‘République’ has agreeable retro sci-fi vibe
Do you like to watch?
If so, “République” is a game you’ll want to track down. Originally released in installments for mobile and PC platforms beginning in 2013, the surveillance-themed sci-fi adventure has been reissued for the PlayStation 4 with all five episodes bundled into one package.
It goes like this: The player assumes the role of a nameless hacker who has somehow accessed the surveillance system in a mysterious institution. As the game opens, you find yourself watching a young female prisoner through the wall-mounted closed-circuit camera.
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Her name is Hope and she’s imprisoned in a high-tech facility known as Metamorphosis. Looking up at the camera, Hope implores you to help her escape before she is “erased” by her captors. Onscreen prompts reveal that you have limited access to the facility’s security and communications system. You can unlock cell doors, for instance.
It’s a very stylish start to what proves to be a very stylish game experience. “République” requires and rewards your attention as you intuit the nature of the game, and how to play it.
Guiding Hope’s escape
In terms of game mechanics, the central gimmick is the camera setup. Within the walls of Metamorphosis, you can only see via the surveillance system. Your job is to help Hope escape by jumping from camera to camera – peeking around corners and scouting ahead for patrols or obstacles.
The OMNI View interface also allows you to freeze-frame the incoming video feed and scan for items and clues. If you see a document on a table, you can zoom-and-enhance, “Blade Runner” style, to read the text or examine the image. Later upgrades enable you to hack into security terminals, access emails and play back voice recordings.
Meanwhile, you control Hope’s movements as well. The fixed-camera perspective is reminiscent of those early “Resident Evil” games, but with a much more generous range of motion. The initial chapters of the story are designed to get you used to the routine: Scout ahead with the cameras, move Hope into position, scan the environment for clues, repeat.
While the essential game mechanics are simple, the longer arc of the experience is not, and the game has plenty of twists, turns and surprises. As you explore the facility, the compelling story of “République” unwinds.
Avoiding spoilers here is a bit tricky, but I’ll proceed carefully: The world of “République” is heavily informed by totalitarian future sci-fi literature like George Orwell’s “1984.” Metamorphosis, we learn, is a kind of political reprogramming center. Documents and audio recordings reveal that the facility is overseen by a presence known as the Headmaster.
As the chapters proceed, we’re introduced to additional characters, including a notorious insurgent leader and a sympathetic security officer. Optional collectible missions include a quest to recover banned books like “Naked Lunch,” “Animal Farm” and “Brave New World.” There’s a kind of retro sci-fi vibe that’s entirely agreeable.
Beware a few bugs
“République” is heavy on narrative, light on action, and primarily concerned with stealth and puzzle-solving sequences. Hope isn’t a warrior, she’s a scared kid, and weapons are limited to non-lethal options like pepper spray and taser guns. The game often feels like a lighter version of the “Metal Gear Solid” stealth experience, crossed with the fixed-perspective exploration of those “Resident Evil” games.
Beware, however, that “République” suffers from several troublesome technical glitches – in the PS4 port, anyway. Transitions and load sequences take longer than they should, and I encountered one game-killing bug that necessitated a total restart.
One of the more interesting indie game success stories of the past couple years, “République” is a nice example of what can happen when talented designers have a good idea and a successful crowdfunding campaign. (The designers raised more than $500,000 via Kickstarter.) The transposition to console play is largely successful, and it’s nice to have all five installments queued up in one package. It’s the gaming equivalent of binge-watching that TV show everyone else was into a couple years back.
“République” ($24.99, rated M) is now available on PlayStation 4.