Walking into the room where a headless body lay just a few minutes into my game, I knew that Observer: System Redux was going to be a title that ticked all of my boxes. Combining true crime narrative with futuristic sci-fi elements and twists, it features the late Rutger Hauer in the leading role of Detective Daniel Lazarski, who you'll take control of throughout your gameplay.
Though we’re all waiting for a very specific cyberpunk story to make its debut, this is one that more than cements itself as a gem of the genre.
Detective Lazarski is a complicated figure from the jump. He’s introduced as somebody who’s ignorant of his own health conditions, or perhaps simply doesn’t care about whether or not he makes it to the next day. When his son Adam gets in touch saying that they’re in danger however - leading him to their apartment building where the decapitated corpse awaits - he’s jolted into action.
Set in the midst of a pandemic (how novel), Observer will see players contend with a lockdown, after the widespread release of a contagion affecting anybody with cybernetic implants. In this strange new world, that’s a heck of a lot of people, meaning that many of those you’ll be hoping to speak to will only converse with you behind a locked door.
That’s not to say you won’t meet other characters in-person; it just means that those you do see in the flesh are likely going to be of more importance to your story than the angry guy whose supper you just disturbed.
As you would expect from a cyberpunk detective, Lazarski has a bunch of technological advancements that make his job a little easier than the regular on-the-beat bobby. The best of these is the ability to access the memories of those he needs to investigate, allowing him access to pieces of history he otherwise may have missed.
The sequences that take place inside the minds of others will leave you open-mouthed time and again; especially when Lazarski’s own memories begin to bleed out and infect those he’s seeing. This isn’t just a murder story, but one where the character you control’s own history is drip-fed through murky scenes and shocking turns.
These will adversely effect the detective, forcing him to take more medication so he can keep his own sanity whilst investigating. Forget to do this, and your experience could come to an end before you even realise it.
Of course, if you’ve played the game before, you know all of this. You’re here because you want to know just how it’s been upgraded by Bloober Team for the next-gen consoles which released this month (November 2020).
Playing on Xbox Series X, the impact of ray tracing was immediately noticeable. Whilst your surroundings may be dirty and disgust you, the passion that has gone into making them completely envelop you in the environment forces them to reveal their inner beauty. You might not like to visit the locations in your real life, but you can fully appreciate the effort behind their existence.
Stunning in its design, System Redux players will also have the opportunity to investigate three new side cases alongside those in the original game. Developers have also streamlined some of the other investigations and their scenes, so that they pack just the right amount of punch without becoming exhaustive.
That doesn’t mean the game now holds your hand, however. You’re still forced to explore every inch of the different areas you come across if you wish to move forward. This can sometimes be frustrating, as you’ll genuinely feel as if you’ve done everything you can, but there will often be some object or place lurking you haven’t quite picked up on.
Laced with horror, this isn’t a game for the faint of heart. Make sure you’ve got steely nerves before jumping in; you may just walk away having your own nightmares…
Observer: System Redux is available now on Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5 and PC. A code for the game on Xbox Series X was given to Female First in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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