I don’t really know where to start with Observer, the new game from Layers of Fear developer’s Bloober Team as it’s such a mix of genre’s and influences. I’ve just finished my first play through, roughly 8.5 hours and I am sat here dumb struck as to what I have just participated in.
With their previous game, Layers of Fear, Bloober Team locked you away in an old manor house with a painting to slowly piece together and to achieve this you were required to walk the haunting twisted mind of the painter. And Observer certainly plays along on the same twisted path but instead confines you to a locked down hotel in the year 2084 and the many sci-fi movie influences are strikingly apparent.
The story begins briefly explaining what has happened to humanity where almost everyone is now permanently linked to the world-wide web through implants and a virus that had spread killing millions, the world is now run by corporations and the main one being Chiron, these maintain order through fear and poverty. (Not to dissimilar to now, scarily enough).
You play detective Daniel Lazarski (voiced by Rutger Hauer) who after receiving a distressing message from his estranged son, tracks him to a hotel and it’s here the game really starts to show what an imaginative brain the developer’s over at Bloomer Team really have.
The all but brief vision of the outdoor environment has massive billboard adverts and glowing neon everywhere, striking a similar look to the recent Ghost in the Shell movie. And the movie influences don’t stop there with Blade Runner being the most obvious with a little of The Matrix’s visual flare (green computer coding around everything) and story elements to boot.
Once inside this futuristic hotel slum and an abrupt lock down confines you to this stunningly rendered bleak glimpse of a terrifying future you are tasked with piecing together your son’s recent movements by investigating various clues, achieved by talking to the colourful residents through their door video intercom’s and they all have a tale to tell.
Along with these minimal multiple choice question and answer’s you have three other investigative abilities to help with some of the very grisly crime scenes – organic scanning for items such as blood spatter and mechanism scan assisting you to find electronic clues, both are used to great effect highlighting cable paths to hidden storage’s or locked keypads and when in use you can’t help feel like Schwarzenegger’s T-800 (sighting another sci-fi influence.)
Your final investigative tool is the ability to jack into people’s memories via a plug-in HDMI slotted very abruptly and painfully into your suspect (very Matrix) and this is where Bloomer Teams twisted minds reveal themselves once again as the memories are played through contorted visions and hallucinations, these can vary in context, some being obvious hints towards clues, some horrifying and some being down right confusing and almost incomprehensible.
The sound throughout is excellently realised but very minimal, with all manner of futuristic and haunting tones and some well-acted dialogue.
What Bloomer Team have achieved here is a hybrid mix of Cyber Punk and survival horror gaming with strong sci-fi movie influences everywhere, environments are stunningly rendered and every detail beautifully crafted, NPC’s all have interesting and engaging story’s which are never repeated and although not new to gaming the detective element give a real sense of achievement.
I would like to go more in-depth for this review but I feel it would ruin the ultimate outcome and I would like you the reader to feel the sense of bewildered I felt when I finally finished it. There are apparently multiple endings but at this point I don’t know how many and these are tied to the narrative choices you make throughout the game.
The only faults I feel I need to mention are the various chase sequences where you are running from an unstoppable monster as these can mean instant death and become I little frustrating at times, and Rutger’s voice over sometimes sounds like he couldn’t be bothered on that specific day of recording. But these are minor issues and I have thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Bloomer Team’s sci-fi Cyber Punk take on the world’s future but I do hope their next game is in the horror genre because the talented batch of developer’s certainly have a knack for the twisted psychological.
A great intriguing game which shocks, scares and baffles in equal amounts, boasts multiple endings and stunning visuals and sound. It’s simply an essential purchase.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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