Version Tested: PC
Available On: PS4, PC, Mac, iOS and Android
Publisher: GungHo Online Entertainment America
Genre: Adventure, Stealth
Official Site: https://camouflaj.com/
Release Date: 26 February 2015
Where to Buy: Steam, Retail
In many ways, Republique is a great concept for a game. Its discussion and interpretation of the dangers of surveillance and censorship in the digital age is extremely relevant, and you as the player get to play in an interesting position – the all-seeing, omnipotent eye in the sky. Who doesn’t like a story about a young fighter trying to raise hell against an evil regime? Mysteries, discovery, lies and truth all blended into one great opportunity for a really engaging game. The fact that this was created by industry veterans from big names like F.E.A.R. and Halo just added more to my expectations. A solid recipe, and the attempts at making a point of difference between it and other games of its type certainly put me in the mood to give this game a chance.
Unfortunately, that trust was misplaced. Republique is less of a stealthy, deep adventure and more of a boring, unengaging, poorly-designed mess of a title.
In a not too distant future, a corrupt regime has taken power, imprisoning dissenters and executing those who dare to defy them in even the most minor of ways. One such prisoner is a young girl, the aptly named Hope. Apparently doomed to either execution, imprisonment or re-education, she calls to you for aid in her time of need. Through the power of the OMNI system and CCTV, you help her escape those who are chasing her through circumventing doors, distracting guards, scouting ahead to make sure she isn’t recaptured – all through the power of surveillance and wireless technology. The story proper is a little more involved than this, but it is difficult to go into detail without accidentally dropping spoilers.
The gameplay, such as it is, is essentially a stealth game mixed with a puzzle game. You take the role of a kind technological guardian angel to Hope, your view through the huge number of CCTV cameras giving you the ability let Hope know when she should wait, rush forward to avoid guards, hide in lockers or otherwise make herself scarce. The locked doors she encounters can be defeated by your software system, and you can guide her down alternative routes should she become stuck or overwhelmed. It’s all about being a guiding force in Republique, a wary guardian standing watch over the safety of your charge.
Hope herself, however, is not completely useless. She is capable of shifting herself in order to avoid detection, which is a welcome addition to the AI – micromanagement is this context would not be fun. Further, should be get grabbed, she can fight back with pepper spray – should she have some available – or otherwise make her escape. While you still essentially control her through movement, she is not completely without agency, which is a nice touch for both the character development and the gameplay itself. It adds to the feeling that you are merely a watcher, not an actor in this performance. Unfortunately, that does come with a fair number of drawbacks.
The fact that you are working with camera angles makes it incredibly difficult to actually keep track of where you are on the map. This is particularly evident in those levels primarily made up on winding corridors, all of which look much the same. It’s a great concept to work through CCTV, but when you have to constantly shift between three or four cameras in a single room, the differing angles often caused me to accidentally lose track of Hope or even send her back into the same room that we just came from. It is utterly confusing, and you will spend a great deal of time hopping between each camera trying to find the right one that will actually allow you to send her where you want to.
Republique also suffers from some serious issues with engagement. This was a difficult game to play, and not because it was hard – because it was utterly ungripping. The player is immediately thrown into assisting Hope, a girl attempting to escape from a despotic regime: a solid premise, but poor in execution. At no point do you as a player ever feel invested in Hope, at least to begin with. I didn’t really care whether she survived or not, her airy voice and constant begging were more annoying than endearing, and there wasn’t any time where I really wanted to see what happened to her, or what her story was. It was a constant question of “so what?” with Republique. There were very few punishments, if any at all, if you did accidentally mess up and get Hope discovered, making the apathy of the player even more distinct.
Despite that, the graphics and audio of the game were relatively solid. The sound effects and voice acting was generally acceptable, though Hope herself was distinctly unbelievable. Very unfortunate for one of the main characters. Visual-wise, other than the issues discussed earlier with camera angles, there wasn’t too much to complain about. The fact that all the guards looked exactly the same on some levels was quite disappointing. However, the CCTV perspectives do create quite a lovely cinematic experience for cutscenes and keep the gameplay flowing nicely between stops for exposition. You do feel like a watcher, keeping a wary eye out for any dangers to Hope.
Overall, Republique had some great ideas but was poor in their execution. It was difficult to engage with the story, despite the fact that it had some nuggets of greatness to it. The gameplay was frequently frustrating and repetitive, and the voice acting was uninspired at best and unbelievable at worst. When a game ends up being a chore to play, then something has definitely failed somewhere down the line. Here’s hoping sometime in the future this kind of concept is revisited, perhaps with a little more thought put into whether the game design choices were best for the format.
- Gameplay: Repetitive, frustrating and ultimately poorly designed.
- Graphics: Gorgeous, if poorly designed, environments, with a lot of repetition among enemy NPCs.
- Sound: Mix of great and terrible voice acting, music nothing to write home about.
- Presentation: Unengaging, hackneyed storyline, but a few nuggets of goodness here and there.
- Interesting concepts
- Lovely graphical style
- Occasional moments of brilliance
- Terrible execution
- Bad voice acting
- Unengaging plot
- Frustrating gameplay