This article has been updated with additional comments from the developer made after the announcement.
Last fall, French indie developer Alexandre Spindler posted a video of a "bodycam style" FPS on Twitter. The eerily photorealistic footage was retweeted over 35,000 times—among those impressed by the clip were filmmaker Neill Blomkamp—but we were left with no other details.
Today, Spindler announced the game properly: It's called Unrecord, and it's a "tactical shooter" with "complex dialogues, innovative gameplay mechanics, tough moral dilemmas, and a unique shooting system," according to its Steam page. There's a new trailer embedded above.
Somewhat surprisingly to me, storytelling is emphasized above all. "The player will have to investigate several criminal cases and confront a diverse cast of characters," reads Unrecord's official description. "The game's plot and presentation will be central to the gameplay experience, and players can anticipate a range of gameplay sequences as well as numerous plot twists." The developer also refers to the story as being similar to "a detective novel or a thriller."
Of course, the most immediately striking, and for some off-putting, feature of Unrecord is its nearly photorealistic bodycam look. It's a look that's generally associated with military and tactical police operations, but also with evidence of military and police brutality and killings, particularly in recent years. Unrecord's protagonist is a police officer.
One thing that contributes to the impression we're looking at real bodycam footage is the free movement of the player character's hands, which is accomplished with an "original aiming system" which allows for "unrestricted hand movements," according to the developer. Lens distortion and video effects like interlacing, bloom, and pixelated faces—as if the footage has been censored—also contribute to the illusion, and the raw fidelity of the environments underpins the whole thing. And yet, Unrecord isn't meant to be a realistic simulation, the developer says.
"Unrecord is a narrative game that takes inspiration from realistic FPS games," reads an FAQ on the game's official site. "It could be described as a blend of Firewatch and Ready Or Not. Realism is not an obsession but rather an integral part of the universe, so Unrecord will not be a simulation game."
Between the reference to recording video in the title—or, erasing it, I guess—and the comment that the "presentation will be central" to the whole experience, there's reason to believe that we haven't heard the whole premise of Unrecord's story yet.
Studio Drama, which was founded in 2020 by Spindler with musician Théo Hiribarne, only made a few other comments about Unrecord's graphics in the game's description, noting for instance that work is being done on ways to adjust camera movement and effects for players with motion sickness. After the announcement, however, Spindler responded to skeptical viewers who wondered if they were truly looking at real-time Unreal Engine 5 gameplay.
"It's not a rail shooter or an FMV, it is indeed an FPS and these images are from real-time gameplay, not pre-rendered," Spindler said.
The studio also posted a handful of longer answers to the feedback it's received in the day since the announcement, stating again that Unrecord really is an FPS, and responding to criticism of its police narrative.
"The game will obviously avoid any undesirable topics such as discrimination, racism, violence against women and minorities," the studio wrote. "The game will have no biased or Manichean take on criminal acts and police violence. We also respect and understand people who may feel disturbed by the game's images. Art cannot fight against interpretation."
You can read the studio's full statement in the tweet embedded below. A day after the announcement, the studio also posted another video to prove that Unrecord is genuinely rendered in real-time in Unreal Engine 5—you can see that here. Unrecord doesn't have a release date yet.
Post-reveal: Response to questions and concerns from players.https://t.co/n6hF9aiGiW pic.twitter.com/Kg0NMFaUCTApril 20, 2023