Game Review: Remember Me [PC/Xbox360/PS3]
I had watched Dontnod Entertainment’s game from pretty much the first presented screenshots, mainly due to the great concept of Remember Me. When the crux of a plot revolves around memories, or the manipulation of such, it can leave a lot of creative room to formulate something special.
Booting up the game does nothing to dull that feeling, the look and movement of the menus and the superbly orchestrated music, fit very neatly in to the setting. Even the opening few scenes (despite some very muddy textures) start to massage your thinking muscle, in to believing this could be something to remember.
Terrible puns aside, the game does indeed start well enough for me to order some pizza, and get comfortable with a liver damaging amount of energy drink. After the opening moments, you are treated to a beautiful visage of Neo-Paris in 2084. Our protagonist, Nilin, is unceremoniously dumped amongst a bunch of Leapers, in the sewers of the once free city. This is where, unfortunately, everything starts to come unravelled.
The first problem, that ploughs in to your ears almost as badly as the original Resident Evil, is the voice acting and dialogue. Kezia Burrows (Nilin) plays her part in a passable manner. I actually spent the majority of the game convinced that Camilla Luddington was the talent behind her, the similarity in their voices is honestly that striking.
The majority of the cast however, is poor at best. It isn’t helped by the dialogue, which is so bad you could be forgiven for thinking that Hideo Kojima had written it. It’s unfortunate, as the actual story is quite interesting, it hinges on some awful plot points, but it’s engaging and it genuinely held my interest right to the end, which despite the aforementioned poor choices in narrative, does wrap things up nicely.
The backstory in Remember Me is equally interesting, a corporation by the name of Memorize has developed a kind of brain augment called the Sensation Engine (Sensen). This can be used to share other peoples memories, fully experiencing their highs and lows, as well as being able to remove unwanted experiences.
The near monopoly that this gives Memorize, causes a surveillance state of sorts. The Leapers that I briefly mentioned, are humans that have absorbed too many memories and been turned in to a mutated version of their former self, they exist in the depths of Neo-Paris, trying to scavenge what memories they can from others.
It’s a good setting, and gives room for some interesting mechanics, one of which is called a ‘Remembrane’. This is where Nilin accesses/steals memories from someone; it appears as a ghost image overlay and helps the player move past obstacles and sometimes gives a little peak in to the story.
The other intriguing inclusion is the ‘Memory Remix’. This is possibly my favourite part of the game, it’s done exceedingly well and sees Nilin absorbing a memory from an unsuspecting target, then changing it to the outcome she desires. It is accomplished by manipulating “glitches” in the memory. You need to find the right combination of alterations to proceed past these somewhat basic puzzles, however, there is only four instances in the game where this is used, I found it disappointing that it wasn’t utilised more, and to be honest, I felt like the entire idea could have been pushed a bit further.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the only thing that feels underused. A lot of Remember Me feels unfinished, there is a distinct lack of polish throughout the game, close inspection of graphical detail, reveals a complete absence of it, the character models look like mannequins, their plastic appearance is further sullied by poor textures.
Even on PC with a graphics mod, it still doesn’t push the U3 engine as far as we know it can be. You could argue it’s the sign of an ageing console, but we have seen what these platforms can produce graphically, and I just feel like a little more production time may have lavished some better results.
The cracks in the game are genuinely more noticeable due to other parts of it being brilliantly done, the back drop for Neo-Paris looks breathtaking, the disparity between the “upper class” parts of it, compared to the sprawling slums beneath, create a wonderful change in scenery and tone. The streets are littered with personal robots that seem to be inspired by an Asimov novel, the moving adverts for various things are animated extremely well and even made me take pause for a moment. The further robotic presence in the form of observer drones, feeds the oppressive nature of the city, but the atmosphere is somewhat spoiled by annoying sound bites from the human inhabitance, which ironically are there to create a more living, breathing world.
It would be a pleasure to navigate the city, if not for the stagnant on-rails platforming. It’s a part of many third-person games, and something I just cannot get on with. Traversing the digital world should, in my eyes, be a challenge, not just an obligatory set of snore inducing button presses.
I would hope at some point, that developers refer to the original Tomb Raider, released in 1996. This was platforming made difficult (or at least more difficult than today’s offerings), having to actually time your jumps and specifically grab the ledge, would be something I would welcome in our current generation of games, it is certainly preferable to the feeling of not really needing to be there.
Remember Me certainly isn’t the only culprit with regards to this by any means, but unfortunately, this annoyance is also further compounded by the combat. I was always sceptical when this was first shown before release, and playing it has done nothing to quell my worries.
You have four combos within the game, the input of which never changes. Along with this you have four categories of unlockables called ‘Pressens’, these are the different types of traits you can give your combos. You have ‘Power’, ‘Healing’, ‘Cooldown’ and ‘Chain’. The first two are obvious enough, Cooldown will reduce the time it takes for you to be able to use your ‘S-Pressen’ moves (I will explain that in a moment). Finally, Chain will multiply the effect of the previous slot in the combo. You can drop any of the unlocked Pressens in to the combo slots, attributing your desired affects to the string of impending fisty cuffs.
According to the games creative director, there are over 50,000 chain combinations, however, this doesn’t stop the system being less exciting than watching paint dry.
The one thing that does stop the combat being a total loss, is the S-Pressens, these are some very powerful abilities that Nilin can perform after unlocking them during the course of play. My personal favourite of these being the ‘Logic Bomb’. This sees our heroine slap what appears to be, a huge data bomb on an opponent, you have a couple of seconds to retreat before it explodes in glorious slo-mo, doing huge damage to anyone close to it. The others range from an AoE (area of effect) stun, to a cloaking ability to perform a one hit take down on any visible foe.
This does ease the tedium slightly, and once you have access to all your abilities, the different enemies you will fight, make choosing the right tool for the job important. The downside is, that you end up using pretty much the same combos over and over again. The rather clunky nature of the combat (and all controls in general) doesn’t exactly add to the fun either. As with a lot of things in the game, it’s a nice concept, it just isn’t realised very well.
As I said earlier, the discrepancy in quality is at times jarring, you get some average platforming, surrounded by a beautiful vista, some poorly executed combat with brilliantly animated and diverse enemies, a compelling and well presented story with some annoying plot holes. Some nicely drip fed skills, that only interact with a linear world.
The latter of the points is something I found very odd. As you overcome the various boss fights in the game, which are actually good on the whole, you gain some new abilities. I don’t view the acquisition as a bad thing, but it seems out of place in a way, and although this may seem a little finicky (my new favourite word), just stay with me.
The general way this kind of thing is used, is in games like Zelda or the Batman: Arkham games, it is what you call “gear gating”. Meaning, you cannot proceed past certain points in the world, until you have a certain piece of gear that allows you to. Anyone who played the recent Tomb Raider, will have come across this frequently.
So why is this weird in Remember Me? Well, the path within the game is completely linear, there is nothing much to explore and no way of returning to previous areas, short of playing the game through again with “New Game Plus” of course. In fact, the only collectibles in the game are hinted at by pictures that appear when approaching a new area. The items do lend a touch more interactivity with the environment, but it just seems out of place to me, as if they were trying to tick some boxes, to add something to what is inexorably, quite a stale game.
What I’m trying to say is, if you didn’t have that item, there would still only be one way to proceed. There is nowhere else to travel to in the mean time. Again, it doesn’t add any challenge, it’s just there (I did warn you it was finicky).
In fairness, the items you receive do fit very well within the experience, and it does add a little more to the rather laborious path to the next fight.
All these gripes aside, Remember Me does start to pick up in the second half. With the full amount of Pressens and S-Pressens available, the combat draws away from monotony to give a spark of what a bit more development time could have achieved. The story has some great scenes in between missions, prodding at the characters inner turmoil, presenting her as a very likeable protagonist. The final boss and last few scenes are handled excellently, and things are set up for what could be an impressive sequel.
I genuinely had trouble with scoring Remember Me, the first few hours had all but convinced me that this was a sub 5/10 game. The latter stages though, ingratiate the inadequate first few hours, just about easing it in to the territory of being a game you should pick up on sale. That isn’t a huge compliment I know, but it’s all I feel comfortable giving it. There are some nicely scripted moments here and there, and the concept remains a good one despite its poor execution.
Often games borrow different aspects from popular titles. Darksiders for example, feels like the result of a dark union between Zelda and God of War. Remember Me adopts this strategy, possibly to attain fans from differing franchises, but without the polish and high standard of these games, it comes off as a poor imitation at best.
It still has it’s own ideas to give to the genre, some of them excellent, and even though it’s hard to see this getting a sequel, it would be great to see a properly realised version of this IP. As it stands, the 8 hours it took me (on hard) to finish the game, just aren’t worth the full price of admission. It isn’t a terrible game, just a seemingly unfinished one that lacks the amount of refinement that is needed from AAA games.
However, don’t do yourself the injustice of discounting the next Dontnod Entertainment project you see. It could be that we get something very special from them in the future, next time it may well be a game you remember.