Ordinarily, using CCTV cameras to follow the same teenage girl around for twelve hours or more would be frowned upon. Not here, though; the girl in question is well aware of your prying eyes, and you are in fact her only hope for escape from the mysterious high-security complex she's being raised in.
Published by NIS America and out now for PS4, République is an odd beast. It's not quite like anything else you've played – in a good way. It has arguably benefited from the fact that it started life as a mobile game (albeit such a professional one, it looks like something built from the ground up for the PS4). While you take direct control of Hope (the girl), and there are a limited number of self-defence items for her to find and use if she gets spotted while trying to escape, really the game is about keeping her hidden with your electronic trickery.
Somehow, you are able to take control of every single camera in the facility with your intrusion never discovered because, er... look, just go with it, okay? The point is, your powers extend to unlocking certain doors and, later, other helpful bits and bobs such as causing distractions and predicting patrol routes. Your ultimate goal is to secure Hope's freedom, but along the way you'll also be trying to understand just what the heck is going on. République is very heavily story-driven, with plenty of dialogue and loads of optional text and audio to dig up. The acting is thankfully up to the task, and the writing is also very good. You learn that the facility Hope is trapped in is a self-sufficient community indoctrinating teens like Hope, who are known as 'pre-cals', in an effort to ensure they never question the teachings and actions of the 'Headmaster' in charge. Even the people employed as guards are preached to, and a long list of items from the outside world are prohibited.
Clear as mud, right? And even after you finish the game, there will be a long list of unanswered questions. As previously mentioned, the writing is great, and peeling away the layers of mystery is always interesting. Generally speaking though, I can't shake the feeling that this game never quite gets round to the biting commentary on privacy in the digital age that it's clearly grasping for. In addition to that, Hope's character is never properly fleshed out; which dampens the ending in ways I can't explain without stepping into spoiler territory. Nonetheless, it's a great game to play through. Sneaking past patrols requires a little thinking, and always feels like an achievement. The few puzzles you come across are designed well enough to avoid becoming frustrating and, somehow, the experience never becomes stale (despite a fair amount of backtracking). This is thanks to the fact that signs of the developers' intelligence are never far away.
It's a solid (if often hazily sketched) story, with some great lines. République truly shines when the brains come through in more abstract ways, however. The best example is spread across much of episode three. Without giving too much away, the only way to progress after a point is to follow the instructions of another character. The full implications of what you're doing become apparent quite quickly. The vast majority of players will find this uncomfortable, yet have no choice but to continue. Things then take another twist and, just when you've finished rolling your eyes at how you saw the 'surprise' coming a mile away, a distraught Hope looks directly into the camera and asks: “Did you know?”.
This is a rare example of a deep story going hand-in-hand with gameplay in a smooth and comfortable manner. The hacking/surveillance theme is not a gimmick, but a new gameplay experience that you'll enjoy playing through. That, my friends, is no mean feat.
République c'est magnifique. 4/5.
République at CeX
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