This memory-hunting action game tries hard, but never really takes off.
By Alex Walker on June 6, 2013 at 7:27 pm
Remember Me’s tale of caution about the ultimate advancements in social networking is a curious proposition. It’s particularly relevant in an age where concerns about privacy, centred around citizens’ willingness to share personal information without a second thought, are rampant.
It’s a wonderfully thought-provoking premise from French studio Dontnod Entertainment, although the game never quite gets out of second gear. The plot focuses almost entirely on the personal rehabilitation of memory hunter Nilin, forgoing the opportunity to explore the real concerns about the growth of social networking for unfortunate cliché.
In fairness, Remember Me was never engineered for a wider message about society — but by the time the credits roll, and particularly throughout the entirety of the last chapter, you can’t help but apply the game’s themes to a broader context.
The basic principle is the digitisation of memories and their commoditisation by Memorize, the global manufacturer of the Sensen implant that allows people to upload their memories online. Nilin works alongside the Errorists, a rogue organisation troubled by consequences of Mermorize’s technology, which can range from amnesia to psychotic episodes, and the potential for widespread surveillance.
Remember Me falls under the Capcom banner, so there’s a lot of combo-based fighting. The system, outlined more broadly in my preview, works well but the possibilities are restricted by the combinations of enemies you’ll face. Nilin has access to four types of Pressens, specialised attacks that grant additional damage, health regeneration and faster cooldowns. (The fourth amplifies the effect of the previous Pressen, so it’s more of an ultimate Pressen, if you will.)
The camera and combat are a pleasure thanks to the fast and fluid animations. It’s a little disappointing that the fights only ever take place in blatantly open locations, although it’s a necessary concession. While Nilin has access to a mounted weapon, her fists and feet are by far the more effective weapons.
Enemies will often surround you, but thankfully the dodging mechanic is forgiving enough that you don’t get overwhelmed. A icon telegraphs an enemy’s incoming attack, and a quick press of the jump button allows Nilin to vault over the nearest attacker to safety without breaking her current combo.
On some walls and corners Nilin is forced to roll or cartwheel away, however, which does break the combo. Punches and kicks are incredibly easy to land, so restarting the combo is never a problem, but since each enemy takes at least one or two of the most damaging combos to kill, it results in some fights overstaying their welcome.
That’s particularly true with any of the major fights against boss robots, which can only be killed with your mounted rifle. Robots generally are miserable opponents; there’s only one way to kill them quickly, if you’re saving your S-Pressens for other targets.
The rate of fire on the crowd-control robots in particular is so annoyingly high that it’s impossible to get more than two or three hits on anyone else before you have to dodge. It means the fight literally doesn’t progress until you take them out, ruining any variety in strategy you might have hoped to employ. Some of the ground-based enemies — of which there are few — have a similar problem: dealing with them outside of the one tactic so blatantly designed to counter them is so vastly inefficient that you’re wasting your time even thinking about doing anything else.
One saving grace is that, at least for the PC master race, Remember Me is really quite beautiful. One of the Unreal Engine’s strengths has always been its capacity to easily and fluidly handle broad landscapes and changes in scenery. For a game that often delves into the mind, a volatile world that fractures and changes almost at will, this was a perfect decision.
Still, you get the good with the bad: I’ve never liked the Unreal Engine’s handling of models, and Nilin’s facial textures are quite flat. It’s not bad by any means, but compared to the vibrancy of Neo-Paris, the smooth transitions between reality and fantasy and the intermittent cut-scenes, the lack of detail sticks out like a sore thumb.
Another of Remember Me’s recurring idiosyncrasies are Nilin’s monologues at the start of every chapter. They’re no different from the usual tales of vulnerability you get from characters beset by amnesia, although her introspection often centres around her motivations and that of her rescuer and Errorist “brother” Edge.
Her constant pondering never goes anywhere though; the story basically resolves itself thanks to Edge. If there were no enemies to fight, Nilin might not even be required — save for the adventure game-style memory remix sequences.
Memory remixing is Nilin’s ultimate skill, allowing her to alter the memories of her targets. It’s a fun little diversion, even if it is largely trial and error. The idea is that you manipulate objects until you achieve a certain outcome, which usually revolves around someone dying.
It’s a bit macabre but not out of place considering the subject matter: the memories people want to forget are the most painful, and reminding people of them usually has the most impact. I wish Dontnod ran with the idea of memory remixing more than they did, but then again, that particular regret is largely symptomatic of Remember Me as a whole.
You can’t explore the city of Neo-Paris on your own, and you spend a good chunk of the game retracing your steps. Across the game’s seven chapters, you’ll go back and forth between a paltry three locations (the slums, the prison and the privileged district) twice. Even if you get to revisit the carnage you’ve wrecked, it’s depressingly limited. Remember Me’s been in development for long enough: couldn’t Dontnod have put together a few more unique levels? Explore a different part of Neo-Paris?
The story suffers from a similar lack of breadth. Instead of further examining the societal and technological implications, Remember Me pretends to focus on the people, but then never follows through with a thorough examination of their relationships and motivations.
There’s a lot about Remember Me that I quite enjoyed; sadly, most of that had nothing to do with the game itself. It’s not bad per se, but it’s not amazing either. The combat can get tiring and the plot never really hits its stride. Remember Me’s thoughts and ideas are definitely intriguing on their own — it’s just a shame that thinking about the implications of futuristic social networking is more fun than playing in a world corrupted by it.
- Looks gorgeous on PC
- Fluid fighting animations
- Combat is easy to understand and master
- Relevant subject matter makes the plot more interesting
- Memory remixes are a fun diversion
- Lack of diversity in fights, thanks to the design and lack of enemies
- Plot never really takes off
- Painfully linear
- Boring platform sequences
- Never takes full advantage of the rich subject matter
- Basically zero replayability
Remember Me is available on Green Man Gaming for $37.50 with the code GMG25-PLPFE-BCSAS (valid until June 8 AEST).
This review copy was provided by the publisher.