Dystopias are a dime a dozen in modern video games. It seems nearly every second game since Half Life 2 has been set in a world controlled by an authoritarian government in the not so distant future. And so it is with developer Camouflaj’s Republique Remastered. First emerging as a Kickstarter project over two years ago the game is finally out in its final form. So having reached this state, is it worth it?
Republique Remastered was initially launched on mobile devices but since then it has greatly expanded with a significant upgrade in the transition to the PC/Mac before finally moving to the PlayStation 4, where I reviewed it, in its third incarnation.
In this dystopia you interact with protagonist Hope, who you are tasked with saving from the ominous-sounding “recalibration.” Set over five roughly two-hour episodes, you must help Hope survive amongst the innumerate dangers of a secure testing facility full of somewhat insane people. As a side note all five episodes are included in Remastered so there is no shelling out for additional episodes in the future as in previous releases of the game.
You assist Hope via your primary mechanism of the “OMNI View” – essentially using Republique’s surveillance camera system, put under your control to use in your fight against the government. The OMNI View gives you important information about the environment, including short biographies about guards, and allows you to interact with the environment such as by opening doors and the like. If you liked the camera-hacking gameplay from Watchdogs, then you will be right at home in Republique.
That said, Republique is in essence a stealth game – you are controlling an escaping test subject after all. You and Hope must solve puzzles and negotiate the increasingly complex environment to progress and avoid being caught. Each room is its own little challenge to investigate and overcome, in the same way a room in a Legend of Zelda dungeon works.
In transitioning from mobile to the PC Camouflaj rebuilt the entire game on the Unity 5 engine, and this is the version that the PS4 uses. It shows. Republique is a beautiful country, which at times seems almost photorealistic. Almost every detail is rendered in excruciating detail. This is mostly achieved with still, immovable environments with interactive elements placed carefully on top. While this can make the world feel a bit sterile in the same way many games have a “game engine look” the strong art direction helps to overcome this.
It also fits into the lore of the game, being an authoritarian government holding facility you don’t expect a whole heap of personal touches. One of the more significant changes is the ability to directly control Hope. This is a significant shift away from what the developers described as the first of the “Four Pillars” of Republique, “Hope Is Alive” where players influence Hope, but don’t directly control her.
Most people won’t notice, and some people may even prefer this option. There is, however, a bit of a gameplay-narrative clash with these controls. How can you both be observing Hope and controlling her? Who is the player avatar, the person in the camera that Hope addresses directly and in doing so breaking the fourth wall or Hope herself? It’s a question that unfortunately isn’t answered in the quest for more engaging gameplay. While I appreciated having a full range of motion for Hope, simply and indirectly influencing where she goes as per the mobile version makes for a much more coherent game structure.
So after all that are the controls successful? While it is obvious from the game’s design and presentation that it was originally designed for a touch interface (which should be lauded, rather than sticking virtual d-pads or their ilk on the screen) the transition to PS4 has been mostly successful. While it can be a little finicky swapping between the cameras, and then to moving Hope around after a while it became fairly natural.
Republique was and remains one of the few true triple-A gaming experiences on a mobile platform, but in the transition to consoles and PC it retains strong trademarks of its heritage. The game starts from the perspective of a mobile phone, which requires a heightened suspension of disbelief than if you were actually playing it on a phone or tablet.
Yet even so I wouldn’t suggest that. The significantly upgraded visuals and other improvements to the original game are worthwhile additions to the PC and PS4 versions. If you have already played through the story though it’s not really worth picking up again, but if this is your first trip to (Republic of?) Republique, you are in for a treat. It’s certainly worth more than a dime of your time.
Released: March 2016
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Genre: Action, Puzzle