Observer_ is a psychological horror game from the developers of Layers of Fear, Bloober Team. It stars Rutger Hauer as Daniel Lazarski, a detective known as an Observer. As Dan you hack into people’s minds as a method of interrogation and use augmented vision to investigate his surroundings. Observer released in 2017 and recently joined the Xbox Game Pass program.
Observer is set in 2084 Kraków, Poland. The game takes place after the nanophage, a “digital plague” that cost the lives of thousands. This resulted in war and rampant drug use. A megacorporation called Chiron took control of Poland. Then, they created a police unit known as Observers who were put in control of the denizens with license to hack their minds. Drug and hologram addicts were made Class C and cast off to live in tenement buildings.
One morning, Observer detective Daniel Lazarski receives a call from his estranged son Adam, whose caller ID is traced to a tenement building. Locating Adam’s apartment, Daniel discovers a body missing its head. Upon further investigation and much to Daniel’s relief, it doesn’t belong to Adam. However, it soon becomes clear that a vicious serial killer is on the loose somewhere within the tenement. Daniel’s primary goal is to stop the murderer, understand their motive and most importantly find his son.
Observer plays from a first-person perspective. The player can hack people’s brain implants with a device known as the Dream Eater, for interrogation purposes. Dan is Equipped with augmented vision. There’s Electromagnetic Vision which scans for electronic devices and Bio Vision which scans for biological evidence. Also, he is able to analyse and highlight certain objects in his environment. Objects can be interacted with and examined, while dialogue trees are used for speaking with NPC’s.
Bloober Team were heavily inspired by Cyberpunk 2020 & Blade Runner when crafting Observer and it shows. Rutger Hauer delivers a memorable performance as Daniel Lazarski. Observer is one of the most unique video game experiences that I have ever had. None of its gameplay mechanics are particularly original. However, they are used in ways that make the game feel really fresh.
Observer shines brightest during the sequences involving hacking into someone’s memories. The imagery during these moments is stunning, unlike anything I have ever seen before in any game. How these highly creative sections were crafted is beyond me. The whole game feels like a twisted piece of art that comes to life and flashes before your very eyes.
Thankfully, the narrative is fairly simplistic. Still, there are plenty of twists along the way, it’s very well-written. You’ll want to read/listen to everything if you want to completely grasp it. Considering the madness on display, it’s impressive that it manages to tell a coherent tale. It’s a story that does carry emotional weight.
If you’ve played Layers of Fear then certain aspects will feel familiar. Locations transform, rooms bend and twist seamlessly. I cannot stress enough, this game is one of the most creatively interesting looking games I’ve ever played.
Another area in which the game succeeds is that it delivers genuine chills. There are some stealth sections which are intense to say the least. Although, these moments slow things down a bit too much. Also, expect a few jump scares which are delivered well.
My biggest complaint is to do with some of the technical issues within the game. Constant stuttering/frame rate issues plague almost the entirety of the game. I understand there is a lot going on but it’s very frustrating and damages the overall momentum.
Overall, >Observer_ delivers a memorable, nightmarish, often relentless fever dream of a gaming experience. It’s a fantastic Sci-Fi horror title that only has a couple of performance issues holding it back from perfection.