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Remember Me Review | Frustratingly Memorable

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Action Games, Capcom, DONTNOD Entertainment, Remember Me

Remember Me Review | Frustratingly Memorable

Platforms: PS3 | Xbox 360 (reviewed)

Developers: DONTNOD Entertainment

Publishers: Capcom

I want to love Remember Me so very much. DONTNOD's imaginative action title has some moments of real wonder. There's a moment early on when you're climbing up the side of a building and Neo-Paris unfolds before your eyes, a gaudy city of cyberpunk metal and neon wrapped around a famous urban landscape that's enormously familiar.

It's the perfect antidote to an industry that constantly settles for the bland blocks of New York, and it's just the start.

Remember Me Review | Frustratingly Memorable

Here's the elevator pitch for Remember Me from my perspective: Borrowing from a sci-fi literary legacy laid out by the likes of Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, and Neal Stephenson, DONTNOD have fashioned a game set in futuristic world where memories are commodities to be bought and sold -- a world where you can relive the finest moments of your life (or indeed someone else's) and yet, like all drugs, run the risk of overdosing should you overload your brain. Into this world steps Nilin, an imprisoned amnesiac who finds herself befriended by a seeming stranger who helps her rediscover who she once was: a memory hunter who hunted people down, and hacked their minds for memories as one might a computer.

Sounds great, right? It's such a good premise, it's a wonderful IP, and Neo-Paris is positively screaming out to be explored. But you don't get to, the story dissolves into flat characters, awful soliloquies, and the game's fundamental premises is lost in a sea of clunky combat and poor platform puzzling.

It's disappointing, given the promising setup, just how much Remember Me relies on its clunky, unimpressive combat system. Again, the foundations are sound: create a combo system whereby players unlock moves with specific functions -- be that pure damage, regenerating health, or boosting a special meter -- and can then create their own combos. It sounds incredibly inventive. Sadly, though, once again the execution is sorely lacking. Spoiled by Platinum and Capcom's own stablemate Devil May Cry, there's no room for clunky systems lacking in fluidity.

Remember Me Review | Frustratingly Memorable

The joy of Bayonetta came in essentially playing with the mechanics and discovering your own combos and chaining moves together almost by accident before refining and perfecting your combat style, and tailoring the game to suit your approach. But you'll play for several hours in Remember Me with only two or three combos available. Enemies are damage sponges and you could make a cup of tea in the languid response windows. The game's endless corridor approach means that you're constantly funnelled into combat zones, with no other options available to you, and Nilin's memory-warping glove is sorely under-used. It would have made for an extremely innovative stealth tool in the right hands, but here it's a MacGuffin that's used only for finishers and other prescribed interactions.

The Combo Lab is truly disappointing and a fundamentally wasted opportunity. Combos are laid out already, and the only choice to have is whether to place down damage buttons (or Pressens) or regenerative ones. There's no real creativity, every bit of player agency is more or less dictated, and you encounter some practical difficulties later on. There are special moves to unlock, but they're all fuelled by your "Focus" bar, which recharges over time, or by liberal use of certain Pressens in combo chains. However, later on, when for some inexplicable reason DONTNOD put an enemy who damages you when you punch them into a game all about punching things, you're forced into continuously chaining together regen and cooldown Pressens.

Remember Me Review | Frustratingly Memorable

It's not a broken system, but it quickly gets repetitive and laborious. You're a near-superhuman memory hunter whose job is kicking ass and taking names, but DONTNOD never want you to feel like that.

There is one part of the game, though, that feels genuinely innovative and terrifically exciting: the memory remixes. Essentially, you dive into someone's brain and are presented with a short scene that plays through once. Afterwards, you're invited to go back through that scene and look for memory glitches -- little bits and pieces in the scene that can be changed and altered to possibly revise and redetermine the scene's outcome. The first one you encounter, for example, has you changing the elements of an operating procedure to affect the patient's final condition. You can do this by swapping vials, diluting anaesthetic, moving objects and items around the room, loosening the patient's restraints. There are numerous aspects of the scene to play with and combine to try and achieve the end you desire. It's deeply voyeuristic and utterly fascinating.

It's also completely underused. In the whole game, which takes around 10-12 hours to complete, we encountered four, that's right, four memory remixing opportunities. That's absolutely ludicrous. Instead of bulking out the game with mediocre combat, we could have been rearranging the recollections of government ministers, police officers, fellow operatives, criminal underlords. The first one comes really early on in  the game, and for the rest of your time in Remember Me you wonder why the hell DONTNOD didn't make that the central mechanic rather than "Press A to dodge". The interface for the remixing process could perhaps have been a little more refined on console, but it works pretty well, and it is thoroughly vindicated by the sheer strength of its imaginative implementation.

Remember Me Review | Frustratingly Memorable

 

You'll just wish there was so much more of it.

Remember Me does a fair job of breaking up its combat with non-violent stretches, but it does so via platforming mechanics that constantly scream at you in gaudy orange pointers, never leaving things in your hands, and never providing any sort of challenge. Instead of challenging the player to find their own way about the city such as in Tomb Raider, or providing mini platforming puzzles that require smooth timing and deft execution as in Prince of Persia, Remember Me points you towards The Only Ledges Upon Which You May Climb with glowing indicators that make traversal a means to an end rather than a fun aspect of gameplay.

And that's the trouble at the heart of Remember Me: it's just the incredibly formulaic and repetitive bundled up in delightful, exciting wrapping paper. The strength of the IP does shine through in places, and Nilin herself is a great protagonist. DONTNOD haven't tried to play on the fact that she's a woman, she just gets on with stuff and handles whatever the world throws at her. There are perhaps a few narrative bum notes, such as the fairly horrible soliloquies and the fact that the consequences of Nilin's actions are never really touched upon, but for the most part she's a strong, capable female lead, and we could do with more of those.

Remember Me Review | Frustratingly Memorable

There are ideas aplenty here, great ideas, innovative and interesting gameplay feature begging to be explored, and I really hope that the IP gets pursued, a sequel greenlit, and some off the more unique gameplay opportunities have a chance to be expanded upon. The game is a mixed bag, but one that sticks in the brain a little, even if that's only because of the frustrated potential.

Pros

  • Really interesting premise and setting
  • Nilin shows there's no reason why you can't have kickass women fronting games (it's depressing I even need to write that)
  • There's some satisfaction to be had from pulling off an 8-string combo
  • Memory Remixes are enormously imaginative and fulfilling

Cons

  • But there are only four! FOUR!
  • Combo Lab and combat is limited and repetitive
  • Incredibly, sometimes patronisingly, linear
  • Fails to fully embrace its most interesting ideas

The Short Version: There's lots to like in the ideas behind Remember Me, and Neo-Paris is wonderfully presented. But the execution never really goes beyond solid, with the combat and platforming swiftly revealing themselves as pretty shallow and mediocre. There's a lot of potential here, though, and it would be an awful shame to see an IP such as this leave behind this sole mixed bag as its legacy.

Remember Me Review | Frustratingly Memorable

Add a comment8 comments
Breadster  Jun. 14, 2013 at 17:34

The fact that there are only 4 of the memory altering sequences has completely blown my mind. I thought that's what the game was all about. What a terrible waste of a great idea.

X10  Jun. 14, 2013 at 17:36

Such a shame :'(

X10  Jun. 14, 2013 at 17:48

The fact that there are only 4 of the memory altering sequences has completely blown my mind. I thought that's what the game was all about. What a terrible waste of a great idea.


Will we see another lawsuit from pre-order purchasers of the game a la Aliens ;)

Late  Jun. 14, 2013 at 19:18

Had an awful feeling this would fall a long way short of its immense promise. Dearly wish I'd been proven wrong. :(
Fingers crossed they'll revisit it again in the future.

X10  Jun. 14, 2013 at 19:47

I wonder if they can patch it up with DLC or something, or if the campaign is just broken like that. I mean, only 4 memory remixes!?!?
Perhaps they will revist it Late, I like seeing strong female lead characters in game too.

Late  Jun. 16, 2013 at 12:15

This has been bugging me...

"Nilin shows there's no reason why you can't have kickass women fronting games (it's depressing I even need to write that)"

You didn't need to write that.
It's depressing you felt you needed to.
I doubt there's anyone who thinks you need a male lead in a game. You get dicks like the publishers of this game saying "we're proving you can have a woman lead, and we did it despite 'the man' telling us we couldn't", but they're talking absolute bo11ocks and are purely trying to drum up support and publicity for a game that can't stand up on it's own.
Your "pro" is just lending those idiots credence.

Last edited by Late, Jun. 16, 2013 at 12:16
MattGardner  Jun. 16, 2013 at 18:34

I'm not sure that's true, Late. The lack of female role models and protagonists in gaming is a hot topic. Did it affect the score? No. Was I trying to defend some sort of affirmative action? No.

Should we be applauding Remember Me for trying to break away from the norm regardless of whether or not that holds some sort of qualitative relevance? Quite possibly. The IP, the characterisation of Nilin herself, those are gold. Nilin is an accessible, uncompromised female character, and that should be applauded.

But should Remember Me sink without a trace and not be given a second chance, Nilin's gender will be something called into question behind closed doors. Sad, but true.

"I doubt there's anyone who thinks you need a male lead in a game."

Hmm. There are plenty who would disagree on both sides of the consumer creator divide. That's a sad fact that needs to change, and not saying anything serves nobody. There's going to be a fair amount of preaching to the converted, and there will be plenty who don't care. That's fine. But there are also people who do.

However, on reflection, it was a point perhaps best saved for a fully blown article, where it could be expanded upon and given context (something which might still happen) rather than in a single bullet point. I would point, however, to the penultimate paragraph in that regard.

Finally, if you thought me writing that was depressing, wait 'til you read this: http://jezebel.com/gaming-conference-welcomes-women-with-hilaaaarious-rape-512512089

Late  Jun. 17, 2013 at 12:01

Maybe you're right. I do think it's just a few morons though - and I think they're mainly just baiting, rather than voicing real convictions.

There's no doubt male leads outnumber female leads in games by some considerable margin, but to my mind it's not sexism - it's just that developers/publishers usually want gamers to relate to their characters and as most gamers are male it's easier (but definitely not necessary) to use a male character.
Of course there are plenty of games with strong female lead characters - and it's not as if they're obscure titles. Tomb Raider and Metroid aren't exactly small niche franchises...

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