Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Remember Me review
If there is one thing that affects us most as human beings, it is our memories. We reflect on the good ones when we are down, and we rely on the bad ones to teach us how to not make the same mistakes as the past. I'm sure though, that every single person out there has a day in their past where they wish they could remember it differently, or just escape the pain of a memory so traumatic it can shut you down. That is the premise of Remember Me.
A world obsessed with memories, Remember Me takes place in Paris, 60 years in the future. Memories are a commodity of sorts, with people clamoring to spend whatever cash they have to obtain a happy or pleasurable experience. You might want to replace a bad memory with a good one for instance, or share an intimate recollection with a spouse or friends. Anything is up for grabs, from the memory of a 10th birthday party to someone's first kiss. Memories are swapped, shared, and ultimately sold. Someone down on their luck might sell a few of their more happy occasions to get back on track, I mean why would it hurt to lose a memory you won't even know existed? Other memories, are not so willfully obtained. Here we get into the darker side of the story.
You take on the role of Nilin, an ex-memory hunter who recently underwent a memory wipe. She knows nothing about who she is or what she is doing inside of a prison that feels more like a psych ward. Glass cased rubber rooms look like they are holding mental patients, emaciated people staggering around or curled up on the floor, all of them muttering nonsensically and holding their heads as if in pain. As Nilin staggers down a hallway following an illuminated line on the floor, a voice starts cutting through the outside noise speaking directly to her in her head. Rather than go through with a full system wipe, the voice instructs her to sneak out a security door and slip away while the guards are distracted. What follows is a desperate escape from the facility, going through maintenance corridors and avoiding automated defenses. Nilin escapes, but her mind is fragmented, her memories damaged. In order to find out who she is, Nilin must fight her way to the top of the corruption and expose it for the evil it has become.
The story begins with such astounding promise. An ironic twist of the greatest memory hunter in the world suddenly being tossed into a world she cannot remember. Fighting evil, sadistic creatures, pale shadows of the humans they once were. Taking up arms against the corporation who would seek to doom her to a loss of her own self. A lone warrior guided only by the friend she doesn't know, through conflicts she doesn't understand, towards a goal she doesn't even know if she wants. The opening sequences really impress upon you the horrors the world is going through, and leaves you longing to gain insight into what has happened. Catching sight of the world above the hell in the sewers takes your breath away, as you gaze in rapture at the beauty of Paris. You will scale walls from the underbelly of the sewers to the towering skyscrapers where the wealthy and privileged reside, finding out how the twisted dreams of the Memorize corporation has affected both the rich and the poor. Your inner explorer screams to climb out of the cesspool you've been ungraciously dumped into to run through the city streets seeing everything possible to see. But it simply is not meant to be.
Remember Me is simply too linear to enjoy fully. There is no real chance to explore the game beyond the hallways and small rooms you travel through. There are no secondary paths you can take, there are no ways to avoid guards or other enemies. The only real puzzles to be found are opening the correct doors in order to trap sentry bots or yank power from one system to power another so you can progress through the area. It lacks immersion into the world as you are either stuck scaling a building, running through abandoned metro stations, moving around offices/apartments, or crawling through maintenance areas. It merely is a go here, now go there, turn right, climb the pipe, rinse and repeat formula. There are no real direct routes anywhere in the game, so scrambling up pipes and clinging to ledges becomes your main mode of travel. There are guides along every route so you will never lose your way, which can be helpful with as many turns as there are lighting changes, the latter of which happens a lot. The game tries to keep it fresh by adding in running sequences while being shot at, or a timed sequence where you have to close some doors quickly to keep from dying, but these are extremely gimmicky and not really that exciting. There are sections where you try to jump from one railing to another but the game can sometimes glitch it so your jump only puts you halfway across the chasm leading to your death. With horrendously long loading times after you die, even making one mistake is cause enough to get frustrated as you can wait anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes waiting for it to reset you at the exact same jump.
The game redeems itself a bit with the combat. The combat system works much the way it does in the Batman Arkham series. Fluid movements using timed combos is moderately satisfying, but it's not as polished as it could be. You will spend a lot of time dodging as the enemies are usually in packs and there is no real counter system. That being said, the combo moves are fairly enjoyable and you can customize them to a degree. The button patterns (X, Y) are preset, but you can change the abilities you do in your combo setup. You can choose to deal greater damage, add in health regeneration, swap for a cool down rate (for special abilities), or chain together combos for an added bonus of the last move you used (damage, health, cool down). You only have 4 combos to choose from and you will really only be using 2 of them throughout the game. The longer combos don't add up for much since you will most likely lose about half of the combo when you need to dodge an attack from behind. Adding in a counter system would have made it more enjoyable, but it's not as shallow as it could have been.
With the game revolving around memories, you need to steal some to move forward. Reliving these memories allows you to use a person's secret path to avoid detection grids, find needed clues, and grant you access codes. But where you can steal, you can also manipulate. Memory remixing is one of the best features in the game, but it is so underutilized it's almost a mockery of what the game could have been. Memory remixing allows Nilin to go into someone's mind to a specific memory and alter it to change who they are right now. Watching the scene play out, you are merely an observer to the past. Once you get through that instance, you can rewind the memory and change little things here and there to lead to a much different outcome. Glitches in the memory point to changes you can make, whether it is something as irrelevant as a dropped cigarette or as drastic as a doctor giving a patient the wrong medicine, the memory will change as will the person change. Hope can be replaced by grief, anger with remorse, hatred with guilt, all changing who the person is and what they do because of it, all to suit Nilin's needs. These instances are so enjoyable you can hardly wait until the next one, but therein lies the problem. There are only 4 instances in the roughly 8 hour campaign.
The game's best quality is actually in the main character herself. Where most games focus on the outside factor, Remember Me is all about the internal one. The story is important and definitely intriguing, but without the main character being as fleshed out as she is, it wouldn't amount to much. Nilin is an absolute mess of emotions. Scared and confused from losing her memories, feeling distrustful of the disembodied voice through her communicator, doubtful of the path she is on, Nilin comes across entirely too human. You really get to feel for her character as she struggles to regain her memories and take down the corporation that started it all. Twists and turns keep you guessing and some of the biggest realizations are a shock to your system when they hit. Accompanied by some terrific voice acting, you can hear the weariness of the character, the tremble in her voice, the sarcasm attempting to hide her own fears. It all comes together to showcase a fantastic main character that takes almost no effort to get behind.
Remember Me had a lot going for it. The premise was good, combat was nice, and the main character was great. It just never came into it's own. The game was far too linear and offered little to no exploration. Seeing a beautiful setting but being unable to even come near it was devastating to how the game felt. Tight corridors that affected your camera made it annoying when fighting enemies, and the overall ease of dispatching the bad guys became repetitive. The story started and finished very satisfyingly, but the 5-6 hours in between were fairly dull. Your investment into the main character is a saving grace and if you give yourself over to the game it's very enjoyable, just don't expect the game to go above and beyond. Is the game fun? Most definitely. Could it have been done better? Most definitely. Hopefully if there is a sequel, Dontnod Entertainment can expand on the world they have created because as it is, Remember Me just fails to come across as highly memorable.
Final Score: 7.5/10