Republique PS4 Review
After jumping onto the mobile scene in December 2013 after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Republique finally gets its last episode (five) of the season for mobile, PC, and in turn means a complete retail package for PlayStation 4. There are questions to be answered with this release, with one of the main ones being how exactly does this console adaptation of the mobile game – one that was specially created to take advantage of that platform – convert to a home console. The pedigree is certainly there, as the development team consists of people who have worked on much bigger games, such as Metal Gear Solid 4, Halo 4, and to some extent, Unit 13, so how has this once ambitious mobile game transferred over to Sony’s leading platform? Well…. it’s mostly fine…..mostly.
Republique is set in a unnamed dystopian location where everything is regulated by the state, leaving no room for freedom or free thinking, where everything is censored if the state requires it. In this area, a special facility – Metamorphosis – is used to host people known as Pre-Cals, individuals who have been subjected to living from birth inside the Metamorphosis and are forced to undergo peculiar experiments. We are introduced to one such person, Hope, who the player meets when receiving an incoming phone call from her as she pleas for help saying she “doesn’t have much time” before she is “erased.” Hope wants you, the player, to help her escape to freedom, meaning the importance of you, as a player, is sucked into the story, helping the main character rather than being a spectator controlling a protagonist.
The game makes the player thrall to its mysterious plot and world, but that is the hook of Republique‘s suspense story in a nutshell. As a player who comes into this world through security cameras, you know even less than Hope about what exactly is going on. While there is the traditional narrative displayed during each episode to feed tidbits of information, a lot of the meat is hidden away in collectibles, so to fully receive this game’s world building means investigate areas that Hope traverses through, such as picking up audio logs, scanning objects or reading personal emails, all which pack many important information – history, people, places – that will lead the player to piece together parts to come up with what Metamorphosis is and what the leader of the institute Overseer Treglazov’s ambitions plans are – hint, they aren’t good for the free world.
Due to the game’s original episodic release – Republique was released as five, one and an half to two hourish episodes – the story leaves a good first impression from the initial episode as it drips a confusing plot to drag your attention into moving over to the next episode. I do have to say that now all five episodes are out, it makes it much easier to keep track of the information from each episode, since there is no delay between playing. The writing will have you hooked from the start if you take up the chance to explore for collectibles, but this once hampered the iOS experience, since episodic releases were 5-6 months between, even a year at one point between episode 3 and 4, that meant I forgot some important things. As the mechanics go, it mostly remains the same core game across the episodes, with additional gameplay brought in to make each episode attribute something new, well apart from episode 4. I’m not a huge fan of the complete change of direction in that episode, as it takes everything you learnt before hand, but rather than keep building on it, decides that it’s good to go down some horror chase route with a single enemy to make it rather confusing and avoided of bringing the story beats I wanted. At least it somewhat makes up with the final episode, but it still falls short of what the story could have been with a rushed conclusion that jams in plenty of context to make up for lost time.
When Republique was released first on iOS, it had a unique way of playing. On the phone version, you never controlled Hope, only being able to interact with her through technology, while observing her from the perspective of Metamorphosis’ security camera network. I remember having to answer my phone to speak to her through a video call, giving a sense that my phone was part of the game, the experience of helping this woman from trouble and leading her into something unknown. This is a feature that the PC version kept closely intact, but for the PlayStation 4, the game has changed to allow the control of Hope on the left stick, while manipulating the camera view with the right stick and face buttons used for context sensitive interaction, such as jump to manual cameras, unlocking doors or causing distractions. Direct control does work well enough, but the magic that surrounded the iOS version is a lost a bit with these new controls. The camera can be annoying when it automatically switches, causing a delay as it displays the new viewpoint, even worse when it decides to snap back and forth between cameras it can’t calculate right, causing disorientation, or even causing me to exiting a room I just entered..
Stealth plays a big factor in keeping Hope alive. Republique brings back fond memories of the first Metal Gear Solid, but without all the gadgets or skills Solid Snake had at his disposal. Apart from some basic defensive items (tasers, pepper spray – nothing really dangerous), Hope cannot defend herself and must look to you for help to get her pass without trouble. It helps that the AI is dumb, as they don’t react to sound, but only direct line of sight, meaning Hope can get away with interacting with things that cause loud noises, which looks silly when they are right behind the Prizrak guards. However, there is much to do to keep you entertained that the stealth isn’t just throwaway, even if the AI isn’t smart. Republique makes you feel like you’re an expert multi-tasker, and even if you do get spotted, the impact is minimal, as Hope is thrown into a cell, basically a checkpoint closest to the place of capture, and can continue on with her escape plans without any punishment.
Even though Republique was originally designed as an iOS game, the port to PS4 does not feel handicapped by its origins, looking cleaner and better than one might imagine. While not featuring AAA production values, it’s well directed and the world looks nice enough not to feel dismayed by the visuals. This is due to the character models and facial animations being tweaked with the extra power delivered from the system. Presentation is hurt somewhat with the loading that happens when switching cameras and rooms, and frame rate can often fall below 30 during large environments or cutscenes. On the audio side, Metal Gear Solid veterans, David Hayter and Jennifer Hale, bring their expertise for some brilliant voice work that helps create tension when confronted.
Republique’s move from phone to console might not have created the best offering for the game, it is, however, still an immersive title that was made with interesting concepts to bring a different stealth experience to the genre. Packed with quality voice work, polished visuals and gameplay that is competent enough not to frustrate, only really being spoilt with some hiccups in the presentation, means that Republique can deliver a mostly well written story that sadly feels a little rushed towards the back end of the game. Needless to say, for people who enjoy smart storytelling told through the world and a mystery tale, there is lots to enjoy with Republique that it will make for a thrilling weekend play.