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The year is 2084. If you somehow survived the Nanophage, odds are you were killed in the aWhat would you do if your fears were hacked? read more

Observer Review (PS4)

Author: Michael Keener
30-Aug-2017

Category: Review

The year is 2084, and detectives have the ability to hack into the minds of suspects and the deceased in order to gain information. Of course, some minds possess horrifying thoughts and memories that no sane man would volunteer to experience. But you're not sane are you? You're an observer. Take control of detective Daniel Lazarski, and get to the bottom of this nightmare of a case.

Observer Review

Introduction

It feels almost like yesterday that development team, Bloober Team, came out with the first-person psychological horror game Layers of Fear. Some may say that it wasn't that scary of an experience, but nobody could say that the game fell short of graphical excellence (but let's admit it was pretty jump scare filled). Even though Observer takes on a different plot in a different setting full of different characters, the core traits of their projects do not differ very much. It's is an artistic marvel but somewhere between gameplay and lack of true continuous horror, the game holds itself back from being the fear instilling experience many might be hoping for. But don't go anywhere, there's still so many great things it has to offer!

You can buy the game on PS4XB1, or Steam for $29.99.

Gameplay

Playing the role of elite neural detective Daniel Lazarski, you can already imagine what you'll be doing; investigating, but probably not exactly how you'll be doing it (or maybe you've seen a trailer along the way and do have an idea how). Basically, Daniel works for a major corporation way out into the future (2084 to be exact). In this time, the human population has been cut down dramatically due to the War and a nasty augmented virus known as Nanophage, which manifested into physiological disease as well as a software disease as time went on and it evolved. Elite neural detectives are allowed and trained to hack into the minds of suspects in order to obtain the information they need pertaining to an investigation. The story sees you receiving a message from your son, which ultimately leads you to the city slums in search of answers.

Not to say there can't be good people in the slums of a beaten down, cyberpunk, future dystopian city, but you'll soon find out that there are more bad people than there are good. And as you can probably piece together by now, these are the individuals you'll be hacking into. Everything plays in first-person view, so you'll see through the eyes of Daniel as you walk around the environments, both real-world and virtual, which intensifies the immersion and moments of fear. It's a walking simulation with little gameplay, but you'll still need to scan around the crime scenes for clues that will help you find your son, or simply progress the mystery plot. Tenants of the apartment building will also be interacted with and it offers a depth that the game truly needed.

Observer Augmented Reality Wired Up

Daniel is essentially the burned out and exhausted detective, and his voice shows it (in a good way though) but having some real character personalities to break up augmented reality scenes and slum walking simulator is a nice contrast. The hacking is where the scary segments of the game will really take place though. You'll experience the horrifying memories, thoughts, and nightmares that these societal rejects and or dying people have.  The fear parts are fairly spaced out, but when you experience them, they're pretty crazy. Remember, the hacking can create a world completely random with a chain of events that don't make since in the real world. 

A walk through a colorless swamp that almost instantly turns into laundry shoot to hell, an office that turns into a labyrinth where you're being hunted, or simply entering a room in the real world where a gruesome mess of murder paints a horrifying story of pain and suffering; there's a huge variety of experiences and they almost never show repetition outside of throwing you into abstract visions that seemingly blend from one to the next. One of the scarier moments in the game was when I made my way through the doorway of a tattoo shop, only to find a forest beyond the doors. As someone yells "Hurry. Your prey's getting away." followed by some screaming, I made my way into the woods and then almost immediately I was alone with only a dim light the showed me a few feet infront of me in a 360 degree spin. Maybe it's my pre-existing fear of being alone in the woods at night, but that was one of the many scenes that created a since of deep dread.

Observer Tattoo Shop Virtual Alleyway

Sound and Graphics

I've said before that both Layers of Fear and Observer are almost works of art. They are unique in their own messed up psychological way, but deeply immerse you into the worlds they build. I don't imagine anyone would, or could, try to debate that. At the core, this title delivers an incredibly interesting premise that I couldn't help but want to explore in a more varied way other than the linear nature it forces you to do. Rarely do I find myself looking closer at the environments of games other than to check for technical flaws and get an idea of the level of details involved, but something about this one made me a bit more curious of the smaller things. There are a lot of small corridors, hallways, rooms, etc, and it almost gives off a claustrophobic vibe at times.

The main protagonist, Daniel, is voice acted by Hollywood great Rutger Hauer. You may know of him from several movies, but most notably would be his performance in Blade Runner as Roy Batty. His lead voice acting role is everything that makes the game what it is. Not throwing shade when I say this, but his tired and rough voice matches perfectly with the old and beaten down character of Daniel. At first it takes a few minutes to really adjust to as its very unique from all other voices heard in video games, but once you adjust, you begin to realize just how perfectly it makes the game feel. 

Observer Conversations in Real World

Conclusion

Every game has its pros and cons, and Bloober Team's projects are no different. I'm sure Layers of Fear won over just as many people with the immersive environments as it let down in regards to expectations for a horrific and mentally scaring experience, and Observer will be somewhat the same. I loved the cyberpunk world and I don't imagine they could have made it look any more badass and immersive. Personally when it comes to horror games I am not the one to dim the lights and put on the Astros, but I get a huge thrill from everything about them nonetheless. For me it was almost a perfect balance. I was able to enjoy the awesome cast of characters, take my time in the environments, but everything was scary enough that I needed to check my back constantly which gave me the thrill I was hoping for. If you enjoyed Layers of Fear, this game is right up your alley. If you didn't, maybe the cyberpunk setting will win you over in the end. 

Pros
Cons
 + Immersive atmosphere and graphics
 - Vague objective directions
 + Gruesome and intense scenes and rooms
 - "Horror" is subjective to player
 + Great voice acting by Rutger Hauer
 - A few technical flaws
 + Well executed augmented reality concept




SCORE: 8/10

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