The arrival of Remember Me at this particular time is somewhat unexpected for a number of reasons. Releasing just one week before both E3 in LA and the release of Naughty Dog’s much anticipated The Last of Us, the timing obviously isn’t the most strategic (the jokes about the game being ‘already forgotten’ practically write themselves). This, in conjunction with the many ways the game tends to break away from Capcom’s usual titles, makes it hard to tell whether the game will really make the impact it was certainly intended to.
One thing you’ll likely notice right away, however, is that the game in question is overflowing with ambition and aspiration in every major aspect, even if it doesn’t always seem to meet those personal expectations. From the breathtaking visual aesthetic and presentation, to the memorable score, and from the robust and innovative combat system to the mind-bending story with a strong female lead, the people of French developer Dontnod Entertainment appear to have done everything they could to make the game stand out from the rest of the crowd of current action titles on the market. In the end, the game likely won’t hit the high marks they were certainly shooting for, but what they’ve created is still a very unique experience that may deserve a look or two, despite the flaws that it has.
WHAT WAS GOOD
The strongest and most distinguishing feature of Remember Me, which will certainly become readily apparent only minutes in, is the incredible care and time devoted wholly to the artistic design and visual presentation of the game. The team’s vision of Neo-Paris in 2084 is a particularly creative one, awash in bright colors (with white in abundance) and cool technological constructs, almost like a beautiful and wholly unique mash-up of the art styles of Mass Effect and Mirror’s Edge. This is helped by the game’s astounding graphical capabilities, making surfaces rugged and detailed, sunlight and lamps play off surfaces realistically, and bringing the entire world alive in a way few games ever really accomplish. The game’s cyberpunk art style and intense realism carries over into every other aspect as well, from the surprisingly detailed and lifelike characters, and even to the eye-pleasing menus, HUD, and in-world digital structures. The game is practically worth playing just for its’ artistic merits alone, and I would often find myself stopping to just look at the scenery or view around me, wholly content in just being within the world Dontnod has created.
In similar fashion, the game’s musical score is actually on par with the best this generation has to offer. Written and scored by renowned French composer Olivier Deriviere, the music was first performed by a symphony before parts of it were digitized electronically. An interesting blend of purely orchestral tracks along with digital compositions (and often being both,) similar to the latest Deus Ex, the music effortlessly moves between epic, soothing, tense, or morose as necessary to fit the plot’s movement, never ceasing to be anything less than wonderful. Even if you never play the game, the soundtrack is worth listening to, if not buying altogether.
In keeping with the beauty of the world that Dontnod has created, the most enjoyable aspect of gameplay itself is also the one most informed by the setting and plot, that of memory manipulation puzzles. At certain points throughout the game, you’ll be tasked with hijacking a significant memory of a person, altering it in such a way as to completely change the total outcome, which the victim will then take on as if the original scene really played out that way, forever changing their identity and personhood. As you slowly make your way through the memory, the game will notify you of when certain details of the scene or setting can be altered, with the purpose of changing multiple smaller details to ultimately alter the ending. There are various false positive details you can change, ways you can shift the memory in horrible and unpredictable ways (such as killing the memory’s owner), and various other humorous ‘memory bugs’ to discover as you rewind the memory over and over again, shooting for that perfect run to reach the objective outcome. It’s a highly original and enjoyable experience, to that point that I almost wish the game were jut composed of these puzzles. As it is, the only real issue with them is that they are too few, with a total of four throughout the game.
WHAT WAS OKAY
The game’s story, which might be expected to be one of the high points, isn’t actually all that incredible in actuality, but is entertaining and decent enough to see you through to the end. In the beginning of the game, your character is stripped of her memories and remembers only her name, Nilin. After escaping from the prison with help of an identity calling himself ‘Edge’, Nilin is informed of the current world situation as she makes her way across the slums of Neo-Paris to find help. In the future, digitized memories themselves have become currency and commodity, with every citizen wearing an implant that allows access to them. Nilin, as a former ‘memory hunter’ for the despotic company MEMORIZE, is a former special agent with the ability to steal and manipulate the memories of others as necessary. Stripped of her memory by the authorities, Nilin is forced to join a rebel uprising called the Errorists, in hopes of overthrowing the fascist government who has been manipulating people’s memories in such a way that they don’t even realize it’s happening, hopefully discovering her past along the way.
Awash in its own strange terminology, cultural norms, and even showing off a new form of goodbye (“Remember you soon!”), the plot is about as corny as it is original. There are some interesting twists and developments, but some of them tend to miss the mark, whether it’s because they don’t make sense out of the context of French society and culture, or are just unoriginal. For example, at one point you are tasked with altering a cruel and cynical women’s memory of an incident in which she lost her leg. What you discover is that it was lost in a car accident which was partially the fault of her young eight-year-old daughter, but was more her own fault than anything; regardless, the accident itself leads to her utterly despising her own child for some reason, and at some point in the near future making the leap to hating all of humanity. That’s where you come in, manipulating her memory in a way that hopefully makes her into a halfway decent person. Even with strange writing in scenes such as that, some clever an intriguing end-game developments make up for some of the low points, culminating in a decent story overall.
Much of your time will be spent moving about the city on a level almost on par with the Uncharted series. An orange indicator will continuously point out your next object of use in your traversal, keeping you on a steady track as you run, jump, climb, and shimmy your way around obstacles. There’s nothing entirely new brought to the table here, but it’s functional enough, and serves as a relatively fun way to view the different sights of the city as you move between the various set pieces and showcases the game has to offer.
The game takes an entirely different approach to combat, however, attempting to build and innovate on the action games that have come before it. In the select menu, the game gives you access to a section known as the Combat Lab, where you can create and adjust your own combos based on a 3-hit, 4-hit, 6-hit, or 8-hit format. You have access to four different types of movies known as ‘pressens,’ which allow for health regeneration (Regen), lowering the charge time between special attacks (Cooldown), doubling your last pressen (Chain), or attack emphasis (Power). It’s a refreshing take on the standard light-heavy combat systems common to other games such as God of War, but the fact that your pressens are limited to one combo each, the fact that pressens are only either light (square, X) or heavy (triangle, Y), along with the fact that you can only have four combos at a time means that most people’s combos will come out looking and functioning fairly similarly by the end anyway.
WHAT WAS TERRIBLE
The real place where the game starts to break down, however, is in how that combat actually plays out. The combat itself isn’t necessarily ‘bad’, per se, but a number of strange system choices and tweaks eventually build on each other in a frustrating mess that only becomes more and more prevalent as the game goes on. The fact that you spend slightly less than half the game in combat is enough to make one wonder why they could have possibly designed it the way they did, issues and all.
The actual combat system of Remember Me is essentially a stripped down version of that found in the Batman: Arkham games, the differences being that there is no counter button (only a dodge button), combos cannot be carried over between more than one opponent, and any dodging in the wrong direction will cause the combo to drop altogether. Enemies still swarm you all at once, attacking when they see an opening rather than waiting one at a time to fight you. Unfortunately, the original combat system of Arkham is predicated on the ability to move between opponents rapidly, dodging and countering as you go. In Remember Me, having to focus your combo solely on one enemy means that you can either trawl the edge of the battlefield until one enemy is unlikely enough to wander off for you to take down, or you can wade straight into the fray and waste as much time dodging and dropping your combos as you do landing any hits. There is a way to maintain your combo by flipping over the enemy you’re attacking and then continue said combo, but in a surprising number of occasions, flipping over your target won’t even necessarily save you from the other enemy’s hit, once again dropping your combo and making the dodge meaningless. In a combat system where your attacks are exponentially weaker if you can’t actually rack up a combo number, everything seems designed to make battles frustrating and tedious rather than difficult, with very little real flow.
The point at which this issue is most evident is in one particular late game boss, who is invincible unless you can weaken him with one of your special skills, stunning him. The problem is that the skill in question takes 3 MINUTES to recharge unless you can pull off some combos equipped with cool down pressens. Good luck doing so with five other continuously spawning weaker enemies coming at you all at once, with the boss himself stepping in for (incredibly difficult to dodge) hits every few seconds as well. Add in the fact that the attack that stuns the boss does NOT stun his minions, along with the game’s constant need to tell you what you’re supposed to do – while, which not a terrible idea in theory, becomes more patronizing than helpful in practice when you already know the thing you’re supposed to be doing, but said thing is difficult and takes considerable time – and you have a surefire recipe for a long, drawn-out battle filled with expletives.
It’s always exciting to see developers trying wholly new things, even if they don’t necessarily garner the critical acclaim or success the team is hoping for. Dontnod has definitely shown a lot of gusto for their first attempt, in creating a living, breathing future-scape that’s honestly one of the most charming and breathtaking worlds seen on a console or PC today. The story isn’t spectacular, and certain gameplay aspects aren’t great, but nothing can really take away from the immersive beauty of what the team has accomplished. My only real wish was that it played as great as it always looks and sounds.
If you’re just looking for something wholly inspired with a different take on genre conventions, or even if you just want a beautiful and unique world to take in and enjoy, you can’t go wrong with Remember Me. This game receives a B-.