Remember Me Review: The Memory Remains
A while back, I wrote a column lamenting the loss of new intellectual properties coming from the big publishers. One of the few new multi-platform IPs that is coming out this year is Capcom’s Remember Me. It had an interesting premise and the rare not hypersexualized female protagonist leading the game. For the first few hours, Remember Me was certainly worth my past consideration as a new IP to wake up the industry.
However, the experience doesn’t hold up over time. While there are parts of the game that are very memorable, it’s certainly not the unforgettable rookie developer Dontnod were hoping for.
Remember Me likes to be called a brawler-platformer which makes some sense. Most of your navigating through the world is through Uncharted style platforming. Since the climbable parts of the world are easily differentiable from the non-climbable features of the world, the game includes a very hand-holding waypoint system to tell you were to climb and jump to. It’s so hand holding that the next waypoint is often 10 metres (30 feet) or less from the last one. As annoying as that can be, it’s necessary since platforming would border on being impossible without it.
The Batman: Arkham style brawling is much better given that this isn’t reliant almost entirely on the counter button which I used twice as much as the actual attack buttons in Arkham Asylum. Remember Me doesn’t feature a counter button but a dodge button which allows you to continue combos after a dodge if you dodge over/around the enemy you were comboing on when you initiated the dodge so you don’t necessarily have to worry about losing your eight-hit combo just because one of the swarm of enemies is about to slap you upside the head.
The combo system is the highlight of the combat system. It’s a build your own combo system that allows you to construct 3, 5, 6 and 8 hit combos from various unlockable punches and kicks which become available as you earn points for killing enemies and stringing together long combos. There are tactics to unlocking attacks and placing them in combos because your three punch/kick types are power attacks, healing attacks (that regenerate health when you hit an enemy with it) and cooldown boosters (which drop the cooldown time on your special attacks). My three-hit combo had a healing and cooldown attack so I could heal up after getting smacked around while trying to hit my longer combos.
Despite the combo system, combat can get a bit of repetitive. Enemy types are slim in Remember Me. There are three types of Leapers (the mind wiped failures of the memory storage process), three types of security guards (though two of those types are guard and guard with easily destroyed shield) and two robots. Given that all the combat seems to happen in enclosed rooms with a swarm of enemies, every battle feels fairly similar to the last. It’s not helped by the enemies spouting off the same three lines over the course of every fight.
The camera might be the worst part of the combat. Given the enclosed nature of the combat arenas- I mean, naturally occurring fighting areas. It’s very seldom that the camera pans back to give you a better look at the combat. So unfortunately, you’re left with the over-the-shoulder type of camera view which leaves a lot of enemies out of your line of sight. If the “Hey! He’s about to attack!” symbol always worked for off-screen enemies, that wouldn’t be a problem. Sadly, the camera does mean you tend to get blindsided.
The camera issues also lead into some trouble targeting enemies. Sometimes, you’ll centre your camera on one enemy to melee and end kick his slightly off to the side buddy in the face instead. That’s a problem when the buddy is an enemy type that automatically dishes out damage to you for attacking him. Unless you’re using a ranged attack (which also tends to be nearly impossible to accurately aim when there are more than three enemies on-screen), there is no indication of who you’re actually going to hit with an attack unless they’re well removed from the other guys on-screen.
Checkpointing in combat is another area that could have used a little work. Multi-wave fights and multi-stage boss fights don’t checkpoint between waves and stages. If you die during the third and final stage of a boss fight (something that happened annoyingly often against the big robot bosses), you go right back to the beginning. Worse, your focus meter (which allows you to use special attacks) is reset to zero which makes the fight even harder than it was the first time. At least checkpointing during the platforming sections is very forgiving.
But wait! There’s more to the gameplay! Yes, I realize that I already spent some 700 words on it but there’s more to it. And hopefully dropping a word count in there helps you realize how big a task this was that Dontnod undertook for a rookie effort and why there were issues. I think that most of the issues with this game can come down to Dontnod biting off more than they could chew. Perhaps a little more time or a smaller scope could have improved the game by giving the devs time to polish the game.
Anyway, in a game called Remember Me which is about memories, after all, you have to play around with people’s memories. Sure, Nilin can steal people’s memories with a push of a button but she can also change people’s memories which the game calls Remixing. In order to bend people to help her meet her goals, Nilin goes into people’s minds and changes how they recall important moments in their lives.
This is done in a sort of puzzle way as you replay the person’s memory and rewind through it to look for triggers to change to alter the memory. There are multiple outcomes to each puzzle but only one memory outcome is accepted by the game as the correct one. When you put together the correct triggers to bend the person’s memory to your desired outcome, the game progresses.
If there’s a place where you can tell that the PC port was a bit of an afterthought, it’s here. The memory remix controls are painful with a mouse and keyboard. To navigate through a memory, you have to move the mouse in circles to rewind or fast forward. While it would probably work alright using thumbsticks on a controller, it is very imprecise using a mouse.
Unfortunately, there are only four memory remixes in the game. It would have been nice to have more, control issues notwithstanding, given how unique this aspect of the game was. Maybe they’ll up the number of remixes and give us a bit more creative freedom in remixing if we get a Remember Me 2 (or “Too” if the marketing depart decides to be clever if a sequel is made).
Remember Me follows the story of a memory hunter named Nilin. When we first meet her, her memory is erased while imprisoned and a little timely outside intervention from an old Errorist friend named Edge (No, not the wrestler… or the other one) is all that stops her from getting a full personality rewrite. Before her memory wipe, Nilin was an elite Errorist (a self-described freedom fighter) who was trying to take down the evil mega-corporation Memorize who found a way to digitize and monetize the storage (and removal) of memories.
With guidance from Edge, Nilin undertakes a quest to take down Memorize which she was on before her memory wipe. The story, unfortunately, progresses in a linear and slightly disjointed fashion. The game built logically for the first five chapters as we jumped from introduction through to a mass break out from La Bastille (yes, it was rebuilt in Neo-Paris). Then it jumps to taking down Memorize then to La Bastille again and to a different Memorize HQ. The plot and its pacing just fall apart in the second half.
And that’s a shame because the story had the potential to be absolutely spectacular. There were the moral issues of memory manipulation to be explored and moral choices to be made. They could have dived into the importance of life experiences in shaping a person rather than making it just a snap change without much exploration of the impact of memory remixing. There was the sort of cult of technology angle in which are every day lives are dominated by technology to the point we, as a society, are almost a slave to the latest gadget and upgrade like the people of Neo-Paris are to Memorize and Sensen. Heck, I was expecting the BioShock twist saying Edge was just manipulating you for his own nefarious motives.
None of these potential plot points really get delved into, though. We just go along the path laid out before us by the writers at Dontnod. A great premise was left halfway explored and it’s such a shame. The game’s story should get stronger as you go along. The plot kept building but rather than ramp up more strongly after the big twist in the middle to ramp the game up before the closing sequence, we got a twist and it never went anywhere from there.
Similarly, all the moral issues of memory manipulation were left dangling. Nilin seemed to be morally conflicted over her ability to remix memories and the potential consequences but she got over that pretty quick. It seems awfully out of character. There was a great opportunity to include a moral choice system integrated with the memory remix system but the only choice we have is to solve the puzzle the way we were told to or not play the game.
Probably worse is we never learn what drove Nilin to be an Errorist or memory hunter. That blank is never filled in during the game. Sure, I can guess why Nilin might have become a memory hunter after Episode 5 but they made me change my mind on that in Episode 8. Like I said, a lot of plot threads are left dangling but never really explored.
While the story was a little lackluster, the world that Dontnod created in Neo Tokyo was pretty spectacular. The modernized parts of 2084 Paris retain the classic charm of Paris with a technological façade reminiscent of Sherlock. There’s pop-up text to tell you what’s what and where’s where like you’d see on the show. The modern buildings are bit like Abrams’ Apple Store vision for Star Trek. They’re very cleanly designed in a way that I’d consider typical for a cyberpunk game. Lot’s of plastic looking surfaces in white and grey.
It’s a shame that the lore of Neo Paris and Memorize was relegated to collectables rather than actually told as part of the game. It would have been nice to know what Memorize ever did to anger the Errorists beside monetizing memories with a process that wasn’t 100% safe. I can understand being opposed to memory manipulation but I thought a decided lack of reasoning behind taking down Memorize.
Graphics and Audio
The game was built on the Unreal 3 Engine which has been used for games for the last seven years. As we’ve seen from the last few big UE3 games, the engine is starting to show its age when it comes to environment textures. A few close-ups show some low-res textures, especially when compared to some of the great lighting and character modelling work that Dontnod did. The characters were also very well animated, even if Nilin isn’t as responsive in combat as I would have liked. I imagine she gets locked into animations that weren’t designed to be broken or interrupted. At least they look pretty.
I mentioned how much I loved Neo Paris at the end of the last section so I can summarize it by saying that I absolutely loved the art style of this game. The classic architecture of Paris looked fantastic when updated with the new Sherlock-ian augmented reality technology. The contrast between the rundown slums and the updated classic buildings helped tell a story of its own, even if the plot didn’t really tell it.
Just a word of warning to AMD graphics card users: There’s an NVIDIA splash screen when you boot up the game. I knew it was a bad sign and even with my fairly new rig, there were some framerate hickups on my AMD setup. If you get into a busy part of the world, try not to move the camera. The framerate tends to drop massively when you move the camera when Nilin is exploring larger environments. No matter what I tried with the settings, it wasn’t preventing the framerate drops.
The voice acting is a bit hit and miss. I don’t know why all the voice actors had American or British accents. I’m not sure that I heard even one French accent which is pretty odd for a game that takes place in Paris. Still, Nilin’s voice actress, the Welsh actress Kezia Burrows, did a very good job in the lead role. Your always in your ear sidekick Edge, played by fellow Canuck Nathan Nolan, was a bit flat at times but not enough to be off-putting. Perhaps just less trustworthy a character. The two Memorize executives you meet were pretty well acted too.
The soundtrack is a highlight of Remember Me. It’s a mix of both orchestral and electronic music thorughout the game. The platforming and exposition scenes are generally punctuated with an orchestral score while combat brings in the electronic music. Occasionally, the two are blended together but mostly in the more story-centric scenes.
What makes the soundtrack even better is that a real orchestra was used to record the score. Sure, computers and keyboards can put together a nice sounding soundtrack but there’s nothing quite like that proper orchestra sound on a soundtrack.
As I was playing this game, I was scoring it in my head. About three chapters into the game, I wondered how I could score it anything lower than an 8 (which is “great” on our scale). However, as the game went along, the holes in the story and gameplay became too much to ignore.
It’s such a shame because there were so many great building blocks that Dontnod started off this game with. There was the moral dilemma that was brushed aside. The combo building mechanic was waylayed by dull, repetitive combat. The unique memory remix sections of gameplay were underutilized.
I hope that Capcom doesn’t give up on Remember Me or Dontnod because of some middle of the road reviews. Like I keep saying, there are lots of great ideas that this game teases. More focus on those areas left half done components of the game could turn this from an also-ran to one of the games that appears on more than a few best of the year lists.
However, games are criticized and scored based on potential. If they were, this would get a spectacular score. Execution, however, keeps this game at just above average.
Remember Me was reviewed on PC but is also available for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Et Geekera’s copy of the game was provided by Capcom. Your impressions of the game may differ based on the platform played on, PC specs (especially graphics card), whether you used a controller or mouse and keyboard and how tormented you are by bad memories.