Developer: DONTNOD Entertainment
At this year’s Gadget Show Live there really wasn’t much in the way of new games on the show floor, especially in the way of upcoming titles, but with the exception of the upcoming Star Trek movie tie-in (which you can read about here) there was only one unreleased game I had yet to get hands-on with… and that was DONTNOD’s sci-fi memory manipulation action title Remember Me. Having managed to intrigue us with its official unveiling last year, it has remained on our radars thanks to the steady flow of trailers (and topical character discussion) since then.
So, we naturally jumped at the chance to get hands on with the game while we were perusing the show floor. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any gameplay that had us remixing memories, with the demo instead highlighting the platforming, exploration, and combat mechanics. The level on show saw us controlling main character Nilin as she made her way through the slums of Neo-Paris, an incredibly dirty yet rather vibrant locale that had makeshift market stalls and flying advertisement bots insisting on gaining my attention. Along with a rather downtrodden populous, the city is also host to some faceless enemy creatures that seemed to suck the memories out of people (or at least that’s what I gathered during my time playing.) Upon gaining control, I began my trek across the bowels of the metropolis.
Initial feelings on the control scheme, which felt rather similar to other third person action games in terms of controller layout, was that it was fluid in its responsiveness, with Nilin almost seemingly gliding across the city, but as soon as I went for pinpoint accuracy or quickly changed direction it was clear that the refinement of other more established action titles wasn’t there, causing a few mistakes where she plummeted to her death. However, once I had adjusted my play-style to accommodate (ie. “pay attention”) I was able to traverse the slums with few issues. Navigational indicators would pop up on screen to guide me through the level, indicating where the next jump should be and in which direction to head, with Nilin scurrying between pipes, although I did feel some of the jumps looked a little superhuman in their execution.
The demo made it clear early on that exploration was also a part of the experience by putting a digital picture in the way of my character. These pictures highlighted where a collectable was hidden, which in turn can be used to upgrade Nilin’s health. All I had to do was find the location in the picture and collect the item, however during my playthrough I also stumbled across another collectable that appeared to provide in-game intel on the world. I found this to be rather rewarding, as it demonstrated that while the game will nudge you in the right direction to find certain items, only players that truly explore the environment will discover everything the game has to offer.
It wasn’t long before I came across some enemies to fight, having Nilin punch and kick her way through them, but unfortunately this felt like the weakest aspect of Remember Me. Like many other games that involve melee combat, combos (otherwise known as Pressens) provide different moves in Nilin’s repertoire, but the timing of button presses is key to success, with a combo bar appearing along the bottom of the screen to inform the player when to react. Not only did I find this to be off-putting as my eyes were distracted from the on-going action (getting Nilin hit in the process) but I felt the indicators were not clearly informing me when to strike, ultimately making combat feel problematic.
It’s unfortunate that this was the case as the animations were well realised, aptly demonstrated as Nilin dodged enemy attacks by jumping out of the way or rolling over the back of the nearest combatant. Indicators hover over a foe that is about to strike, allowing the player enough time to attempt to jump out of the way. It might have seemed a little patronising, but as I was attempting to concentrate on getting the timing for Pressen sequences right I ultimately found the rather-obvious “DODGE NOW” indicator rather helpful.
While I didn’t get involved with it too much, players also have access to the combolab – a menu that allows the alteration of Pressens. In the demo we only had access to two such Pressens, a basic three-button attack and one that had the ability to regenerate health, but with a lack of time I was unable to explore the concept further, so I stuck with the default combos for the duration of my playthrough. Beyond the use of Pressens though, players will have access to something called Sensen, which acts as a sort of temporary powerful for Nilin. The Sensen available for the demo, called Fury, allowed Nilin to bounce back and forth between nearby enemies with ease, delivering powerful hits as she landed. It’s certainly not a new concept, but it mean that looking at a combo metre wasn’t the only way to take out foes.
In terms of visuals, Remember Me comes across as well designed and realised world that appears engaging enough to draw players into its sci-fi world (or, in the case of the demo, its grimy slums) but its lack of refinement in the combat and movement mechanics worries me somewhat. The exploration aspects intrigue me, but without getting a closer look at what the Combolab can truly do, or how the memory remixing ties into the gameplay, I was left feeling less excited than I was initially. I certainly hope that some last minute tweaking is made before the game’s release and that a proper tutorial sequence regarding the combat (that adequately explains the timing of combos) makes it into the final build, because with some fine tuning it could deliver on the action experience DONTNOD intends it to be.
Remember Me is due for release on June 7th for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.