Game: Remember Me
Reviewed: August 2015
The loss of memories, through something such as amnesia, is a topic that has been done before a number of times in both games and films. I’ve lost count of the number of times a game has started off with someone who can’t remember who they are (sometimes as an excuse for lazily omitting any back-story), so for a game to focus completely on that as the story for the full game, it has to do things a bit different and a bit more interesting. Remember Me has attempted to do this, and has presented us with a game that has some interesting moments, and a decent enough story, but also a game which is flawed due to various reasons. Potentially, the game could have been very good, and without a doubt, it’s certainly better than a lot of your average first person shooter games, partly because it isn't trying to be a clone of other games. However, although the bits that are done different can be good, the best parts don’t get made use of enough, and some annoying and frustrating game-play moments unfortunately do.
Firstly, an introduction: Remember Me sees you playing, in third person perspective mostly, as Nilin, a female ‘memory hunter’ who has the ability to steal or alter people’s memories. She wakes up at the start of the game in a laboratory/prison, having just had her own memories erased by an evil corporation called Memorize, that wants to control memories to make ‘the world a better place’; Idealistic rubbish that you could quite easily imagine happening in the distant future. Nilin was freed from the prison by Edge, the leader of an opposing group of people called the Errorist movement, who are against the corporate empire that Memorize has created. Having to discover yourself, as Nilin, makes the game initially hard to follow at first, since a lot of things happening feel meaningless initially, as you don’t know what’s going on, or what the point of anything is. It isn’t until later in the game as you learn more about yourself that you really start to get enough background to bring that meaning together.
The game takes place in Neo-Paris, a futuristic version of the French capital, in the year 2084. Here, people all have digital memory implants that enable them to remember things that may never have happened to them, and to forget things that did. The city is quite divided, though, with a clear upper and middle class section living above peasants in the slums. A lot of the slum inhabitants, the leapers, are insane from having their own memories corrupted, and also quite disfigured. It is these who will make up the bulk of the enemies you’ll be facing, as well as security staff from Memorize, trying to re-capture you as you have a bounty on your head. As plots go, that’s a good enough starting point.
Early on in the game, however, I found myself regretting purchasing the game for a number of reasons. The first of those was that although I knew that it’d contain a lot of hand-to-hand fighting elements, I didn’t realise how frustrating some of those fighting sections could be. In the initial sections where you are forced to fight, you are effectively thrown in at the deep end (I was given half a bar of health on purpose in one fight), and have to learn a bit by trial and error, and it wasn’t until a good way through the game that I had built up an effective system of dealing with any enemies without dying too much.
It wasn’t, however, the general combat that was really the issue; it was the boss-battles, where you’d have to do things a certain way to defeat them. Often with a lot of dodging and after quite a lengthy fight, you would have to then engage in QTE (Quick Time Event) button pressing to finish an enemy off, which can be fine in some games, but in this game, they decided to use small icons that required almost perfect timing to get right, otherwise you fail the QTE, and then have to go through a bit of the fight again to get to the QTE finishing stage. I found that without knowing the buttons in advance, I would often have little time to think which button to press, and I’d either press the wrong one, because I couldn’t tell which icon was related to what button, or I’d miss it altogether. This made some boss battles very long and drawn out, and became even worse if I was thrown back into the battle, but with very little health, and then ended up getting killed. Considering a lot of boss battles went through at least three separate stages, all quite long, this became very frustrating. One boss battle in the middle of the game was particularly tedious, taking what felt like an eternity to complete. Happily, the final boss battle of the game is relatively easy, and not too tedious.
The fighting game-play wasn’t the only reason for regretting my purchase, though, with the second big sin being glitches; firstly in the sound, making the sound go altogether in some areas, and secondly, with the game locking up at one point. Thankfully, the lock-up happened only once, and the sound issues only really happened about four times during the whole game, being most likely to happen in the first half.
Other issues that got me miffed were inconsistent lighting and texturing; again, it was mainly earlier in the game, where the lighting in the levels could occasionally seem a bit flat, and texturing was sometimes low-res, with colours, although plentiful, feeling a bit washed-out. This improved somewhat about a third of the way through the game, with the levels looking a lot more interesting in general too. Unfortunately, the game committed another sin that has been done a million times before: the sewer level. Yes, to top things off, after annoying game-play mechanics, glitches, poor art direction early in the game and, due to the nature of the character, no real substance to the story at the one-third stage of the game, the game puts you in what is the most over-used and lazily thought-out area in game level design.
I could understand, then, how some people might give up on the game early on, since it did seem quite flawed in those earlier sections, and for every good bit that made me start to like the game, something else would then happen that cancelled out all that good work, leaving me with very mixed feelings about it, and how the potential was there, but too often spoiled by some poor design decisions. The glitches themselves are most likely relics of poor console-porting to the PC version, as are some lower-resolution textures I spotted, and the game-play is something that would be a lot better suited to a console game-pad, so a lack of polish in the transition to PC was clearly evident all round, and played a good part in making the experience for me worse than what it could have been.
Things did start to turn around, though. I gradually managed to sort out which fighting combo’s were used in a separate menu, making the fighting sections less, if you excuse my pun, 'hit or miss'. The combat is quite simplistic, in basic terms, since you can kick, punch, or dodge, and move your character around with either WASD or the arrow keys. I never did quite get the hang or building up large combos, despite playing around with them, and making some custom ones, but I did manage to make them work for me a bit better, by making sure I was getting my health back, and also activating cool-down timers on special abilities. The game calls certain fighting moves ‘Pressens’, and these can be tied to the basic key presses, and chained together to get better hits, or better health reclamation. Quite how you can gain health from hitting people is beyond me though….
Once you’ve defeated enough enemies with the Pressens, you build up a focus meter that enables you to activate Sensens, which are special abilities that help you defeat large groups of enemies, or take down particularly difficult ones that normal combos can’t touch. As soon as you use one, that particular Sensen is unavailable until a cool-down timer has run out. When fighting robots, you need to use a device called the Spammer, and in boss-fights with robots, this is the only way to defeat them. It has two modes, one being a relatively weak multi-shot mode, and the other called the Junk-Bolt, which uses all the Spammer gauge in one go, but is alot more powerful. By the end of the game, I went from hating the combat to finding it alright. I’m never a fan of fighting games like this, so take that statement as praise if you will.
Traversing through the levels in Neo-Paris involves a lot of climbing and jumping from ledge to ledge, and thankfully, unlike some plat-formers I have played in the past (Prince of Persia – Sands of Time, I’m talking to you) I never encountered any major problems with the jumps. There are a few environmental challenges, which require some light problem-solving and the occasional difficult jump, but moving from area to area is generally quite fluid, and something the game does well. All of which is very important, considering that you’ll be doing it for a good chunk of the game. I did notice that it was quite easy to simply walk off a tall building and potentially die, and those ledges could maybe do with some invisible barriers. Routes were quite nicely laid out with orange arrows pointing the way, but quite discretely. The general path is largely linear, with a few minor deviations where you could pick up some power-ups for your health bar or for the focus meter. I do feel that the game world would have benefited a little from some a greater variety of routes, and different places to visit, but I also think that a fully open world would probably just dilute the experience, and would require maybe too much filler and menial tasks that wouldn’t really add anything to the depth of the main story.
You’ll still do a fair bit of walking in the game too, and sneaking around to avoid the paths of security bots. I say sneak, but in reality, their zone of focus is quite small, and you simply have to avoid that zone where they can see you, and time your movements so that you can get to a safe area quickly as the robot follows its preset route. You could stand right in front of them without them seeing you as they simply have a wide cone of view aiming at directly below them.
One aspect of the game that is unique to it is something called Remembranes, and these are activated, out of necessity (if you don’t activate them you can’t progress), and allow you to see a digital memory of past events. Parts of the memory can be synchronised so that doors unlock, or machinery moves, and at other times, it will enable you to move through an area with security bots, or navigate through a field of mines, the latter proving quite frustrating though, as you will only see glimpses of the past memory, and will have to try and remember what the clear path is. Of all the times using the Remembranes, this was the only frustrating occasion, since I had to redo that section a couple of times when I got caught out not far from the end. Again, this was earlier in the first half of the game. Some puzzles using the Remembranes in the latter stages were quite good, as you would have to work out code numbers, or words, by solving riddles given by the ‘ghostly’ memory of a person who was there once before.
Level design and art direction was another thing that improved as I progressed through the game; while some early areas looked a bit dull and uninteresting, and included some annoying puzzle type sections (that required a lot of trial and error and travelling back and forth quite a bit), these gradually gave way to a more polished experience later in the game. The latter levels looked quite colourful and futuristic, with some featuring much better lighting effects. Texturing also seemed a lot more consistent too, with character models looking better on close-up than they did in some early parts.
At various points in the game, you’ll encounter certain cut-scenes involving characters memories that will enable you to take control of that scene/memory. Firstly, you watch the cut-scene until it reaches its conclusion, then you rewind back fully, and begin again, pausing at various points to highlight things you want to alter in the memory, such as the placement of an object, or whether an event is triggered, such as a screen turning on. In most cases, simply selecting everything to alter in the replay will result in a changed memory, but maybe not the outcome that is required, so you’ll have to trial and error to see which bits of the memory need to be altered to get the correct outcome. Trial and error in other parts of the game may be frustrating, but with these memory alteration sections, it fits in perfectly well, and the whole thing is quite cool to watch unfold, and its nice that you can interact with the scene to change how it progresses. I’ve not really encountered that personally in a game before, not in that way to be exact, so it is something unique that the game does well. It is a feature that doesn’t get overused in the game, and one that perhaps could have been used a bit more.
Of all the things to improve as the game went on, the most important was the story. I wouldn’t say that it was bad in the beginning, indeed, as I mentioned earlier, the general plot presented in the early game is good, and had a lot of potential. It’s just that, knowing so little, and with things happening around you without any reasoning behind them, you won’t have the same attachment to Nilin in the first half of the game that you’ll eventually have by the latter stages. As you learn more about Nilin, and hear her life story, you also gradually learn about the origins of the corporation Memorize, about how Nilin is connected to other characters in the game, and how the leapers came about. The final couple of hours or more of the game will see you learn a great deal that suddenly makes everything fit into place, and for me personally, it also made me feel more attached to her character. It’s a shame that it takes so long to get there, and there are reasons behind it since the story requires it to be that way, but the main thing is the end result, and by ending well, it leaves me with a good impression of the game. I’ve had other games that were the other way round, being great throughout then ended rather weakly, and neither situation is ideal, but a decent conclusion where a lot of elements are tied-up is quite important to me, and with Remember Me, I feel they have succeeded in that area.
Remember Me is a game that relies on you forgetting some of the earlier bad experiences by having a decent enough ending portion of the game; this is quite appropriate given the core subject of the game. The game took me around 17 hours to complete on the easiest difficulty (I’m not very good at games like this with a lot of fighting!) and I imagine it would probably take around the same time for better players playing on higher difficulty settings. Most of that time involves an experience that I would rate as being quite good, just spoiled by things such as flaws in the fighting mechanic early on, poor porting from console involving bugs and weaker graphics in some of the early sections, followed by not being able to identify with the main character until later in the game. At the half way point, I still couldn’t tell what kind of character Nilin was, (i.e. whether she was supposed to have been good or bad before her memory wipe), and where things would go with her character development. Thankfully most things get addressed, and so I now feel like I know her a lot more, but there are still some gaps that could maybe be filled by a prequel, or even a separate DLC, since I know game companies like doing them.
Verdict: Overall, the game is a mixed bag, but one that is more positive than negative. It is flawed, with a lot of potential that hasn’t been fully made use of, but I would rate it quite strongly based on how much more I liked the game over the second half, and also because it is ‘different’, and has some nice concepts. However, I need to take account of the whole picture, and remind myself just how frustrating some of the boss battles were (due to QTE’s), and how clunky the combat initially felt before extra abilities became available.
Taking all things into account, I therefore would give the game the following arbitrary final score:
Is Remember Me a forgettable experience? Let us know in the... er....um....forum?!