Game Review #135: Observer (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Chad M.
Developer: Bloober Team
Publisher: Bloober Team S.A.
Category: Action, Thriller
Release Date: 02.07.2019
Price (at time of review): $29.99
Buy Observer from the Nintendo eShop here.
Cyberpunk Has Gotten Scary
I’m a big survival-horror fan, and just a fan of horror games in general. Nothing’s better than turning off the lights, jumping on the couch, and becoming deeply engrossed—that is, until one of my animals brushes up against my leg and sends me into cardiac arrest. We are at a time when fans are rebuilding PT, the abandoned Silent Hill project, because they want well-made horror games. The Polish studio, Bloober Team SA, who was formed in 2008, has been working to bring us horror games, with their first installment being the psychological-horror game Layers of Fear, which I recommend. The game we are going to be talking about was their second release, which came out in 2017 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Now it’s here on Switch, so let’s get into it.
Is It Gonna Be a Rainy Night? Umm, Yes!
Observer is set in 2084 Kraków, Poland after the nanophage, a "digital plague" that cost the lives of thousands, resulting in war and rampant drug use. After Chiron, a mega corporation, took control of Poland and manifested the Fifth Polish Republic, a police unit known as Observers was 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.
You start out as the main protagonist, Daniel Lazarski, a KPD detective (observer) who receives a distress call from his estranged son on a dark and rainy night in Karków. Daniel tracks his son’s location, setting in motion a domino effect that leaves dead bodies in his wake, and has him looking for clues all through the night as to what the hell is going on. This is a deep, enthralling story, of which I don’t want to give up too much.
The Leading Man Matters
Daniel Lazarski is played by one of my favorite actors, Rutger Hauer. My grandmother was infatuated with him, so I was introduced at an early age, watching movies like Lady Hawke. Though I could write an entire article about his film roles, by far his most iconic role to date is that of Roy Batty, the replicant bad guy in Blade Runner. It was no surprise when I found out that Blade Runner was a large inspiration for the developers while making the game, but also what lead them to get Rutger for the lead role. His gravelly tone chews through the dialog like only someone of his high caliber can do.
Extra Tidbit - check out The Hitcher, Blind Fury, Wanted: Dead or Alive, and Split Second.
When There Is No Way In You must Go Through
The game plays out like a movie—and I mean that literally—with a soft opening which is then lead by credits, like in a normal movie. After that, you dive right in to a mysterious plot full twists and turns, oh, and of course, murder. At the heart of the game, this is like an Agatha Christie novel in the future with kooky characters, crazy interactions, and a lot of digging around. Once you get to the point where you hack someone’s mind, it flips and teeters more towards the psychological-horror, which I was fine with. It would test your mind’s eye, and take every chance to scare the hell out of you, which I can say it does.
The game set in first-person mode, but it’s wasn’t as tight as say a Call of Duty game—but that’s fine, as I wasn’t trying to duck, dodge and shoot. So, though the controls felt a tad loose, it didn’t hinder my experience. You speak with a lot of characters and have to choose dialogue carefully, as you can upset characters and change how things turn out.
The cameras and angles were fine, and never gave any issues, which is so important, because playing in first-person, it’s all about what you can see. While looking for evidence, you can activate two different scan modes (like Predator) that will allow Daniel to see things the naked eye cannot, like heat signatures. You’ll scan items and collect intel to get to the bottom of this murderous plot. There’s also the added mechanic of going into your interface on your device, located on your wrist, where you must take a pill to take the edge off; this is also where you can view your objectives.
Fun Factor/Scare Factor - Audio & Visuals
This game is genuinely creepy and scary, and has engaging dialogue and characters with a great lead in Rutger Hauer. I do have to say with a fair warning that this isn’t going to start off fast, nor will it immediately jump into the deep end of the game. This was more of a slow burn that builds and builds, giving you small chunks at a time to keep you invested and motivated to keep moving forward to find out what’s going on. By the time you go into full on server mode and hack someone’s mind, it takes a crazy turn from a detective just making the rounds, to a nightmarish hell that is someone else’s mind. After that first jump, things only get weirder and scarier, and you can’t help but going further down the rabbit hole, so to speak.
Arkadiusz Reikowski composed the score, infusing it with choral, diegetic and ambient music. The soundtrack is brilliantly done, with sounds that are ominous and help bring the tension in like waves on waves. A team of around thirty developed the game using the Unreal Engine 4, and it shines, bringing this dark twisted cyberpunk world to us.
It’s A Wrap!!!
Observer is a tight, taut cyberpunk horror story with a solid story and plenty of scares to keep you invested. There are a few things that weren’t perfect, like the stealth parts with the controls, but I can overlook that for what was an enjoyable experience that scared the hell out of me at times. If a you’re a fan of horror or future-cyberpunk then check this out. Just remember, it isn’t guns-a-blazing; this is a noir thriller at the heart of it.
Buy Observer from the Nintendo eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided by Evolve PR