Observer: System Redux serves as an enhanced version of Bloober Team’s 2017 sci-fi horror title, Observer. Again, players assume the role of Daniel Lazarski, an Observer-class detective in Kraków whose interrogation methods involve hacking into the minds of cybernetically enhanced folks. The dark cyberpunk setting takes place in 2084, years after a digital plague known as the nanophage devastates Poland. This doesn’t count as the crux of Observer’s narrative, though. Lazarski instead becomes wrapped up in a quest to find his missing son, Adam.
The protagonist’s journey to uncover clues about Adam’s whereabouts is just as winding and overly complex as the 2017 adventure. This time, however, Bloober Team incorporated a few more points of interest in the detective’s periphery. Enhanced visuals, extra story content, revised mechanics add to the experience, further elevating Observer’s tense atmosphere. Are these changes enough to warrant the adventure’s re-exploration? Much like the story itself, the answer to that particular question is a matter of perspective.
Observer: System Redux Review – Bigger Picture
Observer’s full arc predominantly takes place in a single apartment complex, a rundown building that houses lower-class citizens. Its winding pathways, as well as the unceasing noise that fills them, creates both confusion and a sense of dread. Thus, players slog through a tense, exhaustive first-person adventure, one that feels too overdone in some aspects but undercooked in others.
At the game’s start, Lazarski receives a call from his estranged son, Adam. Perplexed by the nature of the conversation, the detective visits his son’s last known location–the apartment building. There he finds a beheaded body, clawed in places by what evidence suggests may be something bestial. Thus begins the ensuing murder investigation.
While trying to solve the murder and uncover information about Adam, Lazarski converses with an assortment of characters, all interesting in their own unique way. Some are quite helpful, animated in terms of personality, but well worth a few minutes of the player’s time. A select number of such dialogue exchanges result in side quests, extra pieces of story that flesh out the compelling world of Observer. Further exploring the apartment complex opens up similar opportunities, too. To a degree, this is where the experience feels rather undercooked. The side content is fascinating, so much so that some may conclude the main plot should’ve taken a backseat.
Observer: System Redux Review – Cyberpunk Detective
Comparatively, Lazarski’s primary quest often seems burdened by the game’s simple controls and over-reliance on faulty interrogation sequences. The detective interacts with objects by using R2–DualSense’s adaptive triggers come into play with a neat clicking effect for opening doors. Haptic feedback on the controller makes some moments particularly unsettling, enough to justify modifying vibration intensity in PS5’s settings. ‘L1’ and ‘R1’ help inspect biological matter and technological equipment, respectively. Pressing Triangle’launches Lazarski’s cybernetically integrated computer system, letting players check objectives and give the character Synchrozine–stabilizing medicine.
On one hand, the simple gameplay mechanics better immerse players in the world. However, they are of minimal use during interrogations. (It’s worth noting that accessibility features can simplify the control scheme further, which all players may find beneficial to some extent.)
Each interrogation is a mind trip into the memories of a murder victim. Such sequences can only be described as psychedelic. And it’s here that the updated next-gen visuals truly shine. Rooms twist and morph at a moment’s notice. Walls become impregnated by massive tentacles. Random objects splice in and out of existence. There are even whining babies in TVs that get eerily upset when left alone. It’s a wild ride, for sure, yet the player is only an… observer. Rarely is there a chance to partake in the psychological set-pieces. Except when the game decides it needs to earn its mark as a horror title.
The horror-centric sections appear in the form of hiding sequences wherein Lazarski, lost in the recesses of a murder victim’s mind, is chased by what looks like a technologically grotesque version of the Outlast creature. These sequences of hide and seek are a combination of mentally exhausting and annoying, especially since the path to freedom isn’t always clear. Since there exists so many of these haunted interrogations, all of which overstay their welcome, one question demands an answer: Is this really an effective way of crime solving? It certainly doesn’t seem so.
Observer: System Redux Review – Madness is the Emergency Exit
Observer’s story has a fair share of issues, big and small, none of which will be spoiled here. Although, akin to Joker (2019), or The Killing Joke before it, those nagging inconsistencies, lingering questions, and plot holes are excusable. Kind of. It seems a matter of perspective, a matter of what the observer of the narrative chooses to believe or accept.
Consequently, Observer: System Redux is not for everyone. Hell, it wasn’t for me. But the experience itself, where it takes you at least, is worth the ride. It’s worth the sweaty palms and the dread of turning on your new console, knowing full well the tense and often uncomfortable adventure through madness that awaits. Some may even decide that it’s worth a second go-round.
Observer System Redux review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS5. For more information, please read our Review Policy.