2021 is the year of re-releases, and for good reason: hosting technology has greatly improved in the jump from eighth to ninth generation. Observer System Redux is one such example of an already-brilliant title that has been upgraded to top tier by a re-master. So, what's new?
It is astonishing how much can change within the space of four or five years, the Observer System Redux game is an underrated example of just how much the gaming community has moved forward in its technological capabilities. Observer, a game that was widely celebrated in 2017, has today been thoroughly outclassed by its remastered version, Bloober Studio’s Observer System Redux, a rendition taking full advantage of the PlayStation and Xbox’s hosting technologies (which you can read about using those respective links). The term redux, or remaster or even remake, is sometimes thrown around without necessarily carrying the weight it really should; Observer System Redux is a publication that absolutely deserves the title of a remaster for it looks and feels spectacularly different to its unadorned sibling. I feel as though you need to see this for yourself, so be sure to check out this superb YouTube video detailing the extent of enhancement the game has received – I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Competing with the finest games of the time, OSR offers Raytracing support, 4K textures (on both Xbox and PlayStation consoles) which look absolutely magnificent when light rays travel through swirling dust or dormant smoke, as well as a mostly-unwavering 60FPS.
Observer Redux in popular culture:
We take command of Daniel Lazarski, an Observer, which is essentially a homicide detective, operating out of 2084 (no coincidence, think George Orwell) Krakow, Poland. Lazarski is voiced by none other than the late Rutger Hauer, a venerated figure within the Cyberpunk realm for his roles in films like the 1982 Blade Runner, where he plays a hunted-by-Harrison-Ford augmented human, known as a Replicant. Hauer’s Observer character, Lazarski, is also a non-organic human, only he now performs the hunting rather than being hunted as he was in Blade Runner. Again, in the same vein as Blade Runner, a mega-corporation named Chiron has usurped control over Poland, creating a dystopian, tyrannical, surveillance-based society, of which Daniel Lazarski plays into as a police detective.
'Lazarski is voiced by none other than the late Rutger Hauer, a venerated figure within the Cyberpunk realm.'
What is the game's context?
Krakow has been overrun by a Nanophage, a digital virus of sorts, that has ripped through the population with some calamitous uncouth consequences. As Lazarski, it is our mission to maintain order, a purpose that creates Observer System Redux, a chilling futuristic first-person psychological horror. Lazarski employs ‘Dream Eater’ tech in order to navigate the memories of wanted individuals, including those who have passed away or been murdered, of which there are an extensive collection we must investigate from the get-go. Observer’s cogent little narrative is supported by the celebrated Unreal Engine 4, software notoriously effective in delivering dark and graphic creations; Observer is a sinisterly beguiling play if you are a sucker for Cyperbunk settings The dank, vandalised and at points lurid Krakow surrounding has an atmosphere something unholy, and this feeling is only supplemented by Arkadiusz Reikowksi’s musical composition. I’m holding up my hands here, there were at times I had to retreat to the main menu for a breather from Observer, and of course a quick dry-down of my controller…you can’t blame me, the game is a hair-raising experience, especially now that the game’s graphical fidelity is as good as it is. You can see the difference below:
Almost too good to be true, right! Wrong! This is truly the extent of upgrade Observer has been given.
What can we expect from gameplay?
As we stroll down the hallways of the neon-infused Tenement building, we are guided and persuaded by slew of clues that we identify using a robotic detective interface not dissimilar to that of Batman: Arkham Night, a game also a product of the Unreal Engine. Most of our time spent in the Observer world is spent in Krakow, in the nightmarish apartment complex, but we do also flit between various ‘Dream Eater’ states, visiting the memories of the moribund people we are investigating. I have found previously in closed-world games like Observer that it is easy to become a bit tired of the same old surroundings, yet because Observer forces you through an uneasy assortment of hellish environments, and that it is at most a 10-hour play, I never left the honeymoon period you enter as you start a new game or chapter; Observer never got boring.
'Most of our time spent in the Observer world is spent in Krakow, in the nightmarish apartment complex, but we do also flit between various ‘Dream Eater’ states.'
Does the game have to it than meets the eye?
For me, a sign of a good exploration game, regardless of genre, is the abundance (or not) of pertinent but hidden material, such as documents, voice tapes and the like, which is an area Observer doesn’t fall short in. It is clear that the game wasn’t a perfunctory project, rather the developers took the time to leave reverential Easter Eggs and extra content to flesh out the game; side missions too go a good way to better immerse you in the 2084 Chiron-run Krakow background. Yet, Observer feels no need to needlessly embellish the game; part of the title's charm is its brevity, its paradoxically un-rushed but to-the-point ethos. As a result of our various selections on choice trees throughout the game, we soon enough summit one of the several conclusions Observer has to offer. Time flies when you are having fun, or if you are terrified out of wits. Bloober Studios have created a game that doesn’t outstay its welcome; it enthrals the player, entices them into its narrative and does precisely the job it professes to do on the tin: to keep you on the edge of your seat. That said, I have recently replayed Observer in the Redux form in order to take an adventure down the narrative avenues I had omitted before; Observer shouldn’t, and doesn’t have to be, a game that you play once and forget about.
'Observer feels no need to needlessly embellish the game; part of the title's charm is its brevity, its paradoxically un-rushed but to-the-point ethos.'
Stalking footsteps coming from an ambiguous direction, the vicious smashing of a glass window in a room off to the left, a distorted, blood-curdling wail echoing down the foggy hallway; Observer doesn’t shy away from those classic elements of a horror game. More, this chilling audio is taken to the next level in the Redux edition by consoles, like the PlayStation 5 and its Pulse 3D headset, that offer 3D audio. Good luck with that! Observer System Redux takes traditional horror principles but this time gives them far more resources in order to further convey the wretched, derelict habitat of 2084 Krakow. Observer was initially (for good reason) criticised for the deficiencies of the occasional stealth scene; it wasn’t the most coherent of designs, yet the game’s remaster placates these complaints by means of repair – the Redux is not just a graphical update. Other small glitches resulting in stunted gameplay also seem to have been seen to as well, but the factor giving Observer System Redux the earned title of a ‘remaster’ is still the sheer renovation of its graphics: they are just phenomenal when compared to the now four-year-old original. With an exploration style similar to classic games like Half-Life or Resident Evil and horror elements comparable to blockbuster movies, Observer System Redux is a masterful game, a must if you are into psychological thriller titles.
Written by Joel Gunner