginning parts of the game take place within a tenement. It’s a slum of a place within this cyberpunk dystopia where you can feel the desperation in every room.
When the game isn’t taking place in the squalor of this new reality, you’re hacking into the memories of others and experiencing their lives as if it were your own. The new environments found within are great-looking and always different than the last. I was impressed when I felt like each room of the tenement felt completely unique, but I was blown away when things become even more diverse as you dive into these memories.
Of course, this isn’t a perfect landing. In the horror sequences, you know, the running from a big lummox or dodging things coming out of the wall, they feel very stale. Hallways that go on forever or labyrinth sewers aren’t new to anybody who’s played these kinds of games, especially Bloober Team’s star pupil, Layers of Fear.
The story, from what I’ve experienced, is rather interesting. It’s not formulaic and hopefully, it’ll stay that way. Cyberpunk is an incredible genre that harmonizes with horror if done well. The only way that’s fully achieved is through a kickass story. >observer_’s story has kept me wanting for more so far. But I will say, most everything I’ve experienced is just presented to me. I am a spectator to a story that’s already unfolded. A walking simulator >observer_ is not, but it shares in the overbearing quality of being more a shower than a do-er.
There are moments where you have to identify things around a crime scene or participate in a little puzzle, but that’s made up just a small fraction of the gameplay so far. Hopefully, with what I have left to play, the player’s actions become more prevalent to the story.
Even after five hours of experiencing this glitched (not in the usual bad way), grotesque world, I’m left wondering what >observer_ is about. The places it draws inspiration from are right in front of you. Blade Runner, Outlast, and even The Stanley Parable help give >observer_ its lifeblood, but it doesn’t seem to have much that it brings to the table on its own.
Through good and bad, I’m looking forward to seeing how >observer_ comes to a close. So far, I’d recommend the experience, but I’d make sure that you’re a patient sort–the kind who doesn’t mind a sometimes leisurely stroll through a digitized hell. Because if you’re not, you might find >observer_ to be quite the bore.
Keep an eye out for our full review of >observer_ right here on COGconnected.com later this month.
*** PC code provided by the publisher ***