Every year, we’re regaled with new ideas for video games (usually from indie game developers). Certain games these days are even dancing the line between reality and fallacy, and one of those games is the recently revealed Unrecord.
For those who haven’t seen it or heard of it, Unrecord is a first-person shooter (FPS) developed by the French studio DRAMA. This time, the players are thrust into the role of a police officer. The twist is that instead of the officer’s perspective, players see through the officer’s bodycam.
Unrecord is only an announcement and a teaser trailer right now, but it’s no stranger to controversy already, with numerous speculations summarizing it as a “copaganda” so to speak.
What is Unrecord, exactly?
From what little was revealed by the developers, Unrecord is a bodycam FPS that appears to be story-driven, where the players controlling the police officer must “solve a complex criminal case.”
The trailer only showed a bit of the action and the exploration aspect of gameplay where the protagonist is assaulting a building full of armed thugs; several brief shootout sequences ensued and just as the trailer was getting to the climactic part, it was abruptly cut by an explosion.
Now, the game also promises anyone interested that it will involve some detective work on top of the action gameplay. Moreover, there’s also an interrogation mechanic where players can choose their dialog in order to de-escalate or escalate a salvageable situation, presumably.
To that end, it could be similar to L.A. Noire, except it’s an FPS, and the graphics are as photorealistic as a video game can pull off these days. That’s partly what’s causing an issue, the realism not just of the graphics but of the subject matter and its perspective.
Is Unrecord copaganda?
You don’t really have to walk far from where you live to get news of police brutality (if you do, then consider yourself lucky). Occasionally, you might even see videos of police caught in the act of police brutality or excessive force.
A lot of evidence for this worrying social issue is the bodycam footage itself. So it doesn’t really help their image, and there’s a general air of public distrust for law enforcement officers, depending on where you live. Because where some of us live, the police will just shoot a minor dead if they’re wandering around, then chalk them up as a drug dealer.
That begs the question, why pick law enforcement as the medium here?
The developers themselves have given their stance. They’re not taking any. Basically, “it is what it is.”
They just want to tell a story about a law-enforcement officer without engaging in politics while also distancing themselves from foreign policies and other undesirable topics such as “discrimination, racism, violence against women, and minorities.”
Therein lies the danger in their supposed neutrality. Because it’s safe to assume the game will be sold to regions where police brutality is a huge issue, like the United States.
The developers have picked an inherently political medium with some questionable connotations, yet they want their art form to stay distant from its source material’s politics.
So it’s a sanitized cop story?
DRAMA is keen on keeping their mouth shut about the game’s story (to avoid spoilers), but based on their philosophy on how they handle their art, they want to avoid portraying the very topics or crimes that led to the need for a bodycam (i.e. police misconduct, to say the least).
What they’ll be left with is a “good guys vs. bad guys” story — something you’re used to as an innocent and hopeful kid.
Police interactions and crime, in general, isn’t separate from the very social issues or topics that DRAMA wanted to avoid. Discrimination, racism, and violence against minorities and marginalized sectors– those issues come with the territory of law enforcement, and even other art forms don’t ignore these issues, especially if they feature police, so why should a video game be so arrogantly above or beyond that discussion?
Simply put, DRAMA wants to make a realistic game but is shying away from real topics. The idea that they didn’t want to “engage in any foreign policy” or atmosphere was already contradicted by how the game appears to be inspired by Western law enforcement operations– which is no stranger to political and unethical transgressions.
But based on their response, they didn’t want the smoke and the smell from the fire– just the flames, which to the privileged, probably looked pretty from afar.
The Implications of Neutrality
The developers playing it safe means that for now (without anything to go by with the story), the game’s just a shooter with a fancy field-of-view and post-processing elements, just like how modern Call of Duty titles are just games about shooting Hollywood stereotypes of Arabs and Russians.
Unrecord, with all its explosions and homage to bodycam footage, seems to be glorifying the use of lethal force in urban environments, similar to how Call of Duty is glorifying covert military operations.
By sticking to what the studio assumes as a neutral stance that pleases everyone, they’re inadvertently painting a cool and positive perception of an institution that’s blatantly prone to corruption and human rights violations. And it’s no secret anymore that neutrality and indifference can only help the oppressors and the bullies.
To those with the privilege of not having experienced the issues Unrecord wanted to avoid, it could be just a harmless adoration of bodycam footage action; but for those who found themselves on the less safe end of a police gun, it’s a commercialization of a nightmare, especially without the political stance.
At the same time, the developers at DRAMA were more or less ambiguous. Their final statement claimed that they would adopt the label if ever the game was deemed subversive in certain countries, though what kind of subversion it presents remains to be seen.
Thus, what Unrecord will be, could depend on how it’s viewed and its story upon release. It’s copaganda, and it isn’t (until further notice); it’s also a real game, and it isn’t due to the indie development status. For now, Unrecord is still Schrodinger’s cop shooter.
It might have been better as a horror game
It’s DRAMA’s art, so we don’t have a say on how they should do it. But already, there’s a growing sentiment that they could’ve picked a better narrative or thematic vessel than law enforcement.
The trailer, as well as the development team’s impressive use of the next-gen Unreal Engine 5, led to the creation of an environment and an atmosphere with promising horror game potential.
Granted, it’s not uncommon to find environments like that in video games, but the numerous filters, FMV animations, and limited field-of-view make it akin to found-footage horror films.
You have a gun, but it’s harder to aim and shoot because the mechanics, movements, and physics are more realistic. That’s a good balance between feeling too powerful in a horror game and the constant threat of surprises.
And using horror as the theme instead of law enforcement could have been less distasteful and closer to the political neutrality or ambiguousness that the developers wanted for their story.
That’s all just indulgent and wishful thinking, but even the game in its current state might not even represent the final product well since it’s still under early development.
Is the game even real?
Seeing a game with graphics so promising that the studio had to release development footage just to quell the vigilant reception is already an indication of how far graphics technology has progressed. For many, it’s too good to be true (at least in the technical aspect).
Still, the developers assured everyone that they’re serious about the game as early in concept and tech as it might be at the moment. So it’s as real as it can get; we still have to remember that games can still get canceled or abandoned even if there’s already an expository trailer, more so if it’s from indie developers, which often have shaky funding.
Moreover, it’s too early to judge the outcome of Unrecord‘s current development cycle or if the game will even come out any time soon (if at all). While its graphics and style are definitely novel, the story, gameplay loop, mechanics, and the game world could ultimately be the bigger determinant of its success.
In the meantime, let’s just hope that Unrecord doesn’t turn out to be a painting of hell without the flames and the demons, perhaps because the artists were too scared that the Devil might not buy the artwork.
Oh, that’s pretty interesting, I’ll definitely check it out. I’m really into first-person shooters, and by far, my favorite one is CS GO. It’s pretty popular in that genre, and the fact that it’s possible to make money by selling skins on trading marketplaces is pretty attractive. This one is the best for me, and I believe that such a feature is a great way to attract players.