“Combining investigation, exploration, stealth, puzzles, and a near constant barrage of horror, Observer is a meticulously created game that rarely puts a foot wrong.”
That’s how I summed up Bloober Team’s excellent Observer back in 2017. As the studio’s follow-up to Layers of Fear, it cemented its position as one of the leading horror game creators, with only Layers of Fear 2 being a disappointment so far. Its next truly new game is The Medium, which was recently delayed until next year. But if you’ve just picked up a next-gen console and want something to scare you silly right now, the company has something else for you: Observer: System Redux – a remake of its hit game that has been expanded and enhanced.
The crux of the game remains the same; as Daniel Lazarski, the titular Observer, you’re sucked into a nightmare after a call from your estranged son draws you to an apartment block. After finding a dead body in the room the call apparently came from, Daniel begins an investigation to hopefully find his son, but a lockdown in the apartment building and his seemingly frail mental state adds complications. Needless to say, it’s not a good day for Daniel Lazarski.
Observer: System Redux, like the original game, starts off a bit slow. For the first hour or so you’ll generally find yourself going door to door, questioning the residents for information. Things take off, however, when you eventually stumble upon yet another body. Clinging to life and unable to tell you who mortally wounded them, you jack in to their mind, allowing you to experience their memories and more. It’s quite a scary process, and things only get worse from there. Give my review of the original game a read if you want more of the nitty-gritty.
Rebuilt for next-gen consoles and PC, Observer: System Redux has been very nicely augmented. Textures are more detailed, the lighting is more realistic, and everything is just so sharp. It makes everything feel more immersive, which is important for a game like this. If you’re playing on PS5, there’s a ray tracing toggle too, which adds even more visual splendour to the game at the expense of a bit of performance. The Xbox Series X version, however, doesn’t have a ray tracing toggle. Instead there’s a toggle to play it in 4K, but the extra image clarity is simply not worth the performance cost. Basically, the Series X version gets the short end of the stick.
The odd framerate drop doesn’t affect your enjoyment of Observer: System Redux too much though, as it’s not a fast-paced game at all. And it’s more enjoyable to play this time around thanks to multiple tweaks made to various game mechanics. Hacking is a bit easier now, for example, or you can even turn off the hacking minigame altogether. And the game’s numerous stealth sections have been revised, making them less frustrating. Bloober Team has listened to feedback and acted upon it for the better.
New to Observer: System Redux are a trio of side-missions for you to delve into as you explore the apartment. They’re a worthy addition, fleshing out the experience and also providing a bit more investigative work to be done. They’re all quite sordid and twisted, too, adding to the game’s creepiness. You’ll be hot on the trail of what appears to be someone selling body organs, for example, and another case has you investigating another unsavoury individual who seemingly has an unhealthy obsession with a porn star.
Are these side missions alone enough to make buying Observer: System Redux worthwhile if you’ve already played the original? Maybe not. But alongside the visual upgrades, improved gameplay mechanics and the somewhat budget price they are. Observer was a great game, and Observer: System Redux sees it further improved in every area. It’s just a shame that the PS5 and Xbox Series X versions haven’t been created equally. Still, if you’re after a comparably inexpensive game to show off what your next-gen console can do, it’s well worth picking up, especially on PS5 where it particularly shines thanks to its DualSense implementation. Though be warned: it’s not for the faint of heart.