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Is the upcoming bodycam shooter ‘Unrecord’ too true to life?

An upcoming shooter game called Unrecord aims to accurately simulate the bodycam of a tactical officer. But has its developer’s emphasis on overtly realistic mechanics, graphics, and themes created something a little too true to life?

The technology available to game developers today is allowing them to create more immersive and marvellous experiences than previously thought possible.

Thanks to digital toolkits such as the Unreal Engine 5, we’re able to enjoy bafflingly rich, detailed worlds in seamless high-fidelity without so much as a loading screen interrupting us. According to those behind the scenes, the bar is only going to get higher too.

Last May, Epic Games showed the capabilities of its flagship software by posting what appeared to be an ordinary video of a train station in Japan. Only when checking the annotation and comments did thousands realise they were in-fact looking at an animated demo created by 3D environment artist Lorenzo Drago.

The eerily realistic clip left thousands of gamers – and the Thred office – bemused at how technologically advanced game building had become, and I distinctly remember several remarking that chasing such standards of realism could be a slippery slope for the industry.

A year on, a lot of what we discussed has come to pass with the announcement of a controversial title called Unrecord.

What is Unrecord?

Developed by a studio called DRAMA, Unrecord is billed as a single-player FPS which tells the story of a tactical police officer from the perspective of his body camera.

The early gameplay trailer is reminiscent of something you’d see on LiveLeak. The protagonist approaches a derelict building and chases armed suspects with a handgun. The jittery camera movements and graphics immediately appear so lifelike that you could easily mistake it for being real footage – and many did. Even the assailants’ faces are blurred.

As the trailer plays out, we gather that high-pressure moral decisions are clearly part and parcel of the campaign. An intense shootout concludes in a small office room where a suspect can be found stood with his arms behind his head; several player options then appear to decide course of action, including ‘You will pay.’

From what little we’ve seen thus far, it appears similar raid-type missions will occur in multiple locations before culminating in some sort of big pay-off and resolution to the case.

We’ve seen a similar gameplay blueprint in sequences of Call of Duty’s Modern Warfare reboot, but it appears the bombastic action synonymous with that franchise won’t be present here. It’ll all be as grounded and intense as the last video.

Reaction to the announcement has been about as mixed as you’d expect. Many are rightfully praising it as a technological feat with unbridled immersion, while others are understandably uncomfortable or disturbed by Unrecord’s imagery and themes.

A step too far for gaming?

While I’m somewhat caught between the two points of view, it’s easy to see why some are upset by the notion of this kind of game becoming normal.

Games have explored controversial themes for decades with many being censored or banned for their content within certain regions. This will be a non-story for some. In this unique instance, however, one could argue that such a realistic portrayal of real-life trauma has yet to be seen on the scale of Unrecord.

Police body-cam footage is frankly everywhere on social media, and most of the content is distressing, discriminatory, or posted for shock value. On first viewing (without context), Unrecord isn’t easy to distinguish from such videos and some have labelled the game as being in poor taste and indirectly political – whether it intends to be or not.

In its press deck, DRAMA responded by assuring ‘the game does not engage in any foreign policy and is not inspired by any real-life events.’

There is reasonable scope for concern beyond DRAMA’s control, however. Given Unrecord will require serious processing power to run, its largest player-base will likely use PCs meaning mods will invariably be created – and potentially a host of sleazy brutality simulators.

There’s also the chance that opening the door to hyper-realistic releases of this ilk could open a can of worms by giving credibility to the industry’s naysayers. The argument of gaming being a means of novel escapism would become diluted, potentially feeding the tired adage that gaming is a problematic hobby.

As it stands now, Unrecord hasn’t even been given an official release date and whether it will go gold in stores and on digital marketplaces remains to be seen. Perhaps this is merely another storm in a teacup – and the industry has had many in recent years – but the story has a lot more to play out yet.