REVIEW: Observation (PS4), a tense space odyssey

REVIEW: Observation (PS4), a tense space odyssey

Observation is a PS4 game that picks up many references from 2001: A Space Odyssey to tell your story; check out the review

In space, no one can hear you scream. And that saying becomes even more real when your only companion is a computer that is not working properly. Subverting the cliché of science-themed games in space, Observation is a brilliant cosmic thriller that puts the player in control of SAM, an Artificial Intelligence that needs to help scientist Emma Fischer to unravel the mystery surrounding the Observation space station, drifts into space.

Devolver Digital provided Showmetech with a digital copy of Observation to PS4 and, after an intense week of gambling (and some bouts of dizziness), we bring a complete analysis of the game covering all its details, strengths and disadvantages.

SAM, are you?

Get into the plot of this science-fiction game in a very simple space. The Observation space station has moved away from its Earth orbit and is drifting. Their systems are malfunctioning, a fire broke out and the onboard artificial intelligence, SAM, is acting very strange. In the midst of this chaos in space, the only conscious crew member at the edge of the station Dr. Emma Fisher, a reluctant but ingenious heroine of this fantastic thriller.

Hello, I'm SAM. Who can I help?Hello, I'm SAM. Who can I help?

At the beginning it is possible to imagine that the only thing that Dr. Fisher needs to do is to reestablish communication with the base and return to Earth, right? I wish. Much to the scientist's (and the player's) surprise, Observation has strayed far from its course and is now orbiting the planet Saturn. And to make matters worse, a sinister command of unknown origin in SAM is the only log record for this bizarre incident: BRING IT.

However, the most interesting thing about Observation Your space theme is not so well covered, but you don’t play as Fisher. Instead, you play as SAM, your AI helper. This is an extension of you and your cameras are your eyes and ears. You can, when requested, open doors, tubes, assess damage and all types of functional functions. But something seems to have awakened in you. A flash of self-awareness, perhaps. And now it's up to the player to deal with SAM's unforeseen errors and glitches while trying to put some order in the station.

A station lost in space at ObservationA station lost in space at Observation

The design of the Observation is very similar to that of the International Space Station in the real world: a technological maze of claustrophobic corridors full of laptops, scientific equipment and crew belongings, which, on purpose, is missing. The feeling that everyone was doing their daily chores at the station and simply disappeared into the void of the big space. Fisher may be alone, but when she floats around the station in zero gravity, there are echoes from the missing crew around her.

The performance of our fantastic hero! His anguish in discovering that he is, somehow, inexplicably, almost 900 million kilometers from where he should have been very palpable. But, being a trained astronaut, she tries to calm down and stay focused, starting work without delay to repair the damaged station – with her help within the SAM circuits.

Observation is orbiting Saturn. Something is definitely not right.Observation is orbiting Saturn. Something is definitely not right

In AI control you can, at any time, pull an Observation scheme and jump between stationary cameras, zoom in and zoom out and search for objects of interest. The immersive atmosphere of the game is intensified by the fact that it is largely a silent adventure, except for the ambient noise of the station and the hum and click of these cameras, which is mechanical and, at the same time, unnerving.

The Observation “world”

A detail that may go unnoticed by some players but it helps to create the perfect atmosphere to reinforce the idea that you are playing as a machine the subtle use of video effects, with simulated interference, grain and distortion. All of these visual aspects of the image are of an old, analogue quality. This, together with the realism of the space station, as well as natural lighting, makes the experience, as a whole, realistically impressive.

Despite controlling SAM, Dr. Emma Fisher is the hero of the game.Despite controlling SAM, Dr. Emma Fisher the hero of the game

In Observation there is a very ironic contrast, since despite being in the vastness of space, your world is visualized through the curve of a lens with limited vision, and the technology connected through the wounded station is as fallible as anything else. This feeling of being at the mercy of technology, with only a thin layer of aluminum between you and an infinite cosmic void, adds a current of tension.

When you find something that Dr. Fisher is looking for with one of her cameras – a damaged module or the source of a fire, for example – you can respond to your request. SAM responds in a calm, reassuring voice, but also slightly unsettling (very characteristic of the science fiction AIs).

This is a real maze of corridors.This is a real maze of corridors

It will also ask you to unlock stuck ports, retrieve data from laptops and restart systems, including restoring communications with Earth and activating a tracker to find the lost team.

Despite all this, SAM is not always confined to the Observation camera network. In some parts of the game you can control spheres: small sphere-shaped drones that allow you to fly freely through the station, interacting with things in the same way that you can with cameras.

You need to repair the damage, even without knowing how it was done.You need to repair the damage, even without knowing how it was caused

Flying takes a little getting used to, particularly when it comes to orienting yourself in a place where an outdated concept goes up and down. Also, don't be surprised if you feel a little sick after flying through the station for a few minutes. Still, spheres are the best way to explore the station, looking for hidden documents and audio records that will help fill in some of the blanks in the game's enigmatic history.

Mystery in the stars

Observation is a place worth exploring, being composed of four sections: Salyut 10, the Russian arm; Horizonte, the European and American arm; Shenzhou XII, the Chinese arm; and Universal, a central hub shared by the entire team. Each section of the station has its own distinct aesthetic, atmosphere and personality, reflecting both the nations that build them and the people who live and work there.

SAM needs to perform several tasks, such as recognizing even voice patterns.SAM needs to perform several tasks, such as recognizing even voice patterns

The station is extremely detailed, from computers and machines of intricate design that keep it running, to pens and rolls of tape tied in people's workspaces.

Finding a problem is one thing, but to fix something that is broken – like the experimental spindle reactor that powers the station – you usually need to dive into its circuits. The station is governed by a series of complex and arcane computer systems that are beyond Fisher's considerable talents, leaving SAM to understand them.

There aren't many instructions for the puzzles, so it's up to the player to figure out how to solve them.There aren't many instructions for the puzzles, so it's up to the player to figure out how to solve them.

In this part, the puzzle solving aspect takes over the game when you try to unravel these systems, and more than once you will need a pen and paper to write down a pattern of commands or sequence of actions. It is a bit bizarre to imagine playing as a super-smart and self-conscious computer, but still having to use a notepad to compensate for the limitations of the player's organic brain.

Each puzzle is represented by a stylized interface, with the kind of functional design you would expect from something that should only be accessed by a machine. No coincidence that the game was run by the person responsible for the AI ​​of success Alien: Isolation.

Many puzzles may seem simpler than they appear.Many puzzles may seem simpler than they appear

Tasks include adjusting a magnetic field in the aforementioned spindle reactor, running diagnostics on its own damaged memory core, fixing the clamps that hold the station together, and restarting a defective cooling system. And all these works have their own unique interface and means of interaction, rooted in intelligent and well-designed puzzles that are immensely satisfying to be solved.

Many of them involve reference schemes or diagrams that are usually found on walls or hidden in laptops. Other solutions can be discovered more instinctively, poking the sliders, buttons and other trinkets of a particular system until it starts to make sense. The huge variety of puzzles in Observation impressive – both in terms of how you interact with them and in their visual design. As a puzzle game, it offers a very tough challenge, but nothing that really stops you from progressing.

Get ready for big twists in this sci-fi thriller.Get ready for big twists in this sci-fi thriller

The only real fight that many players are likely to have is getting lost in the station's labyrinthine tunnels while controlling the spheres – at least until you realize the quick travel system in which, when you choose a module on the map, it takes you there.

Much more than just bits

In general, however, Observation a game that almost never holds your hand to guide you to your goals, offering a certain freedom to the player, rarely revealing much about where to go next or how to solve a specific problem. You can ask Fisher to repeat his last command, but most of the time it works more like a critical clue or a subtle hint than an explicit statement.

It takes some getting used to the control of the sphere.It takes some getting used to the control of the sphere

The other big one outside Observation its history and how it is told. The influence of 2001: An Odyssey in Space It is obvious, but not in the way that many might expect. The rebellion and agitation of SAM self-awareness are not as ominous or immediately obvious as those of HAL in the classic cinema.

Instead, in the contained and almost claustrophobic form that the narrative is conducted, it can feel the strongest echoes of Kubrick's austere science fiction peak. The plot of Observation It is incredibly attractive, with a fascinating sense of mystery that will surely keep any fan of a good story hooked from start to finish.

Pay attention to Fisher's instructions and don't forget to ask if you have any questions.Pay attention to Fisher's instructions and don't forget to ask if you have any questions

You can increase your understanding of the plot by consulting optional audio records and documents, but it is still much left to your imagination. One of the disappointments of the game is that it never feels like SAM was experiencing some kind of moral conflict, or that he was fighting the mysterious forces that invaded his programming.

In fact, he is not much of a character in the classic form of a storyline, which many players may find frustrating if they expect something on the level of great antagonists and science fiction villains. Fisher is the heart and soul of the game, and the character that the player will feel most connected to. The important thing that, long after you have finished Observation, the player misses his interactions with Fisher. Having assumed the role of SAM as if you had become the scientist's best friend and confidant, and now the two are separated forever.

Alone in space ... Ser?Alone in space … Ser?

a great relief to discover that Observation it was not just another horror game set in space. The game has the precise rhythm, the beautifully drawn tension and the sinuous narrative of a great suspense. scary, but just under the surface, silently eating your nerves instead of shocking them. And the best kind of science fiction: exciting and fun, but also making you think of humanity's place in the cosmos and, perhaps, in the deepest mysteries of the universe.

In addition to the Playstation 4, Observation also recently arrived at Steam, and is available from R $ 103.90 on PlayStation Store (PS4 version) and from R $ 47.49 on Steam (PC version).

PC specifications

Minimum:

  • Operational system: Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10 x64
  • Processor: Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10 x64 OS Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10 x64 Intel Core i3-3240 CPU (2x 3400) or equivalent | AMD FX-4300 (4x 3800) or equivalent
  • Memory: 4 GB of RAM
  • Video card: GeForce GT 640 (2048 MB) | Radeon HD 7750 (2048 MB)
  • Storage: 12 GB of available disk space

In case you don't want to play with the graphics to the maximum, Observation runs very well on some more basic video cards. If you’re just looking for price, the Radeon HD 7750 may be hard to find because it’s sold out on the market, but a good replacement for it is Radeon HD 6570, which offers 2 GB of video processing memory and can be found at Amazon from R $ 463.77.

Now, if you want a little better processing, you can choose to GeForce GT 640, which offers the same 2 GB of video memory but using DDR5 combs, which are much faster than Radeon's DDR3. This card can be found from R $ 849.90 at Showmetech Magazine.

Recommended

  • ONLY: Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10 x64
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-6600K (4x 3500) or equivalent | AMD Ryzen 3 2200G (4x 3500) or equivalent
  • Memory: 4 GB of RAM
  • Video card: GeForce GTX 960 (4096 MB) | Radeon RX 570 (8192 MB)
  • Storage: 12 GB of available disk space

Now, if you want to take advantage of the cutting edge graphics that Observation offers, it will be necessary to have more powerful equipment. A good option in this scheme is Radeon RX 570, which offers 8GB of memory for video processing, and can be found from R $ 1826.05 on Amazon.

But if you prefer an NVIDIA card, it can be difficult to find the GeForce GTX 960 because it is currently missing from the market, but a good alternative to GeForce GTX 1060, which offers 6 GB of video memory – slightly more than the 4 GB recommended for GeForce cards. This card can be found from R $ 2470.16 on Amazon, but she always goes into promotions that offer about R $ 600 discount on the final value of the product, so it's worth watching.

Observation

8.5 / 10

Observation (PS4)

Observation is a great example of how to combine an elaborate storyline with the theme of science fiction in the universe of games. The plot is well written and intelligent, creating a gameplay that tests the player's insight with elaborate puzzles and with a constant tension that holds this odyssey in space.

Pros

  • Perfect sci-fi look and feel
  • Rich and exciting storyline
  • Wide variety of puzzles

Cons

  • Lack of some puzzle solving tutorials
  • Ball controls can cause some discomfort