Although, to the contrary of that particular saying, everything I had seen prior to the launch of the game had me captivated with the potential of this project. The game’s environments looked stunning, the art design was simply sensational, and there were a lot of interesting concepts that the developers were promising to deliver in the final product. You could call it hype, or maybe it was merely the fact that I was desperate for some innovation as this awfully long console generation crawls to a close, but I was a believer, and couldn’t wait to play Remember Me. However, did I miss something important? It’s possible, but this isn’t the game I thought it would be, and I have to admit up front to you all that I have had to fight the bias of my own expectations in order to write a fair review.
Set in the futuristic city of Neo-Paris in the year 2084, the world has become captivated by the Sensation Engine, or SenSen for short. Introduced by Memorize Corporation, SenSen is a brain implant that allows a person to upload and share memories, as well as to remove those they don’t want to live with anymore. It’s an incredible concept, but technology is always destined to be abused and by this time in history Memorize has already taken 99% of the population and have achieved what’s known as a “True Surveillance State”. However, this type of power is unbelievably dangerous, and that means there must also be someone to stand up and fight for the freedom of the people, and so the resistance group known as the “Errorists” rose from the depths to destroy the Corporation.
Within the sewers of Neo-Paris lies an abandoned community of people that have slowly become deformed from memory addiction, they are dangerous and unpredictable, and simply known as the “Leapers”. And yet above them stands a digital paradise filled with thousands of Androids that have been integrated into the service of modern society. It’s a fictional vision of the future that is filled so much potential, and yet, whilst there are a few earnest moments that try to embrace some of these possibilities, the core of the narrative simply slumps into the habit of repetitive “plot-ties”. I’m sure we’ve all seen those films that debut with a really exciting trailer, only to disappoint viewers when everyone realises that all the quality content had actually been used to shape our expectations. It might sound like a harsh comparison, but it is honestly how I felt when analysing Remember Me.
The protagonist Nilin, an ex-Memory Hunter, begins the game with her memory being wiped and will spend the majority of the experience fighting to recover her past. It’s a simple motive. However, with the assistance of Errorist leader, Edge, the two of them are also attempting take down the Memorize Corporation in the process. Naturally, this adds a bit of complication, and I’m sure this all sounds like a reasonable concept to set within a futuristic universe. And yet, it’s actually the unique lore that keeps the narrative interesting as the story itself is primarily driven by generic and cliche plot diversions. Ultimately, I wanted to be in this world, which is a good thing, but I also would have preferred to be doing something different. That says a lot about the creative, but certainly not the writing. I could say that the narrative is partially saved by a well written ending, but I’m still not sure that’s enough.
As I’ve already stated on several occasions, Remember Me was a game with a lot of potential. However, without any elaboration that statement doesn’t mean anything to you, and could simply be a rambling of my own expectations. That is why it’s important we take a look at the unique ideas that could have been delivered better and the reasons why they fell short. As you would have guessed, Memory is the core theme of the game, and that means the developers would naturally seek out design ideas compliment this direction. In the final product there are three major “memory” orientated elements, Memory Remixing, “Remembrane” as well as various memory puzzles.
I believe it’s only fair that I first acknowledge what I think is the best part of the game, and that’s the Memory Remixing. This is the process of watching someone else’s memories, and then changing certain aspects within those events to alter the outcome. Ultimately, the goal is to manipulate the person’s perceptions within the present day. This is such an enthralling concept as one could argue that we are but the sum of our memories and that the act of this being altered without permission is one of the worst acts you could perform on another human being. This is Nilin’s special ability, and one that puts her above the rest of the Errorists. It is also what makes her so dangerous, and whilst simple in application, it’s easily the most thought provoking and enjoyable part of the experience. However, it’s tragically under-utilised, and only gets an opportunity to shine in the end.
The second feature, called a “Remembrane”, is the process of taking someone’s memories and extorting their knowledge of the environment. Ultimately, they’re small segments where you can see a digital ghost of what someone had done in the area previously, and then you can use it for directions, to obtain codes or to solve puzzles. It’s an interesting idea, but considering the players path is so linear throughout the game, it really just works to complement the futuristic setting more than anything else. The only time it ever truly becomes engaging is when the feature is used in combination with a riddle. It’s no secret that many designers have recently tried to avoid difficult puzzles as not to discourage players, and I think it’s important to recognise those development teams that at least try. Most obstacles won’t prove to be too challenging, but there are still a couple of good ones.
Finally, to wrap up the memory themed elements, there are also little side objectives or memory puzzles as I called them. Essentially, these puzzles are floating pictures that show where a secret collectable is hidden, and what you have to do is memorise the surroundings to help you figure out where it is when you recognise the location. It seemed like a neat idea at first, and finding the items actually upgrades your health and power which is useful. However, considering the overlaying illusion of non-linearity, it eventually became a bit tedious and I stopped looking. When the game is mostly moving a straight line, it’s simply not fun to try and look outside for those minor and infrequent deviations. It actually breaks your immersion, and that in turn ties into a larger problem. The world looks nice, and it often feels as if you should be able to go places or interact with things, and you can’t. It honestly felt as if I was just moving within digital art sometimes, and whilst it looks stunning, for a game, that’s a little boring.
Let’s cut the chase and go straight for the throat. The controls in Remember Me are clumsy, and the camera is often awkward. There is simply no excusing this in a modern game, and I have to call this out right away as it’s honestly the most poorly controlled platformer I’ve played in a long time. In fact, if it were not for the shiny graphics, I would have sworn that I was playing a PS2 game. However, that’s just my opinion, and it’s still important we look at the other aspects that actually worked well. The projectile weapon that Nilin uses is a good example, as it is used to spam enemies in combat, as well as to open doors and solve puzzles. It’s been implemented in a well thought out way, and that much deserves to be acknowledged. (Even if the targeting can be a little frustrating in large crowds)
Let’s discuss the platforming though as this game could technically be described as a “Platformer”. Simple answer, the platforming mechanics literally add nothing to the experience. It’s not technically bad, it’s not exactly broken, it’s just kind of pointless. A critical opinion, sure, but there are actually digital markers that tell you where to jump, what path to follow, and essentially you will just continue on the linear path that you’re shown. Of course, there is the occasional diversion from the straight and narrow that clearly leads to an item, but otherwise, it’s a tedious activity to fill the space between combat. Of course, this might not be an issue for some players, and especially to those who enjoy the combat and want to take a breather, but to me personally, it may have well been a cutscene.
On the other hand, I’m quite keen to discuss the combat as this is the vital link between both the design and the gameplay. First of all, I have to say that I really appreciated the combo lab, and for those unaware of what this is, it’s a system that allows you to customise your combos with various moves and bonuses. It uses a mechanic called “Pressens” that work as attributes to increase damage, recover health, and lower the recharge time for the special abilities known as S-Pressens. It’s actually implemented quite well and allows the player to be strategic with how they play. The same also applies to the special abilities which can be used in various ways to take advantage of all the different types of enemy weaknesses. It’s an interesting idea, and a bit of a saving grace for the combat itself.
At first glance, some players might associate the combat with the Arkham Series, which is a fair comparison when you watch how the gameplay seems to slow as each hit is about to land, where as others might notice a bit of DmC influence in the way you are forced to use specific abilities against certain enemy types. Imitation isn’t a bad thing, but the problem with Remember Me is that it doesn’t do either of these approaches well. Players can only chain combos against a single enemy, which means when you face a group with an opponent that is immune to regular attacks, they will constantly force you to jump out of their way, and that makes longer combos awkward as the chain doesn’t carry across. However, if there is only a special enemy remaining and the required S-Pressen is still recharging, you have no choice but to dodge and wait if there are no grunts to help boost the recharge time.
Ultimately, the core issues are a result of repetitiveness and bottle-necking the player’s progress. Often you will enter a room, notice a locked door, and then know straight away you can’t progress until an upcoming wave of enemies has been defeated. Of course, the door will then magically unlock once the fight is over, and I’m sorry, but this is just stupid. I guess it’s fair to note that each enemy type is at least unique, but they are also very far from dynamic, and often you will be forced to repeat the same actions over and over. And yet, I know the game can do better as demonstrated within the compelling boss fights. Unfortunately, It just feels as if a shorter game has been stretched out, and that’s a serious concern when every other aspect of the game suffers from the same criticism.
In a sudden change of tone, and as earlier expressed, I can’t say how much I honestly appreciated the overall design of Neo-Paris. It’s just an incredible world to be apart of, and it’s unfortunate that I found myself wishing for a different type of game to be set within these awesome surroundings. It’s a graphical treat, and there are a lot of little details that help bring it to life. I wanted to explore and not the way the game wanted me to, and yet, despite feeling restricted, I still strongly stand by my earlier statement that referred to Remember Me as digital art. The moment when I walked into an apartment to see a lone android sitting at a piano playing a classic piece written by French Composer, Erk Satie. That was just beautiful, and it wouldn’t have been the same within any other medium.
I also have to offer equal praise for the music design in the game, which was consistently enjoyable throughout the experience. There is a healthy balance of classic, modern, and a distorted futuristic in between. All of which worked well. The voice acting from the main cast is also quite enjoyable, with a great performance from the lead character, Nilin. I personally enjoy a good monologue, and I appreciated all the “inner-thought” pieces of dialogue that occurred between episodes. The only criticism I can offer is in regards to the non-playable characters that populated the world. They may have well been silent as all they had to offer was some really terrible dialogue, or repetitive nonsense that could become tired quickly. It’s just a little bit of an immersion breaker, nothing major.
As a reviewer, it’s my job to think critically about what does and doesn’t work in a game. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the hard work each developer has to put into their games as well. I think it’s really important to acknowledge those games that try to think outside the box, but still might not be a complete success. Mirror’s Edge is a game that comes to mind as a good example, and I hold Remember Me with a similar esteem. It has some really great ideas, despite it’s shortcomings, and fortunately, that was enough to keep me interested until the end. Whether the game could actually be described as “fun” is really up to each individual who plays it, but for me, I wouldn’t use that word. And yet, with that being said, a review score is merely a technical summary, and can’t measure how much each of you will enjoy it. Honestly, I would still rather have these mixed experiences than spend every game playing with the same overused and tiring mechanics. DONTNOD have the potential to do great work, and assuming this exercise isn’t too costly, I am genuinely looking forward to what they do next.
Note: This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game, and provided to us via the Australian distributor for Capcom.