Republique Review (Playstation 4)
A thought is a dangerous thing in Republique. This stealth-puzzler has you using technology and subterfuge to fight back against an tyrannical empire's regime of thought control. In this battle to strike down your oppressors, you've got your work cut out for you, because here you are your own worst enemy— the camera.
Republique is immediately impressive, with its strong cast of A-list voice actors such as Jennifer Hale and David Hayter and its penchant for cinematic storytelling. The world oozes oppression, with posters reminding guards and passersby not to think too hard or too loudly, and to ignore contraband materials like books and video games. Hope, a "Pre-Cal" imprisoned by this totalitarian regime for experimental reasons, has been labeled "infected" due to coming into contact with such contraband materials. As both Hope and an unseen hacker, you'll slip past guards, collect information, hack everything, and use the regime's surveillance systems against it on Hope's quest to gain freedom for herself and the public.
As Hope you sneak around, hiding in lockers to dodge guards, pepper-spraying the ones you can't dodge, and gathering intel to bring the regime crumbling down. As the hacker, you're watching and hacking the action via security cameras— which are both a key feature and the biggest drawbacks to Republique. With a tap of the button you can freeze the action to swap vantage points to get a better view of what's ahead, or take control of computerized elements to get Hope past security. Nearly everything you see is through the lens of a camera; if Hope walks too far out of view of one camera, the action stutters for a second and switches over to the other.
While this seems to be designed to give you the feeling of being a rogue hacker, what it mostly does is give Republique the feeling of being a game from the early days of 3D gaming. The camera angles are generally not very good, and the sudden stuttering and loading of new camera angles breaks up the action in weird ways and at weird times, often getting you into trouble by wresting control from your hands at inopportune moments, or putting you at an unpredictably odd angle where you can't see where you're going. For a stealth game, where environmental awareness is key, losing your bearings so often is a huge detractor.
Outside of the camera woes, Republique's stealth action is passable, if a bit basic. With a bit of cleverness and patience you can pretty easily get from point A to B, but there's little room for the inventiveness which elevates the truly great stealth games. Metal Gear Solid and the like give players many options for success, with each area having multiple routes and tools you can use to sneak around, rewarding ingenuity. For a game with a story so focused on the horrors of suppressing original thoughts, it's odd that it allows for so little creativity in its gameplay.
Republique captures the general aesthetic of oppression, with most of its characters and areas looking generically first-world dystopic. The background materials are where you'll find far more things of interest, as every book, every item, every random mook has fleshed-out information there, ready for eager-eyed gamers to discover. It's clear Republique's developers actually wanted to convey a message through the story, though the writing is a bit on-the-nose at times, (a main character named Hope? Come on!). Still, a few minor quibbles aside, the writing here is light years ahead of the writing found in most games.
The soundtrack is memorable, when its employed, but music is rarely used and sorely missed. Hale, Hayter, and the rest of the voice cast are excellent, and smart audio cues do a great job of cluing players in to their environments.
As a story, Republique excels; its spirited techno-thriller story has plenty of meat for thematically-minded gamers to sink their teeth into. As a game, Replublique's meat could have used a little more spice. The stealth-puzzling is mostly pretty basic, but entirely doable, and does deliver the occasional thrill. The wonky camera, on the other hand, is a frequent detractor, slowing the action to a grinding halt with its weird load times and tendency to leave you standing still when you were trying to sneak by. While Republique far from perfect, it has more heart behind it than a thousand triple-A games, delivering pleasantly puzzling stealth espionage action with cinematic flair.
This review was completed based on a digital download of Republique provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.