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Review: Remember Me

remember me

Remember Me is the first game from French developer DONTNOD Entertainment. It’s ambitiously designed without the force of a blockbuster studio and budget behind it. There’s a lot going on in Remember Me, both in its gameplay and storyline. It combines several terrific elements into a sci-fi world much like our own. While the game sets high expectations, parts of its execution doesn’t rise to the same level.

Developer:DONTNOD Entertainment

Publisher:Capcom

Platforms: PlayStation 3 [version reviewed], Xbox 360, PC

Release Date: June 4, 2013, June 7 (Europe)

Current MSRP: $59.99

The game is set in a new, futuristic version of Paris called Neo-Paris in 2084. Neo-Paris was built on top of parts of the old city after it was destroyed during a civil war across Europe. After the devastating war and massive changes to the planet’s available livable areas due to environmental catastrophes, Memorize took control of the situation and gained immense authority. Memorize is a corporation with absolute control over the population. The company created a brain implant device called Sensen. Sensen lets people store, delete or trade memories and Memorize hosts all the data on its servers.

Like many people would wish for, those in Neo-Paris wanted to forget their painful memories, all the heartbreak, disappointments and especially events from the war period. They wanted memories of places and things they never experienced to make them happy. Sensen’s creator claims he found the cure for misery. Society believes that Sensen is the solution to all its ails.

Instead of a peaceful and open civilization, this society is a horrifying dystopia. Neo-Paris is a surveillance state, with Memorize knowing at all times what a person is up to or has done in the past. Those opposing Memorize are an underground group called the Errorists. Most were rounded up by Memorize and their memories deleted, almost ending the organization.

Nilin is the best memory hunter of the Errorists. Memorize captured Nilin and was in the process of wiping her mind. Before her memories are completely erased, a mysterious person named Edge helps her break out of La Bastille, the prison Memorize sends criminals and dissenters against its power. Edge reveals himself to be the leader of the Errorists, guiding her throughout her escape and quest to rescue society and recover herself.

Watch this video showing a little of Nilin’s struggle:

Brain Pain

Remember Me is all third-person action. Combat in Remember Me is a mix of melee and special technological attacks. In the game’s world, the government banned all guns for civilians and authorities. There’s no weapons besides fists, feet and some virtual chaos.

There’s four specific attack styles, which the game calls Pressens. These Pressens include stronger damage, health recovery, cool down and maximizing the previous attack when they are used in a combo. Attack strings are created in the game’s Combo Lab menu. There’s also only four combat strings available to adjust to your liking. The last combo slot goes all the way to eight hits. Depending on their placement in the combo string, attacks might do even more damage or give you back more health. Players gain PMP, the game’s experience, by beating enemies and collecting hidden objects. Leveling up gives you access to more Pressen attacks to fit in your combo. Building your own style of combos is a neat concept that for the first few hours makes it feel like you have control over your attacks.

In combat your button presses appear at the bottom of the screen, which is supposed to help you time your combo correctly. Dodging is as important as attacking. Enemies are constantly attacking you and getting hit breaks your combo flow. You’ll end up doing more dodging that actually attacking in certain encounters.

Special attacks called S-Pressens are also an integral part of the combat. S-Pressens can’t be added to an attack chain, but rather are separate moves powered by combos. To use them, Focus needs to be built up in fight by damaging and defeating enemies. Each S-Pressen takes one Focus bar to trigger. The are five of them in the game, giving you much stronger melee attacks, temporarily stunning all enemies, or going invisible to one-hit kill anyone in the fight. These are unlocked as the story continues. After using a special attack, you can’t use that same one again until it cools off. To make the recovery time faster, you have to incorporate Cool down Pressen attacks into a combo, otherwise it will take an extremely long time for them to become available again.

Private security, robots and Leapers are the enemies you’ll face in Remember Me. Leapers are former humans whose mind and Sensen went haywire, causing them to degenerate into monsters, their faces hardly recognizable and their bodies mutated. Leapers can fly at you from walls, go invisible and hack you to pieces. Other Leapers gain strength from their companions and do a lot of damage until you dispose of the others. Some soldiers do damage to you if attacked, forcing you to hit them with a Regen combo to survive. A later addition to your powers called the Spammer fires virtual-like shots at enemies. Some can only be damaged and defeated by using the Spammer.

It’s completely obvious when a fight is about to go down. They always happen in wide open areas, in a building or outside. The more important fights have Quick Time Events to finish off the enemy. In Remember Me they live up to the name, often giving the player only a few seconds to react. After combat there’s always a health station bringing you back to full strength. Remember Me is in the style of a beat ‘em up but it isn’t a button masher. If you don’t at least put together basic combos you won’t be able to beat anyone. On the surface the combat appears detailed but really isn’t. Remember Me’s combat isn’t as strong or fluid like it is in Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009) or Arkham City (2011).

Brave New World

The world within Remember Me sets a fantastic backdrop to the game’s themes. The world itself is almost its own character. This futuristic society has all the tech that comes with it, from robots keeping the city clean to drones sweeping to eliminate people that get out of line. A planet destroyed by war and environmental catastrophes forced the creation of a new Paris. Moving through the city, colorful storefronts and incredible buildings makes way for the ugly side of the ravaged slums of the former Paris, prisons and laboratories. The nice contrast of colors is somewhat similar to Mirror’s Edge (2009). There’s graffiti all across the city in protest to Memorize. Creepy humanoid robots continue to clean and attend to their duties among the chaos. It’s eery seeing them throughout the game in empty apartments and streets, oblivious to what’s happening around them. 

Remember Me opens with positive testimonies for the Sensen. A woman says it finally allowed her to live the love her boyfriend felt for her. One man at a vendor excitedly buys a first kiss memory. Stores allow people to pay for merchandise later if they put a memory deposit down. The dark side of digitized memories is hidden away in the shadows and slums. People are like drug addicts, laying in the streets asking for just one more memory fix to experience someone else’s happiness. The game pokes fun at the media, with a broadcast anchor much like you’d see on American cable, giving sarcastic and uninformed updates on Nilin’s and Edge’s actions.

remembermelevel

Everything in Remember Me is interconnected, from its gameplay style to the names of the combat moves. All these elements are synchronized together, bringing the world to another level. The little details puts Remember Me over many other games, from its names of bars and stores to even the way citizens say goodbye to one another. Animations for stealing memories, people’s minds going berserk, or when you’re low on health are awesome graphical details that show the negative consequences of the technology.

Unfortunately for a city so beautiful in its design, there’s very limited sightseeing opportunities. You can’t go into any of the shops, talk to bystanders or access anyone’s memory whose not an important storyline character. Even when you can, these are scripted storyline events that you can’t initiate on your own. The game’s music brings everything in the city together though, creating a futuristic mood mixed with that of a world we already know.

Find Your Way

On your way to freeing the minds of Neo-Paris, Nilin will need to use her climbing skills to advance through the city. Getting through the game follows a straight path that doesn’t let you veer too far off. Many Uncharted-like platforming sections are sprinkled throughout Remember Me. Nilin climbs up the side of buildings, ledges and walls to move forward. The game does the stereotypical, scripted falling sections found in Uncharted as well. You’ll climb up all the way up the side of some building using a pipe, the pipe breaks and you fall to the ground or through a roof into someone’s apartment, which should technically kill her.

Some buildings have moving panels that require you to quickly move past them, otherwise you fall down to a nearby ledge and have to try again. At certain points you’ll encounter small drones monitoring hallways. If you come under their vision it’s an instant death. There are yellow markers on every panel or wall you need to climb to and from, so it’s impossible to get lost in the city. These give just a little too much hand holding, even for average players. The Spammer is also used to shoot specific targets in the environment to open a door or move objects out of the way. Later on there are repetitive and simple door puzzles using the Spammer, involving taking power from one source and transferring it to a nearby locked door. This isn’t a compelling gameplay element because it’s almost a mindless exercise.

Another skill in the game is called Remembrane, where you take a person’s memories and see their past actions to help guide you through an area or unlock more rooms. The person will walk through the environment like they were there in real time. Sometimes the end goal is to steal a password or find out how to avoid traps. Like several other features in the game, this is one that has a lot of potential but never really goes anywhere besides completing mundane tasks like following someone up some stairs.

Focus Boosts and health increases called SAT Patches are hidden throughout the city. Every five collected results in a permanent Force or health upgrade. There’s also tiny things called Sacramechs that give experience when collected. Many of these items are easy to find because the game practically gives you the location when you’re nearby them, through an image highlighted on a small pop-up screen in the environment. Journals highlighting the city’s architecture, the growth of Sensen and important historical events give detailed accounts of what caused Neo-Paris to become what it did, adding much to the player’s further understanding of the game’s world.

Change Their Minds

Easily the best gameplay feature of Remember Me is the remixing memories segments.

With Memory Remixes, you have to make a person believe an important event in their lives happened a much different way than they recall. This is done by rewinding the memory to its beginning and then playing it back in slow motion, looking for glitches in the environment to change. For example, you might need to cause some medical equipment to malfunction or knock over a cup of coffee, which will trigger further alterations to the memory. To rewind and fast forward the memory scene you need to continually rotate the left analog stick.

At first it’s awkward because you’re trying to move the analog while simultaneously slowing it down to find items you need to mess with. This can get annoying because you’ll need to constantly move back and forth to spot things you might have missed or to find a different combination of changes.

remember me remix

It’s possible to finish remixing the memory in a certain way to see different scenarios but not get the game’s desired result, forcing you to rewind it all back. There’s only four of these remixes in the game though. Each puzzle remix is also too brief. This is disappointing because they should’ve been more of a focal point in the game. While some smart analysis is necessary, these sections boil down to trial and error to find the two or three items you need to highlight. The concept is fascinating but since remixing is done for only such a small part of the game it gets left in the background.

Get Out of My Head

Remember Me starts strong but finishes weak, ranging from the combat, platforming and storyline. Towards the middle of the game the storyline loses focus and struggles to maintain its initial curiosity. The antagonists all have their own corrupted flavor, but the game doesn’t do a good job of establishing any of them except the two people behind Memorize. Even then it doesn’t do it that well. Memorize’s CEO is at first portrayed as a tyrant, saying fear and discord are on the company’s side and that the citizen’s despair will make her rich. You gain another perspective of her later but it’s hard to buy her reasoning for being so evil. The Leapers themselves could’ve been the sole focus of the whole game but felt somewhat forced during sections of Remember Me. In between chapters Nilin gives personal dialogues, questioning who she is and why she’s following Edge. These are excellent parts of the game.

Later on as the game continues, the combat becomes incredibly tiring. Remember Me’s combat appears intricate on the surface but is eventually revealed to be quite shallow. The major point of pulling off combos is to get back your S-Pressens. It’s hard to string together meaningful combos when you have to constantly dodge other enemy attacks. The only real way to do it is by isolating an enemy one-on-one, which will almost never happen. Fighting becomes an annoyance, with enemies always huddled in a group, constantly forcing you to dodge every few seconds. This is even more so in boss encounters. Dodging every two seconds causes the camera to spin wildly as well. The camera especially becomes a distraction when enemies will jump off walls or dive at you. It’s hard to target one specific enemy with the constant movement, especially when there’s 4-6 of them bunched together.

Sure, you can build all these wild combos in the menu, but good luck actually doing them in a fight. You’ll rely heavily on S-Pressens to get through battles. Some of these special attacks are the only way to win certain fights. Many of the later fights require you to first stun enemies before you can even damage them. Fighting the same type of enemies repeatedly makes combat feel like more of a nuisance than an enjoyable experience.

The combat brings down Remember Me’s quality. It requires perfection, when for most of the game it feels impossible to achieve because of the system’s core mechanics. Having to build up your special attacks in a rapid way by stringing together the longer combos needs precise and flawlessly fast inputs, which can’t be accomplished in many situations. Even hitting a four or five hit combo can be challenging. After dodging, you have to continue that combo string on the same enemy, not a different one. This makes it frustrating because you’re constantly jumping over a group’s head or dodging away from the enemy you had a combo building on. You’ll basically revert to smashing either the square or triangle buttons as a cheap way to reduce the loading times for special attacks and recover health. It takes several hours to become comfortable with the system, but even by then you’ll still struggle.

The excitement of creating combos wears off too because the game locks it to whether a particular space in the set can be a punch or a kick. Fighting the same types of security forces gets old fast. There’s also a way to just continually recover health by using all Regen attacks if you wanted to. The platforming fails to keep interest too, since you’ll continue to climb similar structures that don’t offer anything exciting to players. It’s predictably safe. The lack of exploration encloses Remember Me’s creative world when there is so much that could be examined. The game’s phenomenal art style feels like it goes to waste because of this.

Another element in Remember Me that’s only briefly done are riddle puzzles. Like remixes, there’s only a few in the game. At two certain points you have to solve a riddle to enter into a highly secured area. Even if you can’t figure them out, the game will practically give you the answer if you take too long. These were intriguing when they happened but Remember Me needed more of them. These would’ve been better additions instead of some of the other easy ways the game advances a stage.

There’s a lot of the game’s aspects relating to the Sensen and memories that disappointingly don’t go beyond the initial presentation. One journal talks about the first memory accident with the Sensen when a psychotropic hospital in China accidentally leaked the memories of patients into the regular memory bank of citizens, causing widespread mental disorders and deaths. Things like this aren’t explored with the game’s civilian population or security forces and incorporated into gameplay. Reconversion, the procession of implanting a new personality into a person’s mind, is only briefly touched upon as well. Instead it feels like more big ideas from Remember Me’s world that are only surface details.

Remember You Soon

DONTNOD’s game features a lot of relevant themes for our own time. In today’s world where people are constantly sharing their intimate thoughts, moments and photos on Facebook and across other social networks, Remember Me can make you start to wonder how much is enough. It raises questions concerning how far should we collectively keep pushing every detail of our lives into the public realm. Many people have a hard time getting over their past, which prevents them from ever reaching their personal goals. How we can begin to repair our brokenness individually and as a whole? What price are we willing to pay to forget our past? To conquer it? Remember Me has plenty of deep and important ideas that unfortunately don’t fully come across well throughout the course of the game.

Nilin is a strong main character. While there are few female leads in gaming, Nilin is a positive addition to those limited ranks. However with her actions, players will probably wonder if she’s even a “good” protagonist with her sketchy means of saving Neo-Paris. Even she admits that she is playing God by messing people’s memories. It’s a strong contrast to the hero she’s supposed to be. The grand reveal of Nilin’s memory restoration and ending to the story doesn’t match the huge potential filled by the game’s first few hours. At first you don’t see how things will play out for Nilin but when it happens it’s almost cliche. However the final encounter and truth behind her guiding cause works well within the storyline and design of the game’s world.

Remember Me takes anywhere from 8-12 hours to finish its eight chapters, culminating in a truly weird final boss fight. There’s not much to do post-game besides find the rest of the collectibles or unlock more Achievements. Playing the game unlocks artwork in the main menu, most of it being gorgeous. You can replay the story with all your previous stats and unlocks, but enemies don’t give experience unless its for six hit combos or by finding the scattered Sacramechs.

Final Thoughts

Remember Me has plenty of amazing ideas that unfortunately are short-lived. There’s not enough of its good qualities and too much of its forgettable ones. Remember Me’s potential is never fully realized. For its first outing, DONTNOD Entertainment designed a game with fascinating concepts and a presentation that feels fresh, but its gameplay holds Remember Me back from truly living up to the world its created.

SCORE: 3 /5

Positives

  • Filled with many unique concepts
  • Neo-Paris is a creative world
  • Remixing memories
  • Strong main character
  • Art and world design details
  • Music

Negatives

  • Combat drags down the game
  • Difficult to string together combos
  • Story cools off as it goes along
  • Not enough memory remix sections
  • Predictable platforming
  • Linear levels leave no exploration

Remember Me was purchased new for $59.99 on the PlayStation 3. The game was completed on Errorist Agent (normal) difficulty. As of publication, 23/51 Trophies were obtained for 34 percent completion.

Images by Capcom

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