Observer: System Redux Review
In the midst of the panicked scramble to get next gen systems out the door, certain world events have delayed both hardware releases as well as game releases. While the lack of hardware is starting to catch up to demand, the lack of software has seen a greater influx of something every new gen of system encounters, but at a heightened scale: remastered hits from the previous generation! Enter Observer: System Redux, a game that was easily picked up and repackaged for the new generation that is in desperate need of titles to fully utilize its hardware. While Observer doesn’t quite bring the full use of the PS5 hardware to the table, it’s still a solid game that can give you good reason to spend some time on your shiny new system.
Opening with a ‘in memory of’ the legendary Rutger Hauer, Observer: System Redux introduces you to the main character in a sad but touching way. Hauer plays the lead detective in this bleak, cyberpunk mystery both in image and in voice. Detective Daniel Lazarski is an Observer, a detective who uses a device known as a Dream Eater to interrogate by entering people’s minds and pilfering through their memories for information. At the beginning of the game, he’s contacted by his long estranged son and by “coincidence,” he’s dispatched to investigate a murder – the missing victim being the son he hasn’t spoken to in years.
Where Observer: System Redux works best is in the absolutely horrifying dream sequences when we hack implants and enter people’s minds. Like in a dream, the memories and the truth are hidden behind some absolutely bonkers visuals and the dreamscape is most often full of horrors you must navigate, piecing the truth together for yourself as much as Lazarski is. What is reality and what is memory becomes inexorably intertwined and getting to the bottom of the mystery becomes a lesson in maintaining your sanity as well. I’m not talking about it being jump scary either. The thing that makes game play stand out to me is that you are unarmed, using your detective skills and implants to sort through crime scenes and evidence while you’re completely at the mercy of the killer and the monsters in people’s minds. Everything from haunting visuals, rapidly changing environments, and some exquisite use of sound was deeply terrifying. In other games, I would panic shoot, hoping for the protection of my weapon against the incoming horrors. In this, the only protection is pushing on, so believe me when I tell you that my fight or flight instinct kicked in a number of times and the struggle to stay focused while my whole body was racked with chills and goose bumps was a task in and of itself.
To Buy or Not to Buy (or Buy Again)
The real question, of course, is do you really need a 4-year-old game on your flashy new system? That answer is a little more complicated than whether or not Observer: System Redux still holds up as a quality game. Visually, the upgrade makes as much use of the hardware as it can. The dirty, dilapidated building of this cyberpunk dystopia is highly detailed and looks wonderful. The neon and shadow give some depth to the environment while the overall green hue of computer screens helps play with the concept of reality. However, there’s a ceiling on the upgrades as its more of a port than anything, so don’t expect those PS5 level textures just yet.
There are also some unintentional sound issues. While most of the game’s atmosphere-building is through sound, the opening video is unplayable as the audio hiccups the whole way through, and several NPC’s dialogue just stops mid-conversation. Most of these are with tenants at their doors, so it’s easily skippable, but since several trophies are depending on talking to said tenants, it was a bit of a bother. It’s not my style to be nitpicky, but I missed out on three trophies because the quest wouldn’t complete. One simply couldn’t complete on my menu despite being done while the other two wouldn’t allow me to do the final step of the mission. Why this is nitpicky is because 1) my compulsion went through the roof not being able to get these trophies, but mostly because 2) they apparently have been a problem on every version as the threads online cited the different systems to play them on. So, these bugs haven’t been sorted in 4 years, so I’m a little incensed by that.
Bear in mind, I have played the PS5 version which has a later release date than the PC/Series X date and I was also given a list of what the day one patches would be (for clarity, none of the above issues were on the list). But problems are clearly being tackled, so perhaps when the release date comes up these too will have been worked out. Sadly, I’m not in the maybe business, so while Observer: System Redux makes great use of the hardware, it still has some things to fix.
Overall, once you get to play through Observer: System Redux, you do end up with an overall enjoyable experience. It’s genuinely scary, the investigation is in-depth, there’s plenty of side quests and a great mini game sprinkled all over the map to keep you working. Yes, it has some glitches that hampered the completionist in me and some port glitches that need to be worked out still and, quite frankly, the resolution of the mystery is more complicated than solving it. However, it’s still fun to play and it’s easy to get lost searching through the building for a few hours, a fact other games seem to have forgotten is important.
Whether or not it’s worth it for your new system, is probably up to whether or not you’ve played it before. The additions to the main game include some extra playtime, and the graphical upgrades make it a smoother running experience, but I don’t know if it’s worth a brand new purchase of the game. However, if you haven’t played Observer: System Redux yet, this new version is the PERFECT way to get your hands dirty in this cyberpunk murder mystery.
***PS5 code provided by the publisher for review***
Tense, spooky, and atmospheric
Great visuals and compelling storyline
Easy to miss key items
Early access level glitches
Explanation is almost more confusing than the mystery