Unrecord Feels Real. Terrifyingly Real.

A player in Unrecord walking into an abandoned building.

A preview for the game Unrecord has made its rounds across the internet recently, and players at large are divided about how to respond to it.

The game, rendered in Unreal Engine 5, borders on photorealistic. The FPS title is the result of decades of graphical innovation, with viewers being unable to distinguish between the game and real life. The developer even had to take steps to prove the game’s existence, showing that it truly is a game rather than camera footage.

This would normally be a cause for celebration, but the brief preview left many viewers feeling disturbed rather than impressed. The game takes the point of view of a police body cam, showing a player fighting his way through a building, shooting and killing enemies.

While there is no gore, with hits and enemies’ faces blurred out as if the footage being shown was edited after the event, the near realism of the footage style visuals was enough to start a firestorm of debate around the game. Should this realism be lauded, or does this hit too close to home, trivializing police violence for the sake of games?

I believe that, while this game may be handled well, the short video shown makes me more apprehensive about its release than excited, for two main reasons.

Editor’s Comment: Please note that the below represents the opinion of the author, and we advise discretion. Also, if you could not sit through the showcase, you may not be able to sit through the description.

Will the Realism of the Police Profession Match the Realism of Unrecord’s Graphics?

Discussions concerning police violence and the police’s role in society have been a hot topic lately. While any developer can express their intent for a game to be apolitical, taking on something so close to a current important societal discussion is going to warrant attention and scrutiny.

The game, when it will be released, will be a detective thriller with a mix of storytelling and FPS gameplay. As long as the narrative handles the topic with an understanding of the situation, my worries may be unfounded. However, the current showcase of the game shown is worrisome.

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A police officer goes into a building and engages with gun-wielding enemies. They fire at the officer, necessitating retaliation, but this already generates negative reactions.

Our officer doesn’t wait for backup, and we cannot see that there is a reason that the player has to make aggressive moves into the building and that no other opportunities to defuse the situation are available. The officer shoots and kills targets, stepping over bodies without checking for signs of life.

In any other game, we wouldn’t blink twice.

However, the realism of this game, and the reality that it seeks to emulate, necessitate that this be handled as close to real life as possible, with the importance of human life placed above all else, for both our characters and those he is seeking to arrest.

The idea of an officer walking into a building that, at least as we currently understand it, seems to be free of civilian presence to kill enemies, seems wrong. While an officer has every right to defend himself, and the officer in this preview did only fire on enemies that had either fired on them or had drawn a weapon, the correct response to a situation like this wouldn’t be to play the cowboy cop trope, proceeding into a building alone, without backup, without searching for another solution.

In real life, an officer isn’t a judge, jury, and executioner. An officer fires their gun as a last resort, not as a primary method of doing their job. This short demo glorifies myths of police work, where situations are black and white. The demo demonstrates that the people this officer killed had to die, with no other options for saving lives and keeping the peace.

While other games may be able to get away with playing towards these myths for the sake of enjoyment, the nature of this game bears the responsibility of presenting as real and nuanced an experience as an officer in real life.

Once again, these worries may be unfounded. The developer spoke about their understanding of the situation and pledged that the game’s narrative focus would give this realism the context it needed for the game’s situations. Still, this is much easier said than done.

We can hope that the game approaches human life and the police profession with the care necessary to tell a nuanced story, but this could just as easily turn into a visual that trivializes death and puts unnecessary violence on a pedestal. I hope that it does, but the apprehension lasts until then.

Violent Games Don’t Hurt Children, but Can Children Tell This Is a Game?

The second worry I have is about the effect it will have on the younger players who will invariably get their hands on the game.

This debate has raged forever, and we usually stand on the side that violence in games doesn’t generate violence in children. We aren’t calling for Call of Duty to be canceled over the No Russian level a decade later.

I understand that children can tell that a game is a game and that what is done on screen doesn’t translate 1:1 to how we act in real life, or how children will act after participating in video game violence. However, the ability to tell that a game is a game is important, and this level of realism may justify taking a step back to examine the effects of a game like this further.

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Young teens who play this game, and who will play this game despite any ratings or any basic safeguards to keep them from playing it, are impressionable. A game that is as realistic as Unrecord will be may present a real danger, painting a picture of violence and disregard for human life that they may come to view as normal due to the sheer realism of the game.

If a young teen saw this on a screen, how would they feel about it? Would the realism of the game lead them to believe this is how police work should be done? If they didn’t know their friend was playing this as a game, would they believe it was real-world footage, shown freely and for good reason?

While we can’t blunt art for the sake of how children will react, it still bears questioning how this will affect them as part of society at large. If the entire game achieves the level of realism that the trailer does, we will have to be cognizant of the lessons any player may take from the game.

This is once again something that the narrative may handle well, and we could be worrying over nothing, but until it is, we can do little but worry.

Unrecord Is a Brilliant Achievement in Graphics, but the Decision To Use This Perspective Is a Poor One

Discussion around Unrecord is bound to be difficult. The clip is short, and we can’t truly comprehend the realism the game will have and its effect on players until we see the full product.

Still, the perspective that it takes requires so much care to do it justice, it makes sense that many would be scared of the game’s possible final form. Slap this level of realism into Escape from Tarkov and I’d have no issues.

But, because it deals with the topics it does, we’ll be anxiously waiting to what this game ends up being. And we’ll be VERY anxious during the wait.


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