Posted by Zak Wojnar On March - 24 - 2016 0 Comment

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390-H, or Hope, as she prefers to be called, lives in a totalitarian state, sheltered from the rest of the world. The leader of the colony is worshiped as a God, and he censors the local network, banning and censoring books which he deems unsuitable for his utopia. On the eve of the mysterious “arrival,” and a looming revolution against the overseer, Hope is given an opportunity to escape.

So begins Republique, an episodic title by Camouflaj (founded by Metal Gear Solid 4 producer Ryan Peyton) and Logan games. First developed for mobile phones, the game was ported to the Unity engine, and is now available for PS4. Unlike many episodic games, the five chapters were released over the course of nearly two and a half years, a painfully slow schedule for fans who had been following the title since its inception.

Republique was developed for iOS as a narrative-rich alternative to the mind-numbingly shallow mobile games most dedicated players tend to avoid. Fortunately, its mobile controls translate fairly well to the Dualshock 4. Republique plays like a stealth version of Resident Evil, with a clever justification for the mostly-fixed camera angles; the left stick controls Hope, and the right stick moves the camera… But here’s the catch: as an anonymous behind-the-scenes character, you can only view the world through the multitude of cameras which litter every room and hallway of the complex. It’s a very novel concept, and control has a pretty natural feel, though Hope sometimes feels a little sluggish in her movements. Hope spends the game avoiding patrols and solving minor puzzles. Combat is not an option, though a limited number of stealth takedowns are possible if she has a taser or sleep-mines. She can also use pepper-spray to temporarily incapacitate guards, but if caught, she will be taken to the nearest detention cell and be stripped of her items.

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The graphics are pretty decent, though nobody will ever mistake Republique for a native PS4 title. The textures are bland and enemy animations can be quite stiff, though Hope’s facial animation is excellent and does a great job assisting the performance of actress Rena Strober. The one major weakness comes from long load times when switching between certain cameras, which can last up to three or four seconds. It may not seem like much, but it can really grate on the nerves at times. I also hate how the game forces you to switch camera angles as you move Hope through the game. I wish there were an option to have complete control over which camera to focus on, as the unexpected switches, compounded with the jarring load times between some camera switches, can occasionally lead to unfair failures. Unlike other versions of the game, the player can only access one camera at a time on PS4, making it slightly more difficult to keep track of multiple variables in this version.

Despite the infrequent bouts of mild frustration, Republique is still a thought-provoking and entertaining game. The acting is excellent (featuring roles for Metal Gear Solid veterans David Hayter, Jennifer Hale, and Khary Payton), and the world is fully-realized and indicative of an earnest dedication to detail. The main collectables are banned books. Upon picking them up, a recording of why the Overseer chose to forbid these real-life tomes, which include 1984, Doctor Zhivago, and Midnight’s Children, among dozens of others, which run the gamut of genres and audiences. On a lighter note, the game has tons of references to other Kickstarter games and other collectables include popular indie games (and not-so-indie games) which are amusingly stored on floppy disks.

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Repubique isn’t perfect and has some rough edges, but this is a perfect example of a game which is far more valuable than the sum of its parts. It’s thematically relevant, beautifully produced, and contains strong moment-to-moment gameplay. Republique, like its spiritual thematic predecessor, Metal Gear Solid, explores the relationship between the player and the player character, and how the choices we make for them affects their characterization. Some parts of the ending are a bit too esoteric for their own good, but it’s hard to find too much fault in the earnest narrative of Republique, the rare game which is, in fact, as smart as it believes itself to be.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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