Photoreal game Unrecord is actually an optical illusion

Unrecord; a video game screen of a graffiti room
(Image credit: Drama Studio)

When the first gameplay footage of Unrecord released at the end of last week many felt this video game was a fake. It not only looks incredibly realistic but has a unique, video-like quality. Well, Unrecord is no hoax and that impressive sense of realism is actually a very old type of optical illusion.

Unrecord is a first-person shooter being developed by new studio Drama. It apes the movement and look of bodycam footage. The game is being developed using Unreal Engine 5 (read our Unreal Engine 5 review for more on this impressive technology) and took many by surprise when the first gameplay was released. The camera moves and sways in a realistic way, and almost looks unlocked from the character's arms, an unusual thing in video games.

To prove the doubters wrong Drama developer Alexandre Spindler took to twitter to reveal development footage from inside Unreal Engine 5. Spindler posted: "For those who thought Unrecord was fake or a video, sorry," alongside the new footage (see below).

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Unrecord is a narrative shooter that places an emphasis on achieving new levels of immersion, but as the press release states, "Realism is not an obsession but rather an integral part of the universe, so Unrecord will not be a simulation game".

The game is certainly impressive, and visually looks like nothing I've seen before. Many who saw the first footage (below) were convinced this game was either an on-rails shooter, where the developer can control the view and assign detail where needed, or an FMV game created from actual video.

It's neither, of course, Unrecord's clever mix of cutting edge graphics and an authentic art direction that recalls the Trompe-l'œil artistic technique of tricking the eye into believing what it sees is a three-dimensional or real life image. Unrecord plays with perspective along with the stylisation of video and bodycam footage to give the impression of a lifelike space recorded as video, and not a scene generated in a game engine.

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Part of selling Unrecord's impression of a real world space captured in video footage is the use of naturalistic, muted lighting combined with an abstruse fish-eye-like lens that focuses and distorts the image.

The illusion of realism also comes from Unrecord's unique free-aiming system that uses an authentic animation for its aiming and unrestricted hand movements – aiming and movement feels independent, and subtle in-camera animation techniques for ducking under windows and leaning into corners sells the impression of a realistic space.

The whole thing recalls the idea of a Trompe l'oeil illusion, where a realistic-looking image or footage is used to fool us into believing that an object could be real. It's quite incredible, and you may need powerhouse gaming laptop to experience Unrecord to its full potential (read my impressions of the new Acer Predator Triton 17 X to see what's coming soon).

Unrecord is being developed by a three-person indie game studio, visit the Drama website for more gameplay details and keep an eye out for more photorealistic footage.

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Ian Dean
Editor, Digital Arts & 3D

Ian Dean is Editor, Digital Arts & 3D at Creativebloq, and the former editor of many leading magazines. These titles included ImagineFX, 3D World and leading video game title Official PlayStation Magazine. In his early career he wrote for music and film magazines including Uncut and SFX. Ian launched Xbox magazine X360 and edited PlayStation World. For Creative Bloq, Ian combines his experiences to bring the latest news on AI, digital art and video game art and tech, and more to Creative Bloq, and in his spare time he doodles in Procreate, ArtRage, and Rebelle while finding time to play Xbox and PS5. He's also a keen Cricut user and laser cutter fan, and is currently crafting on Glowforge and xTools M1.