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Review: Remember Me

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Title: Remember Me
Price: $49.99 on PC, $59.99 on Consoles
System(s): Windows, PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date: June 3, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Capcom (Dontnod Entertainment)
ESRB Rating: “Mature” for Blood, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, and Violence

There was a time not too long ago when developer Dontnod Entertainment was unsure as to the future of their new game Remember Me; many publishers reportedly dismissed the game because of its female lead, or flat-out said they would only fund the project if Dontnod changed the main character to a man. This story made huge waves earlier this year and should sound very familiar to anyone who keeps up with video game news. Thankfully this story has a happy ending that culminates with the publishing deal struck between Dontnod and Capcom.

When I first heard of Remember Me I was instantly intrigued; it seemed like a game with a whole host of fresh ideas backed by a developer that had the resolve to turn down any potential funders that wished to quelch their creative vision. The result of this determination and vision makes Remember Me a game that is pure passion-driven and wholly unique: even if it does trip on its own feet from time to time.

remember me screenshot

Memories of Neo-Paris

The story of Remember Me takes place in the dystopian city of Neo-Paris and revolves around a corporation called Memorize. Memorize has developed a technology called “Sensen” that allows the transfer of memories between individuals, or the complete removal of an unwanted memory altogether. This technology has effectively turned memories into a commodity, or even a currency, with the rich living blissful lives filled with memories of their choosing, and the poor condemned to take what memories they can get.

The protagonist of Remember Me is Nilin, a “memory hunter” with the unique ability to not only steal someone’s memories, but also modify them as she sees fit. Our story opens with an incarcerated Nilin suffering through a procedure that is wiping her memory. After the procedure is complete, Nilin is instructed to join a group of her fellow inmates for phase two of the memory removal process. However, as she wanders dazed through the prison corridor, she is contacted via her Sensen by a man named Edge who says he will bust her out of jail if she does exactly what he tells her to do.

After a daring escape orchestrated by the mysterious Edge, Nilin is given a little insight into who she once was: a memory hunter who worked with Edge. Edge also speaks of the evil and corruption that resides deep within Memorize and asks Nilin to assist him and his fellow “Errorists” in taking them down, stating bluntly that she and her special abilities are their only hope in stopping Memorize. Still in a bit of stupor from the memory removal, Nilin agrees; what follows is a suspenseful story that manages to explore a wide range of ideologies and philosophies that set Remember Me apart from your typical action game.

remember me neo-paris

Remember Me Falls Short

Remember Me shines in terms of stylization and aesthetic beauty that really brings the game world to life. Neo-Paris isn’t just a cookie-cutter dystopian city that has been recreated in hundreds of other stories; rather, it combines a distinct blend of old and “futuristic” architectural styles and designs that create a brilliant contrast between the city’s past and present. Neo-Paris itself drives home the strong message that even though this is a time of technological advancement, much of the city, and its people, haven’t changed since the time of the Paris we know today. Each location feels distinct, yet familiar, and accomplishes the task of setting the mood better that most other triple-A titles. These points are further highlighted by the excellent use of camera angles and level design that, while primarily linear, manages to keep the player’s attention fixated on the task at hand and rarely confuses them. The different settings also do a great job of making the player feel as isolated and alone as we’re told Nilin feels; this is due to how little interaction we have with the residents of Neo-Paris who, for the most part, seem completely unaware of Nilin’s presence.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the gameplay and story. Taken separately, there’s really nothing wrong with any individual aspect of the game, but taken as a whole, Remember Me’s flaws are clearly visible. These issues are most prominent in the gameplay. Remember Me is primarily a beat ‘em up game with a few action/platform and puzzle mechanics thrown in. The combat is relatively simple, requiring you to only use two buttons; in fact, you could easily beat this game’s lowest difficulty setting by mashing a single button.

remember me combat
During combat, Nilin can freely traverse the battle area, leap over enemies, and execute combos to dispatch her foes. Initially, you are only given two combos, but you have the ability to customize these combos to attain different results. You do this via a menu called the “Combo Lab” that gives you a bank of a limited number of combo buttons which you can place in certain points in a combo string. For example, you can place a healing button halfway through a string of attacks so that every time you reach that point in that specific combo, you will gain health. These special buttons also have a multiplying effect in that the farther along they are placed in a combo string, the more powerful the end result will be. As cool as this mechanic is, it’s easily exploitable and I imagine more than a few players will end up doing what I did and mapping all the heal buttons to the easiest combos in order to button-mash myself back to health. Still, it’s a very simple mechanic that has a lot more depth than you’d expect. It’s also nice that the game can detect which combo you’re attempting and can provide you with a timing guide at the bottom of the screen so you can easily master advanced maneuvers.

Apart from the combat, there are the mechanics of climbing and traversing through the levels, which is very similar to Tomb Raider or Uncharted, and the puzzle-esque mechanics of altering someone’s memory. When I first heard of Remember Me one of the things that interested me the most was the ability to jump into someone’s memory and change aspects therein to cause the victim to act or be a certain way. Unfortunately, this didn’t turn out to be as big of a part of the game as I had thought. These sections of the game are called memory remixes and they are accessed during certain key moments of the game where you must access a person’s memory for one reason or another. These moments play out as sort of interactive cutscenes that you can edit what really happened, rewind the memory, and watch the result of your manipulation. These require a bit of trial and error to attain the desired effect, but they are, for the most part, quite fun and serve to give the game some variety. Unfortunately, they can be pretty straight forward and easy and there aren’t nearly enough of them in the game: only around four.

remember me combo lab

The story is also where things come a little unhinged. Let me just state right now that the story is by no means bad, it’s actually pretty good but it falls far short of what it was certainly intended to be. Remember Me’s good points are that the ideas and conflicts present are pretty original and manage to be quite groundbreaking in comparison to what video game narratives usually discuss. Issues such as morality, transhumanism, and self-identification are all touched on at some point or another. These ideas are delivered to the player through excellent dialogue in many well executed cutscenes and voice communications. Each line is delivered from some truly talented voice actors that manage to give each character a unique identity; it’s just a shame that only two characters manage to eek some empathy out of the player, and Nilin isn’t one of them.

For her part, Nilin occupies Remember Me’s lead role fairly well, but she unfortunately doesn’t get much character development, even as her memories start to return. Still, it’s always nice to see a female character that isn’t defined by her gender; she’s just a character who happens to be a woman. However, somebody on the development team must have misinterpreted that memo because most of the enemies Nilin fights, who are all men I might add, constantly shout sexist comments as you beat the crap out of them, as if the only way for a woman to be an endearing character is to have her beat-up a bunch of burly, misogynistic men. So Dontnod managed to create a character who isn’t defined by her gender, but then turns around and says “see, Nilin is so strong she can beat-up a man!” Way to drop the ball there guys.

By far the biggest issues with the story occur due to the way in which it is structured. To begin with, Remember Me falls into the oft sprung trap of leaving the majority of the story up to the cutscenes and leaving little for the gameplay sections, rather than balancing the narrative between the two. This creates dissidence between the two portions of the game that causes the story progression to move very quickly during the cutscenes and come to a screeching halt during gameplay. This problem is further accentuated by the self-monologues Nilin has between levels, that are often thoughts that have little to do with the actual story and are pretty dull to listen to. Combine all this with the issue of the story leaving plot devices hang and never become resolved and you’re left with a good idea that is terribly executed. I will say this though: the ending was quite good, even if it did leave a few questions unanswered.

remember me memory remix

Flawed but Fun

For all the problems present in Remember Me, I actually had a great deal of fun with it. Sure it has a handful of problems that prevent it from being a truly great game, but it is a good one that is worth a playthrough. It’s a game that is full of charm and personality, and one that certainly stands out from the crowd. The places that it shines really shine, and the places where it falls flat aren’t all that unbearable. I’d personally take a game that attempts to break new ground and fails, than the most highly-polished, status-quo title on the market. I always say that a game must be good if you have the desire to play it again right after completing it, and I certainly get that feeling with Remember Me.

Site [Remember Me]

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