Remember Me – Sorta Review
Remember Me is a title that has been on my radar for a while, so I was highly anticipating its European release all week. I even stayed up after midnight on Thursday just to be able to grab a few hours before bed claimed me.
Now I’ve completed the game, and it took me about 10 hours of gameplay to get there. Next comes the difficult task of putting down my thoughts based on that time, though luckily it’s difficult for the right reasons. So let’s just jump in.
Remember Me is the first project of French studio Dontnod Entertainment, and it’s published by Capcom. As far as I’ve been able to tell the studio is made up of industry veterans though, which probably helps explain the sheer amount of dedication gone into the title.
The setting is Neo-Paris in 2084, and memories have become a digitised commodity. The protagonist is Nillin, a memory hunter who is an expert at stealing memories, and even remixing them to make a person believe whatever is desired. And surprisingly, Nillin is not a man, nor white.
As the game doesn’t make a huge deal out of it, I won’t either, but I would like to mention that Nillin actually feels like a character. She has a personality, an arc, desires and opinions. Though as the game starts with your memories being pillaged right out of your brain, it will take you a little while to discover just how deep things go.
As someone who has lambasted silly costume choices for female characters before, I’m sure that at least some of you expect me to comment on Nillin’s high-heeled boots. I’m not about to disappoint, at least not in that respect, but I have to say that I didn’t really mind them. They’re not especially high, and they look like cowboy boots. I’m a big fan of Lucky Luke, and cowboys in fiction are certainly action-y, so why not? I have no idea why her clothes are called a… was it “battle outfit”? Because they look just like clothes, aside from the boots made for kicking. And walking. And parkouring. Well, and that glove, but more on that later.
I can state straight away that this game is not for those who like making choices and having self-direction. While there are collectibles to find in the game (that surprisingly make sense in the context of the world, which isn’t always the case in videogames), this is a highly linear experience. It’s there to tell a story, and I don’t mind that. I don’t see it as any less valid of a design choice than a branching story, especially not in an action game.
Before we go any further, I’ve promised to address the PC port. Because I mainly play on PC, so of course that’s where I picked up Remember Me. On the whole it works fine.
The movement and combat controls actually work quite well with mouse and keyboard, but the camera control can be quite atrocious. I suspect there’s some mouse smoothing in there, but there’s no mention of it in the options. You can change the mouse sensitivity, but normally it feels fine, it’s just that it completely spazzes out in certain conditions. Like if you’re too close to a wall, or backed up into a corner it can go completely mental and be impossible to control. Maybe that’s an issue with the game more than the port, but it feels like the transfer to mouse camera control fell a little bit short.
And while the lack of FOV options is not so bad in third-person games, the camera seems to select on its own when to zoom in or out, and is often zoomed in a bit too far during combat for my tastes, so being able to tell what is going on, and where everything is, can be harder than it should be.
Then there’s the curious issue of the menus. They’re actually fully mouse-driven, with left mouse for selection and right-mouse for going back, but it’s the most curious mouse-driving I’ve encountered. There’s no cursor, instead it treats the mouse like an analogue stick. I did get a handle on it eventually, and it’s actually kinda neat when you do, but you might prefer sticking to using the keyboard. Or using a controller. Especially for the Combo Lab.
So after all this complaining my dear readers might be wondering what there is to like about Remember Me. Well, quite a lot, as it turns out.
The first thing that really impressed me was the amount of work and effort that had gone into the world itself. There are loads of little details that help flesh the place out and make it feel real. The populated areas I went through did seem like places where people actually live. And everything has a justification, it feels like. A lot of thought and care has gone into making Neo-Paris a vibrant and alive city that makes sense, and I appreciate that level of attention to detail.
Take the health stations. Having a way to refill your health is so ubiquitous in games that they didn’t need to justify it, yet they did. They’re part of Neo-Paris’s free health-care program. And it’s the future, so why wouldn’t a machine be able to diagnose you and administer first-aid?
And to help make the place feel even more real, there’s just a whole lot of colours and vibrancy everywhere. Even if you’re creeping through a dark area, there will still be plenty of things that stand out with streaks of colour. And just take a look at this shot from one of the richer areas of Neo-Paris.
While they’re a lot less clean, the slum areas look great as well.
And you’ll find little discs of information around spread by an organisation worried that people will forget history now that memories can be discarded and taken at will. There’s even stats on each entry showing how many of the people who’ve read it could actually remember that happening, and how many had forgotten it. It adds flavour to the world.
And all the floating words and GUI elements are explained by your Sensen implant (which is short for “Sensation Engine”) which connects you the ‘net’ of 2084, and lets stores and vendors input signs that pop up when you get close, among other things. It also calculates and computes stuff for you.
When it comes to the combat, I’m a little bit torn. In the beginning it feels very simplistic, yet hard to do right, especially when the camera is being uncooperative. And it feels like maybe there’s a bit too much focus on the combat instead of dealing with the more interesting concepts the game toys with. But it slowly gains more complexity until it feels quite strategic in how you set up and use your combos, and there’s a certain flow to it when you get a handle on how it works that feels very fulfilling. And when I reflect on it, there were never really an overwhelming amount of combat encounters. A lot of the time is devoted to puzzles, parkouring and light exploring, so you simply walk/run/climb around enjoying your surroundings.
The quick-time events I could have done without though, and thankfully they were rare.
Now the big thing they were hyping in the marketing was the ability to remix memories. And that does happen. It just doesn’t happen especially often. Early on I felt like they were under-utilising this feature, as it was a very interesting puzzle segment. Changing different minute things and seeing how the memory would play out differently was intriguing. And then towards the end of the game I started to understand why it was done so rarely. The humongous impact even a small change can have on a person was sort of terrifying, and even though I didn’t have a choice, since I was just living through Nillin’s story, I would hesitate before delving into someone’s mind. They forced me to push the button, the bastards.
The special glove she’s wearing is Nillin’s memory hunter tool. It’s what allows her to steal memories, wipe memories and remix memories. And it acquires more abilities as you make your way through the game and remember or acquire more skills.
What I am trying to get at here is that this feels like a game they wanted to make, rather than one they had to. It’s not perfect, but I will paraphrase Yahtzee and say that even though it has flaws, I recommend getting it anyway. It was a story worth telling, and one worth seeing. I had to reach for something to dry my eyes with at the end there.
Remember Me can be gotten on PC, XBox 360 and Playstation 3, and before I leave I will show you some scenery porn.