‘Observer’ Review: The Mind-Bending Sci-Fi Game Made Me Doubt Reality

I press a buzzer on a dingy apartment door, and a single pulsing eye appears on the intercom screen. My voice comes out frail, disappointed, all age and regret. “KPD,” says the visitor, meaning Krakow Police Department. “I need to talk to you for a moment.” The voice that responds is incoherent, rambling, paranoid. I find myself wondering if it’s even real.

That’s not the kind of question I often ask myself in videogames, but Observer is something special. The first-person experience by Polish studio Bloober Team features one of the most convincing realities I’ve seen in some time—and the devs build it for the express purpose of breaking it apart. Normally, I happily let games go where they want to without stressing over the integrity of the world they inhabit. After all, it’s not real; the difference between hallucination and objectivity isn’t an essential one. But Observer, a cyberpunk meditation on the frailty of perception and the tenuous bonds that tie people together, made me question my own eyes.

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In the game, you play a titular “observer,” a type of futuristic detective who gathers information by plugging into the neural implants of victims. You begin in a patrol car, receiving an unexpected, abrupt phone call from your son. The game moves to an apartment complex in the slums. The complex goes on lockdown for unknown reasons not long after you arrive, trapping you inside with all the tenants. What follows feels like Die Hard if it had been written by Philip K. Dick and directed by David Cronenberg, where the only way to escape is to solve an existential mystery about the nature of reality.

What’s really important here isn’t the plot, but the presentation. As you jack into the implants of the dead or dying to determine what’s going on and where your son might be, reality gets fuzzy. The world is already unstable, dotted with holographic augmented-reality displays that warp space with a mixture of advertisements and propaganda—but once you jack in, everything changes.

The memories of a dying person aren’t pleasant. In harrowing segments full of fragmented hallucinations and broken spaces, Observer pulls you through entire life stories as they flash through collapsing minds. I found myself inside a prison cell with a convict enduring withdrawal, only to jump to his apartment, where he lies dying. As I move through it, it loops and fractures, and I’m back in prison, walking down an endless hallway. In another memorable segment, I’m in a cubicle farm that slowly morphs from a metaphorical labyrinth into a literal one; piles of retro-style computers and servers jut from the walls, glistening as if alive.

After experiences like that, nothing quite feels real anymore. And when hallucinations from the mental world start seeping into the real one, the entire landscape of the game finds itself in unstable territory. Is any of this real? Whose hallucinations are these? Bloober Team sells these questions with a stunning devotion to space and presentation. They’re not new ideas, and the story Observer tells isn’t original, but space and time shift before your eyes in uncanny and unsettling ways. Technology and flesh blend in creepy ways. The apartment complex’s navigable corridors and rooms turn into genuinely impossible mental landscapes with a stunning, unsettling clarity.

Obsever sells the sense that you don’t know what’s coming next, and it invests its environments with such dense detail that I found myself genuinely invested in knowing what parts of my experiences could be mapped to an objective reality—if any. This is Observer‘s best trick: I wanted to understand this place even as it fell apart around me.

The game, on PC and Xbox, isn’t likely to reach a wide audience, and many who do play it might be turned off by its rough edges. It tosses unnecessary and tedious stealth segments into its cyberpunk haunted house for no compelling reason, and Rutger Hauer’s central vocal performance is awkward and wooden (though it does sell the sense of a deeply disengaged, alienated noir protagonist). Several of its individual pieces don’t work. But it flows beautifully as a whole.

Late in the game, you’re offered a choice. You can jack into the brain of one more victim, enter one more broken world, or you can move on. Hesitating might cause you to miss key information, but who knows what will happen if you forge ahead? Each psychic journey is a violation of objective reality, and one too many could break your observer. Could break everything.

The brilliance of Observer lies in this simple detail: I hesitated, because I was genuinely afraid of what might happen. Any game that accomplishes that is a game worth playing.

The Perfect Comic to Honor Jack Kirby’s 100th Birthday

This year marks what would have been comic book legend Jack Kirby‘s 100th birthday, a fact that last week’s Comic-Con International marked with no fewer than six panels dedicated to his work and countless others on the characters and concepts he created in his nearly 70-year career. It was a fitting tribute for the man who gave comic book fans everyone from the Avengers to the DC mega-villain Darkseid. Many of those marquee characters have not fared as well as others, but there is one comic coming this year that lives up to their legacy—even if it doesn’t feature any of them at all.

For fans who only know the “King of Comics” because of his work creating the Marvel Universe (Iron Man, Thor, Black Panther, the X-Men, and so on), DC’s revival of Mister Miracle might seem like an odd way to honor Kirby. But for those who followed his work beyond Marvel, the reboot of the Fourth World Saga title is, arguably, the one most true to Kirby’s contributions to the genre. Written by Tom King (Marvel’s The Vision and DC’s current Batman series) with art by Mitch Gerads (King’s collaborator on The Sheriff of Babylon), the new Mister Miracle manages to honor Kirby, who died in 1994, by not trying to be him.

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In the decades between when he co-created Captain America in the 1940s and what many consider his (unfinished) magnum opus Fourth World in the ’70s, Kirby’s storytelling style reinvented the superhero genre and gave the medium a visual language it still uses today. The new Mister Miracle, out August 9, doesn’t try to recreate his aesthetics, but rather pays homage to the influence they had, using digital techniques to mix together Kirby’s original work (the cover for Kirby’s first issue appears as a background detail in the new series), comic book iconography, and other pop culture visuals. The result is a comic that feels both fresh and familiar.

That’s not true for a lot of Kirby’s Marvel creations these days. The publisher’s current line is built almost exclusively around Kirby concepts, but its summer storyline, Secret Empire, turns Captain America into a fascist who has taken over the US. In the fall, Marvel Legacy will attempt to course-correct, but will do so with a line-up that drops Cap entirely while replacing Kirby’s takes on Thor and Iron Man with new versions. (It’s not all bad, though. Black Panther remains one of the publisher’s highest-profile series thanks to writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. And the current Marvel Studios movies are staying relatively true to the Kirby-established DNA.)

DC Entertainment

Over at DC, things are very different. Despite having a shorter history with Kirby, the publisher has launched two new series anchored by his creations so far this year, including Kamandi Challenge and Bug, the latter coming from the Young Animal imprint. Honoring Fourth World, though, is at the forefront. In addition to the Mister Miracle reboot, the publisher is also releasing six special one-off issues featuring Fourth World characters and other Kirby creations. Those releases might not have the pop of big Marvel movies, but for many Kirby fans, it’s the Fourth World titles that deserve the most recognition.

Comprising four series running alongside each other, all written and drawn by Kirby, Fourth World took the lessons Kirby had learned from his Marvel work and applied them to the real world. Comics like Mister Miracle and New Gods were as much about contemporaneous issues—the ’60s/’70s counterculture, Vietnam—and Kirby’s own experiences in WWII as they were about the fictional godlike beings that appeared in their pages. The line was a commercial flop, perhaps due to the fact that it was so ahead of its time, but Fourth World‘s forward-looking concepts now make it the perfect vehicle for showing off his legacy.

To that end, the first issue of Mister Miracle is wondrous and dizzying, yet never unclear (thanks, in large part, to the use of the nine-panel page structure Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons used for Watchmen). Its closest antecedent is probably the FX show Legion, but it feels very much like its own thing, building on what came before without disrespecting any of its predecessors—which is exactly the attitude Kirby himself reportedly had when taking over comics like The Losers or Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen back in the day.

Beyond that, Mister Miracle succeeds where other comics featuring Kirby characters have failed by doing something that has, sadly, become an increasingly rare skill: telling a story about universal experiences and giving the audience characters to care about. And if there’s one lesson that the King of Comics would want to teach today’s comic creators, it’s likely that one. Jack Kirby would have turned 100 the same month Mister Miracle hits shelves. It is—if nothing else—a birthday present to the medium he loved so much.

Sure, But who is Gonna Pay to Colonize area?

Science fiction is filled with grand visions of mankind releasing colony ship fleets to settle alien globes. Pretty cool, appropriate? It is, but sci-fi writer James Patrick Kelly desires to know who would be investing in all those ambitious colonization missions.

“It’s a truism your field does not acknowledge that hardly any, if any, technology fiction authors have any idea of economics,” Kelly says in Episode 264 of the Geek’s Guide towards Galaxy podcast.

In Kelly’s new novel Mother Go, opposition up to a colony ship steadily mounts while the launch date approaches must be vocal ‘Earth First’ faction doesn’t want to see plenty technology and talent depart our planet forever. Kelly thinks that’s an all-too-plausible situation.

“Is that really exactly what Joe Six-Pack will wish to spend his money on, to make certain that some future, future, future, future generation will have a delighted life on some globe on offer Tau Ceti?” Kelly states.

Sci-fi frequently makes interstellar travel appearance easy, with figures jetting around the galaxy making use of FTL drives. But such technology will most likely never ever occur. Alternatively area travel could be sluggish, dangerous, and grueling. “The galactic cosmic radiation of being exposed in a starship, a well-shielded starship, is such that it most likely is often a problem,” Kelly claims. “You’re likely to be exposed to galactic cosmic radiation for decades, and that isn’t good for you.”

Offered all hurdles, he believes an interstellar voyage is not likely unless technology fundamentally changes the equation. As an example, if everyone was capable keep their flesh systems behind, that will make enough space travel a lot more practical.

“I type of have confidence in Charlie Stross‘ proven fact that the future of room exploration is we’ll download ourselves into Coke-can-sized spaceships,” claims Kelly.

Tune in to the complete meeting with James Patrick Kelly in Episode 264 of Geek’s Guide on Galaxy (above). And look for some highlights from discussion below.

James Patrick Kelly on hereditary engineering:

“We can say for certain that there are hibernators, extremely effective hibernators. There’s a little hand-wavey thing going on [in my work] where I’m positing that the same systems that allow a ground squirrel to hibernate are transferable and helpful for humans. The bottom squirrel trend along with other hibernation phenomena exist in true to life, and there is chemistry and biology which were studied about how precisely it really works, but there’s simply no way we understand just how to try this, to genetically modify humans. But alternatively, it is 150 years as time goes by, give me a rest. This really is inside the purview of technology fiction extrapolation, when it is proved incorrect I’ll be long dead—unless I’m hibernating as well as on my way to the stars, we don’t understand.”

James Patrick Kelly on Syfy, back in the heady days as soon as the internet appeared like the magical carpeting trip to success and millions of dollars and popularity, they’d a show called Seeing Ear Theater. Seeing Ear Theater had been audio plays written by technology fiction article writers, and because Sci-Fi was downtown, in ny, they might simply grab actors who had been on Broadway or moving through. … therefore Paul Giamatti did an account of my own. Not my own, but Brian Dennehy did them. Claire Bloom, John Turturro, all these individuals. … [But] it had beenn’t pulling its fat, so that it went away.”

James Patrick Kelly on teaching writing:

“This will probably sound like I’m maybe not tolerant, however if you’re an undergrad and also you wish to compose technology fiction and fantasy, you truly can’t have the types of feedback you would like unless you’re workshopping with a person who is in fact publishing science fiction. … you will need the sort of feedback that only somebody who understands the industry and who is publishing in the field will give you. As well as the unfortunate fact of the matter is a lot of people that show writing are lightly published, if published at all. They’re not working authors, they’re training writers. This is usually a problem with writing programs—how qualified could be the writing teacher to show you about the types of writing you want to do?”

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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Recap, Episode 10: Dystopia Ain’t great at Happy Endings

In a dystopia, there are not any happy endings. Despite exactly what June claims or thinks, life won’t ever go back to how it had been. Moira can’t erase the evenings of ritual rape. Janine can’t restore a person’s eye the Republic of Gilead took from the woman. June can’t be here on her daughter’s childhood.

But providing there’s opposition, there’s hope. If the handmaids first arrived towards Rachel and Leah Center for training, they shared a look of terror to them, a appearance June (Elisabeth Moss) had never seen in actual life. But by The Handmaid’s Tale season finale, June, armed by having a package the Mayday Resistance, is currently longer afraid. “They should not have provided united states uniforms if they didn’t desire us become an military,” she believes, striding down snowy Boston roads with her fellow red-dressed soldiers.

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Gilead’s leaders, though, won’t drop without a fight—an unsightly one. After June hides the secret package behind a tub at her Commander’s house, their spouse Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) strikes the lady across the face, knocking June towards the floor. “I trusted you,” she states. “You might have kept me with one thing.” Mrs. Waterford has discovered June’s illicit brothel trips along with her spouse, betraying the strict roles associated with the republic. After bloodying the woman face, Serena Joy hands the lady a maternity test: She must know that the nights aided by the Commander, the affair between June and Nick she helped orchestrate, have at least resulted in an infant. For Serena Joy—and the regime—that’s the entire point of June’s existence.

Also it’s worked: June is expecting. Instantly, things change. Serena Joy does not damage the lady. Rita hugs the lady and prepares her a particular breakfast. When June tells Nick (Max Minghella), the presumed dad, we come across a uncommon minute of intimacy, as he touches the woman belly, holds her hand, and leans into her neck. Rape and misogyny didn’t prompt him to combat the regime, but personal stakes—the possibility for his or her own child—do. They could be a family. They might escape.

Serena Joy senses their private hope, and contains a plan to squash it. She escorts June as a car, locks the doors behind the girl, and takes the girl up to a nearby home. June is left in car while Serena Joy walks up and sits on steps of the property having young girl wearing pink: June’s daughter, Hannah. June pleads aided by the motorist to be discrete, pounds on the screen, throws herself against the vehicle home, to no avail. “As long as my infant is safe, therefore is yours,” Serena Joy informs her, making certain June, the vessel carrying the baby she wants, stays compliant. Serena Joy may feel June has rendered her powerless in her wedding, but she constantly discovers ways to remind her handmaid that is responsible. “You are deranged, you’re fucking wicked, you know that?” says June, spitting the language on Commander’s spouse through the window. “You are a goddamn motherfucking monster.” A monster who can utilize Hannah’s life as security. June asks the Commander to guard her daughter, but are no guarantees. She’s caught.

Rape and misogyny didn’t prompt Nick to combat the regime, but individual stakes—the chance for his own child—do.

But Moira (Samira Wiley) isn’t. She finally managed to make it out of Gilead after taking a man’s clothing at shiv-point and driving faraway from the brothel Jezebel’s. She makes it to Ontario and it is brought to a federal government center, where we finally see the mundane bureaucracy of survivors. A person provides Moira a refugee ID card, a prepaid mobile phone, a bag of clothes, a health care insurance card. (Oh, Canada.) Then, she’s free to do as she wants: to read, to shower, to get food. The caseworker tells a dumbfounded Moira, “it’s totally up to you.” Entirely alone and unmoored, she wanders out of the office discover Luke (O-T Fagbenle), the lady best friend’s spouse, awaiting her. “You’re on my list,” says Luke. It cann’t make a difference when they fought a lifetime ago—they’re family.

After Serena Joy confronts him about their event with June, the Commander tries to make amends. Soon, Offred/June will likely to be gone, and also the three of them—Serena, Fred, and the baby—will have the ability to take up a brand new family members. When the handmaid has served the woman purpose, she’ll disappear completely from their lives.

Except stealing someone’s infant isn’t quite very easy. After he made promises to his handmaid Janine they could run away together, Commander Putnam (Stephen Kunken) can’t leave his sin before. He faces a tribunal of peers, and thanks to their wife’s plea he get the harshest possible punishment, he loses a hand for his affair. The spouses still hold some energy, even if it is only vindictive.

June is headed for either punishment or escape; either way, she’s making.

But Janine (Madeline Brewer), the transgressive handmaid, suffers a worse fate: As soon as the other handmaids are summoned up to a Salvaging, it’s no not known guy they’re told to stone to death, but among their. For once, we come across the internal struggle of Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd), the girl who trained and subjugated these women. “My unique girls,” she claims, searching across a sea of red dresses and white bonnets. “So stunning.” However the punishment for endangering a young child is death by stoning, and so one of her special girls must perish. She blows the whistle.

But the handmaids rally and refuse to murder Janine. Ofglen (Tattiawna Jones), the most stalwart believer in Gilead, shouts out this is insane, and gets hit because of the muzzle of a weapon. The remainder handmaids stay alone, holding their stones. June appears up, drops her rock, and states, “I’m sorry, Aunt Lydia.” Others handmaids follow suit. It’s an work of rebellion, couched in submissive apology. Aunt Lydia is confused, upset, irate. “There will soon be consequences, believe me,” she informs the handmaids. But also for now, they’ve spared the life span of one of these own.

As June sits by her screen, awaiting punishment for sparing living of the woman buddy, she seems relaxed. “I should really be terrified, but personally i think serene,” she thinks. “There’s a kind of hope, it seems, even in futility.” A black colored automobile brings up, and prior to the Eyes come to take the woman away, Nick tells the girl, “just go, trust in me.” Surprising no body, he finally views the worth in bucking the machine whenever his own youngster is involved. June walks past the bewildered Waterfords and in to the automobile. “And therefore I step up, to the darkness within—or else the light,” she believes. She’s headed for either punishment or escape; in either case, she’s making.

Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale novel ends Offred’s story here. In an additional chapter, a teacher of Gileadean Studies dissects her journal for facts, but cannot find documents regarding the rest of the woman life. The very first period expanded somewhat through the guide, through tales of Moira, Janine, and Luke, and Season 2 is going to do equivalent. “The world has escaped from guide, and has now taken on a new way life of its own,” claims writer Atwood, who’ll continue steadily to work closely with show creator Bruce Miller in the second season. The Handmaid’s Tale escaped Atwood’s imagination as a result of Hulu—as for June’s escape, fans will need to keep viewing to discover.

Don’t Worry, There’s many Great Iron Fist—It’s simply not on Netflix

The critical pile-on of Iron Fist has officially reached comedy status. The fourth of Netflix’s Marvel shows (and also the final lead-in to next year’s Defenders teamup) premieres today, together with reception on very first couple of episodes is not sort. While that’s largely the fault of dull writing and plodding plotting, though, Iron Fist himself hasn’t been helping. As soon as that Netflix announced the casting of Finn Jones once the titular hero, there’s a been a steady drumbeat of complaints about a white man playing the greatest martial musician in world—a issue who has just become louder as Jones has waded intro the fray, getting defensive on Twitter and suggesting that folks are just complaining because Donald Trump is President.

To be fair, numerous comic book fans attended toward defense of Jones’ casting. Yes, they argue, it could be racially insensitive to enjoy a white man be Marvel’s best martial artist; and yeah, it is another exemplory instance of Marvel’s reliance in the “white savior” trope, one more troubling after last year’s Doctor Strange turned The Ancient One from an Asian up to a Caucasian role. But, they insist, it’s canon, because Iron Fist had been actually white.

That’s real: Danny Rand, the Iron Fist on show, is certainly the primary Iron Fist in comic book continuity. But that doesn’t mean that Danny Rand may be the only Iron Fist in Marvel’s comic guide mythology. As early as their 2nd comic book appearance (in 1972’s Marvel Premiere #16), there is the implication that Iron Fist had beenn’t an individual’s identity as much as a shared mantle that had been worn by different people throughout history. It could just take years for that idea in the future into focus, however when it did—courtesy associated with the 2006 Immortal Iron Fist show by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, and David Aja—it revolutionized Iron Fist as a concept, so that as a superhero identity.

Rand, Immortal Iron Fist unveiled, had been the sixty-seventh Iron Fist to that point. Although the show only introduced visitors to seven of their 66 predecessors, all except one of them had been of Asian descent. Beyond Quan Yazou, the original Iron Fist, there have been Li Park, Bein Ming-Tian, Wu Ao-Shi, Bei Bang-Wen and Kwai Jun-Fan—and do not require had been a hipster form of Bruce Wayne.(Though it is telling that the series invested more hours because of the seventh predecessor, a white guy called Orson Randall, than some of the other people.)

Nor had been Iron Fist’s Asian legacy only previously; both in Immortal Iron Fist and subsequent show Iron Fist: The residing Weapon, the article writers founded that the future associated with Iron Fist had been distinctly un-Caucasian. The previous show flashed-forward towards 12 months 3099 to introduce Wah Sing-Rand, while The Living gun showed a feminine monk called Pei possessing the Iron Fist.

In lots of ways, this might be commensurate with Marvel’s basic direction about comic guide representation throughout the last couple of years. Once upon a time, the company’s catalog of heroes who had been ladies or individuals of color was restricted to sidekicks, supporting characters, additionally the periodic team-member. Recently, however, more familiar superhero identities have already been converted into franchises having an aim of more accurately reflecting the planet outside your window. The half-Black, half-Latino Miles Morales became a second Spider-Man; Sam Wilson—formerly the high-flying Falcon—signed on as new Captain America; Thor had been replaced as god of thunder by his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster.

While that trend seems to be continuing to the day—Invincible Iron Man had been recently relaunched having teenage girl taking the place of Tony Stark—there remains a horde of traditionalists for who there can just only be one form of any given character. Most of the time, meaning the original variation, when just about everyone was a white guy. It’s worth noting that Marvel is seeing historically low sales of its month-to-month games, resulting in rumors of the relaunch later this season that may restore the white male variations of its big names assured of attractive to long-lasting fans.

Is the fact that conservative impulse among fandom the main reason that Marvel didn’t try to switch things up when selecting a TV form of Iron Fist? It’s not clear. The business’s movies and TV adaptations often hew towards the “classic” assumes figures, however constantly: Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Agents of SHIELD‘s Ghost Rider had been predicated on later incarnations rather than the initial (white) ones. However, if you’re convinced that Netflix’s Iron Fist must be white due to “canon,” forget it: A full 80% associated with the comic guide Iron Fists currently haven’t white. There’s more than enough material offered to help an alternative take. Perhaps those worried about fidelity to your source product should ask by themselves why Marvel didn’t really choose canon originally.

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