In the world of Metamorphosis, one must never criticize République. “10 out of 10,” the reviews would say.
“The best slealth game since Metal Gear Solid!”
“Redefines the genre with brilliant AI and stellar level design!”
“Game of the Year candidate, 2016!”
“One of the most compelling stories in years!”
Sadly, in the world as we know it, only the last of those claims is actually true. République is an okay game, enjoyable in spurts with a novel design, but ultimately, only the story really shines.
République tells the tale of a girl named Hope as she tries to escape a facility run by a brutal totalitarian government. Boasting unique gameplay, République gives you control of both Hope and an unnamed protagonist who works behind the scenes. While Hope sneaks through the environments, pickpocketing guards and scooping up collectibles, the man behind the scenes controls the camera, doors, and a number of special abilities. République is a stealth game enhanced by a tense atmosphere and a powerful Orwellian story.
The world is brought to life with strong, thoughtful writing that includes some genuinely haunting backstories and personal tragedies. The voice cast does a tremendous job from top to bottom, nailing the lines and bringing weight to every scene. Dwight Schultz’s performance as the ruthless, charismatic overseer stands out as a high point, and it’s a joy to hear him coolly dismiss his critics and iterate his personal philosophies. As you collect tapes, banned books, and other articles, voiced excerpts play in the background, fleshing out the world and its inhabitants.
And what a world it is. The game takes place within a facility called Metamorphosis, serving as both a base and a prison to those living within. Guiding Hope through the facility requires planning, and it’s important to scout out locations by using the surveillance cameras before you traverse them. Hope is incapable of combat, though enemies can be stunned or incapacitating by using a limited supply of consumable items such as pepper spray and taser charges.
The stealth mechanics are competent but primitive. The AI is very basic, following predictable patterns of circling around objects or walking back and forth in straight lines. When you’re seen, they will briefly give chase, giving up easily if they lose sight of you. They’re smart enough to check hiding places, but only if they see you go into them. Furthermore, the enemies don’t really communicate with one another or coordinate their searches; if one enemy sees you and another is nearby, the second won’t automatically join the search.
However, in the case of République, the basic AI might ultimately be a blessing, as anything smarter might prove too frustrating. The controls are a little stiff, and it’s easy to get stuck in cover or hung up along walls. But far worse, the camera is often a major liability. Because you see the game exclusively through security cameras, your view will often change dramatically, altering the direction you must press to continue moving forward. The need to adjust your movement to account for shifting camera angles can force you to momentarily stall, turn around, or walk in circles. This can be critical when trying to pursue or escape an enemy.
Fortunately, there are plenty of neat tricks that can be employed to tip the balance in your favor. Aside from the aforementioned consumables, you can also lock enemies out of rooms to put space between you and your pursuer. Upgrades allow you to predict enemy paths, lure them away, stall their movements, and see their locations on your map. It’s satisfying to use these abilities to plan routes so you can slip through halls undetected.
Stealth sections are occasionally broken up by areas of free exploration, and by a variety of puzzles. It was a smart design choice to change up the gameplay to prevents the stealth from becoming stale or overwhelming. The puzzles are a welcome addition for that reason, but they are otherwise unimpressive. One of the best puzzles requires you to scour a museum and memorize information in order to hack through the Overseer’s security questions. It’s a little basic and a little tedious, but the other puzzles are even more basic and more tedious. It’s a good thing that the story is often front and center, because the rest of the game rarely matches it in quality.
And so République is a game to be recommended mostly just for story. With strong characterization and some clever references to censorship and morality, the game was worth seeing through all the way to the end. The ending itself could have done a little bit more, but it wasn’t disappointing. A few moral choices along the way enhanced the immersion, allowing for slight narrative changes.
On the technical side, République looks and sounds good, though it doesn’t run well. There’s a noticeable loading delay every time you change cameras. Though it’s usually less than a second, you’ll be changing cameras constantly, and when a shift happens in the middle of an action sequence, it’s a jarring break. It’s an unusual problem for a modern game to have, and it detracts from the experience.
République is a mixed bag of middling gameplay and fantastic storytelling. It’s the type of game that players will remember because of its well-crafted atmosphere, and at best, it tickles the mind and inspires philosophical thought. While the stealth mechanics provide a few unique wrinkles, they are ultimately average due to old-fashioned set pieces and outdated AI. Genre fans are still likely to enjoy the plentiful stealth sections, but those on the fence may want to think before diving in.
Publisher: GungHo Online Entertainment
Original Release Date: March 22, 2016
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC
ESRB Rating: M – Mature
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