Unrecord – Just What is Going on?
Said to follow the story of a police officer working to solve a series of complex cases, Unrecord distinguishes itself from its contemporaries by way of its unique bodycam perspective. However, witnessing tense gunplay through distorted fish-eye lenses affords players opportunity to savour shooting and grisly death in unprecedented detail. Understandably, Unrecord’s realism has unsettled many; the game’s bodycam aesthetic akin to real life police and military footage – often when conducting operations to resolve extremely distressing situations – is a little too close to the bone. An unnerving reality for many, inverted to entertainment for everyone else.
Unrecord’s realism is further sold by its believably ramshackle warehouses and dynamic lighting. Undoubtably benefiting from Unreal Engine 5’s powerful graphical prowess, Unrecord’s surface textures look especially gritty. UE5’s capability to import film quality art sources via photogrammetry scans that can then be rendered efficiently for sure contributes to Unrecord’s authentic rapid-fire gunplay. Impressive too is the game’s lighting, with the body camera adjusting realistically to changes in lightness and dark; outside light from windows is frequently over-exposed, a typical characteristic for footage of this type, where a camera’s ability to focus on shadow detail is more important than brightness.
From DRAMA’s Steam FAQ though: “realistic effects do not solely rely on textures and polygon count”, which they demonstrate here in Unrecord’s jerky camera movement and piercing sound design. The looseness of a camera tied to a police officer’s uniform gives Unrecord’s gameplay a quality that’s almost indistinguishable from real life. Plus, reverberating gunshots punctuating through derelict spaces provides an unavoidably tacit brutality. Unrecord is a feast for the senses, its graphically impressiveness resulting in an experience which many are doubting as untrustworthy.
Again, from DRAMA’s Steam FAQ published after the gameplay trailer’s reveal: “There have been many doubts raised about the authenticity of the gameplay” they say in direct response to those questioning the legitimacy of the gameplay footage. “We do not use any real videos or external rendering to Unreal Engine for the creation of Unrecord.” Whilst the studio acknowledges the flattering nature of gameplay being strongly compared to real life, they stress first and foremost that the game focuses on gameplay within a believable universe, and that were this game a scam it’d be a scam at blockbuster proportion. Therefore, most logically, it seems creating a game to be scam would take more effort than say, you know, actually creating the game properly.
To further solidify this point, DRAMA’s Lead Programmer and Co-Director of Unrecord Alexandre Spindler – whom first shared glimpses of the game last October – has published clips of gameplay being manipulated in Unreal Engine 5 to his Twitter page. Spindler appears to be taking viewer’s apparent widespread disbelief in the credibility of his gameplay in good grace and humour, but there lies deeper concern across the internet that can’t be addressed by a cheeky peek behind the developmental curtain.
Ignoring whether the gameplay footage is real or fake, many viewers have expressed negative opinions as to the connotations associated with a such a realistic first-person shooter. Most widespread of this criticism is that a highly realistic portrayal of violence could condition players to lose a sense of empathy for real-life tragedy. Furthermore, there are those who believe such realism has potential to incite the wrong type of person to conduct violent acts themselves.
Now, video games contributing to societal violence isn’t a new claim. Decades long has this debate raged, with parents and politicians alike claiming violence in video games can be directly tied to violent behaviour in real life, from the emergence in the early 1990s of Mortal Kombat’s marquee fatalities and their unrestrained spurting blood and gore, to claims that Grand Theft Auto’s satirical snapshot of society effectively punches down on the marginalised, the violent nature of certain video games often features in the crosshairs of conversation following real-life tragedy, aiming to point the finger of blame. Whilst some associations believes violent video games have potential to increase aggression in players, empirical research, and reports which analysed the results of several independent studies – concluded there is no irrefutable evidence and thus no direct correlation between playing violent video games and real-life violent behaviour.
To address these concerns, DRAMA appear to be framing Unrecord as apolitical, with their Steam FAQ answering the question as to whether the game is pro-Police or anti-Police with the following: “As a French studio addressing a global audience, the game does not engage in any foreign policy and is not inspired by any real-life events” and that “if the game presents political messages, they will be made consciously or in your interpretation.” They summarise by saying that if the game is subversive in certain countries, then they will assume the label, which can be interpreted that they do acknowledge the disruptive nature of the game’s violence but that, in their words, “art cannot fight against interpretation.” It’s clear DRAMA respect and understand there’ll be certain people who’ll feel triggered by the game’s realistic portrayal of ultra-violence but that as a studio they are avoiding undesirable topics and are free from political bias.
In presenting the game’s violence as unfiltered and without distinctive art style, DRAMA is essentially passing interpretation of the game’s meaning – certainly at this stage – onto the player. Whether their response addresses widespread concerns or usurps responsibility is down to individual opinion. Sharing any more detail as to the game’s story and motives, they say, will land them in spoiler territory, although the game’s title Unrecord might hint at corrupt cover-ups, conspiracy, or mistrust in enforcement.
Above all else, the release of Unrecord’s gameplay footage has been a resounding success. Not just for the studio, as they’re now accelerating development to capitalise on the game’s momentum, but in generating conversation. Can video games be held as touchstones for intelligent conversation surrounding political interpretations in the same way movies, TV, and books can? DRAMA certainly believes public trust surrounding other mediums can be replicated for video games, and undeniably they reckon their game can be at the forefront of this conversation.
For all the legitimate concerns and comments from detractors, there are plenty who’ve positive things to say around the game, most of which centre on its potential to be a new milestone in ever-growing immersiveness and realism in video games. The craftsmanship behind the game’s authenticity is arguably amongst the best seen so far. Without knowing the ins and outs of the allegedly complex narrative behind Unrecord, one laced with branching dialogue and moral dilemma, we cannot really decide as to whether the game is a worthy contribution to conversations surrounding serious subject matter. After all, nuance is a tricky thing to pull off with a game so heavily focused on killing.
Currently, Unrecord is still in pre-production without even the vaguest of release windows announced. The developers are small-time and self-funded, although the unexpected notoriety of its gameplay trailer may generate lucrative investment in the studio.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.
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