One of my favorite things about gaming is all the unique ways developers find to tell a story. Typically you start off with a protagonist, and circumstances force them to rise above themselves and fight for a cause. While Republique follows that same format, you aren’t playing as the protagonist…technically. Instead, you play as yourself. It all starts off with a phone call. Hope, the self given name for 390-H, contacts you in a panic as she is about to be “erased” by the Prizrak, a private military organization in a totalitarian state. Hope manages to hide her phone from her captors, only to be found by a sympathetic guard named Cooper, who remains in contact with you throughout the game. By returning the phone to Hope, Cooper gives her access to the only tool necessary for Hope to escape the facility she is trapped in…you.
Installed on Hope’s phone is a program called OMNI View, which allows you to hack into the facility’s security system. This tool allows you access to security cameras, doors, phones, computers, and other electronic devices that you find in the facility. By pressing the R1 button you can access the OMNI View, which allows you to view items that you can interact with in the vicinity. By hacking into cameras, you can scan items for future use, collect data which can later be sold to a broker, or access all manner of additional collectibles. You can also scout ahead for Hope, and plan her routes to help her past security guards. While you are able to pick up weapons such as pepper spray and tasers, you ultimately need to rely on stealth, as the weapons are in short supply.
The controls for these mechanics are extraordinarily simple. Since the original release for this game was for mobile platforms, it makes sense that controls would be bare bones. However, the developers did an outstanding job maintaining depth to the gameplay despite a simplistic premise. I never felt rushed to make a decision, as time stops while using OMNI View. While you would initially think stopping time would make the game easier, you are limited in how far ahead you are able to scout. This makes traveling with Hope a balancing act of scouting ahead, making note of hiding spots, and memorizing guard patrol patterns. Sometimes this can make the pacing of the game feel a little slow, but not so much that you lose the tension that the game tries to build. All items that you can interact with while using the cameras are clearly marked with a button corresponding to the controller, so there is no second guessing what you can or can’t interact with. Items that Hope can use are on a toggle, which was the only mildly frustrating portion of the controls, as occasionally I would accidentally waste a pepper spray on a guard I meant to pickpocket. Overall, the controls work well for the style of the game, and additional bells and whistles would have taken away from the tense atmosphere the game drives.
For as simple as the controls are, the story of the game felt deep from the moment it started. Top notch voice acting from well known talent such as Jennifer Hale and David Hayter provide a well driven performance on a well thought out script, and you truly get a sense from the beginning of the game as to how little freedom the people of Metamorphosis have. Cameras in every room speak to a lack of privacy, conversations are monitored, and citizens are heavily censored. Citizens who step out of line are subject to “recalibration,” which is the fate you save Hope from at the beginning of the game. After gaining access to the OMNI View the storytelling takes on an interesting form, as you receive sound clips as you scan items. These sound clips open up further backstory, provide insight into the characters of the game, or sometimes just provide humorous color commentary from Cooper. While there are cut-scenes in the game eavesdropping on guards and overhearing conversations, the bulk of the story is told by you gathering your own information. I thought this was a very fitting choice of delivery, given the emphasis of the player themselves being one of the main characters. It felt to me like most of the design choices in the game truly reflected a desire to immerse the player, and was executed very well.
The icing on the cake for me was the outstanding visual quality of the game. A beautifully animated opening cut-scene set the stage for a surprisingly detailed game. Many games that go from small screen to big screen tend to show their flaws in big ways, as developers can be a bit lazy with smaller detail to save space and performance. In the transition to the Playstation 4, however, a true attention to detail can be seen. While it might not be at the same level as games that were built from the ground up specifically for the console, the visuals were still incredibly detailed and very engaging.
Ultimately, Republique is one of the best, and most unique games I have ever played. While the control scheme is very basic, it was a fantastic fit for the design and flow of the game. It presents a challenge, while not making me feel rushed into every action. It is incredibly well balanced, extremely beautiful, and all around fun to play. While it can occasionally feel a little bit slow, it by no means takes away from some extremely tense moments and excellent storytelling. This was one of the most immersive experiences I have seen on a console, and one that I would very highly recommend players pick up on release day.