What makes a great stealth game? Intelligent enemies; a lived-in world; escalating difficulty, yet consistent gameplay. République falls far from clinching any of these traits as it shoves together abject easiness, vague storytelling and odd changes to its overall structure into a disappointing package. Its Metal Gear Solid-inspired ambience may shine through as exemplary, and its writing may be top notch, but overall, République is a confusing mash of missed opportunities from the outset.
Split over five episodes, rather superfluously I might add, République tells the tale of Hope, a young girl attempting to escape the totalitarian state of Metamorphosis. She is aided by Cooper, a double agent who controls cameras and other electronic devices throughout the facility in order to make her life a whole lot easier. While Hope can be moved around using the right analogue stick and can interact with certain objects in the environment, the bulk of gameplay revolves around monitoring security feeds (Watch_Dogs style) using an interface called OMNI View. Guards can be distracted by scouting ahead, doors can be locked or unlocked, and puzzles can be completed as required using D-pad button prompts.
While these features work smoothly and surprisingly well, adding to the overall realism of a security-conscious regime, nothing ever feels truly challenging. Most areas, particularly in the first few episodes, only have one or two guards patrolling, meaning that slinking past them is an incredibly easy affair. If you happen to be caught, a guard will bark into his radio that he’s raising the facility’s alert status, which will no doubt have you quaking in fear, right? Not bloody likely, as never once did any additional guards arrive on scene during these “heightened” instances. The lack of difficulty here is frankly perplexing. Stages quickly become a breeze and the only apparent obstacles that Hope will face are the stuttering, lengthy and frustrating freeze-frames between areas.
Despite episodes one to three focusing on standard stealth, episode four changes things up considerably. Instead of sneaking light-heartedly between idiotic guards, Hope must flee from a gigantic, schizophrenic monstrosity known as Mammoth. These sections suddenly change the game into a survival horror, complete with the genre’s many maddening tropes such as an invincible enemy, and a bucket load of insta-death. This change is not only frustrating from a gameplay perspective, but it also propels the game’s central story away from focus and into obscurity, showing a high level of impertinence towards the player experience.
The first three episodes establish the basic premise that Hope wishes to leave Metamorphosis, but she is never given a moment to explain her motivations, and neither is any other character for that matter. République continually fails to address why anything is happening at all. The fact that episode four makes such a huge departure from the game’s earlier proceedings, hints that developer Camouflaj has little faith in its storytelling ability. You can almost feel the virtual 180 as the first three episodes’ vagueness is swept under the rug, swerving the plot into new and confusing territory; the studios’ fear of unplanned explication is palpable.
Some great collectible design shows that République not only deals in opacity, but in believable world-building as well. Hidden artefacts, existing video game cartridges, such as Hotline Miami and Gone Home, and real works of literature are to be found throughout Metamorphosis’ halls. These collectibles take the form of audio diaries and, for example, whenever a novel is picked up you can listen to the facility’s Headmaster describe reasons for its restriction. While each of these are superbly written and well-acted, and craft an aura of dystopia straight from the pages of 1984 or Fahrenheit 451, they are presented as empty signposts that exude atmosphere and lore, nothing more. Disembodied voices on recordings, no matter how convincing, are no substitute for a lived-in world full of tangible interaction.
Although hollowness pervades the game’s literary homage, it commemorates the off-centre Metal Gear Solid series with finesse. République’s literal camera angles interestingly simulate the isometric, top-down views of MGS; the cramped corridors of Metamorphosis emit a blue tint that replicates the cold, clinical ambience of both Shadow Moses and Big Shell; and even its music retains the series’ signature bleeps and bloops. These faithful recreations of Metal Gear’s many tropes never stray into the territory of parody, and place nuance above all else.
Unfortunately, paying respect to a much lauded lineage does little to bring République even close to the mundane moniker of “good.” Large gameplay, storytelling and structural changes frustrate throughout, and although it tries to craft a believable world of totalitarianism, this sorry tale endlessly falls flat.
Sneak away from this game.
Disappointment fuels République at almost every turn. Easy stealth and abject changes spoil this Metal Gear homage.