PAX Prime 2015: Republique Hands-On Preview – Misdirection
Republique’s transition to the PlayStation 4 doesn’t seem out of character considering its roots. Although it’s a game that started on iOS and Android, it brought console and PC-like ambitions to the mobile platforms, where primarily simplistic and light-hearted games have thrived. It’s a stealth game that wraps themes of privacy and government control into a story that follows lead character Hope as she escapes a totalitarian state called Republique.You switch between security cameras overlooking the metal-paneled structures of the facility searching for useful angles on patrolling guards, locked doors, and Hope herself.
The mobile version skipped on-screen representations of joysticks for indirect control. Tapping the environment would tell Hope where to move, which, explained in the game’s fiction, is because you’re not playing as her. Hope is someone you help, giving her information just as you would yourself in any other stealth game.
From Touch to Shock
A lot changes when your hands are on a PS4 controller. Suddenly you do have direct, thumbpad control of Hope, but the camera remains separate from her. At any moment there are several on-screen button prompts to switch into another camera. These are necessary, as in the earlier versions of the game, to scope out guards around corners you can’t see, to form a path to your objective, and to zoom in on environmental details that play short audio logs.
Republique maintains its methodical pace on the console, emphasizing the look before the leap. That also means there’s a lot of set up before executing a simple segment of cover-hiding and evasion. On mobile, this worked due to the constraints of the hardware. On the PS4, however, it’s fussy and seems like it’s actively stymies what you want to do, especially when it feels like you have full control of Hope. It’s jarring in a way that leads to simple mistakes and frustration when your chosen camera doesn’t quite cover the route that you’ve pushed Hope in, forcing you to quickly pause and switch to another camera, praying that nobody sees you. To avoid this, you naturally want to try each camera angle beforehand and plan out your moves, but the timing demands that the game puts on you with its enemies can quickly ruin your strategy.
Another irritation that seems left by the mobile version of the game is Hope’s stickiness to cover. There were a few times where she would latch onto cover when I was trying to push past it, which seems like a concession for the lack of precise controls on a touch screen. On PS4, it’s dangerous, and got her caught twice in my demo.
This was all apparent in the opening section of the first episode of the game’s five — which will all be included in the the PS4 version when it launches early next year. I remember struggling a bit with the same things on the mobile version, though it feels heightened on the PS4, given the larger number of control options. In the demo, it was hard to adjust to. Of course the disclaimer here is that it was just that, a demo, a snippet of the game where possibly, with time, you could adapt to the controls.
Maybe it’s the choice to give you direct control of Hope with the left thumbstick that suggests a similar level of control for other things. When you find it doesn’t, you’re forced to use the game’s indirect systems and work with the strategic twist that the mobile versions have. There’s a strong satisfaction in sneaking past a guard after mapping out your actions, but it’s a very different satisfaction than your typical stealth game. Unfortunately, it’s too early to say if that difference is compelling or not on the PS4.