While I never keep up with gaming news, the guys at my favourite game shop consider it their duty to expose me to interesting-looking trailers whenever I walk in to make a purchase. It was during one of these visits that I saw the first trailer for Remember Me. I had no idea what to make of it, but it looked pretty good. But is it?
Remember Me takes place in the not-too-distant future, where a large corporation called Memorize has figured out how to copy, delete and transfer human memories like computer data. There are all kinds of services they offer using this technology, like erasing painful memories, or even giving you the memories of someone else. Like, say you’re a serious gaming nerd and you know you’ll never get laid, you can pay for the memories of a suave ladies’ man and at least remember what it is was actually like – just think for a second how weird that concept is. That’s not an obvious joke either: if you wander around the game taking in the ambience and details, you’ll see characters doing this exact kind of thing at memory vending machines.
This is achieved through a glowing… USB port, I guess, that everyone in the world has on the back of their necks called a Sensen. Exactly how everyone came to have this isn’t explained, although it may be in the pages and pages of story fluff I’ll probably never read. But memory management isn’t the only thing a Sensen can be used for. It can display augmented reality information and it can even be used for destructive purposes like combat and espionage.
This is where the player character called Nilin comes in. She’s part of an underground rebel movement or terrorist cell, called Memory Hunters, who fight against the massive corporation providing this subversive, individuality-killing service. Or at least she was, because as the game starts, she’s already been captured and is in the process of getting her memories drained. Luckily she’s sprung from prison by one of her former comrades and she has to relearn her old skills so that she can fight to get her memories back. Anyway, Nilin is the best there is at what she does, because unlike other Memory Hunters, she can not only steal memories, but she can also go in and “remix” peoples’ memories.
I guess the core of Remember Me is the combat. I’ve read that some critics don’t think it’s very good, but really, it’s fine. It could have done with a bit more variety, perhaps. Maybe some melee weapons? But I think the developers did really well with what they had. Nilin starts out with a basic three-hit combo, but gains access to longer ones as the game progresses. Players can’t alter the sequence of buttons needed to execute the combos, but they can customise each move in the combo. There are four types of moves players can assign: power moves, which deal a lot of damage; regeneration moves, which restore Nilin’s health when then they hit; cooldown moves, which make her special abilities cool down faster so they can be used more often; and link moves, which double the affect of the previous move type – for instance, if you place it after a damage move, you’ll do double damage, or after a healing move, you’ll gain twice as much health.
You might think, why bother with that other stuff? Just make a combo out of straight damage moves and finish off the enemies before they know what-the-Nelly. Hell, it was the first thing I tried, but I learned pretty fast that you absolutely need the other moves, or you’re gonna die. But more on that in a minute.
In addition to the combos, Nilin gains several special abilities over the course of the game. These abilities include a rage mode of sorts, allowing Nilin to throw out an un-interruptable flurry of high-damage attacks for a while; a stun attack that also reveals hidden enemies; the ability to hack a robotic enemy and turn them into an ally; and the ability to go invisible and instantly assassinate a single target. These abilities can be activated once Nilin has charged up power stocks, but once they’ve been used, they have a cooldown period. That means Nilin can’t use the same special ability twice in succession, even if she has a power stock ready – unless of course, she uses a combo that has a lot of cooldown moves in it to decrease the timer faster.
That actually makes the combat in Remember Me quite engaging. I had to use every trick in the book to barely scrape through some of the fights, and there was no combat move or ability that was useless. I thought I had a handle on things when suddenly – oh crap, invisible enemies that can only be revealed by turning on a floodlight. Then robotic enemies showed up that I couldn’t damage in hand-to-hand combat, so I had to use my Sensen.
Then they started mixing robots and humans, and suddenly taking out those effing flying robots that shoot lasers became priority one, so I had to use cooldown attacks on the human enemies so that I could use my Sensen to get rid of the robots. Then these frickin’ guys with electrified armour showed up, and you get hurt when you hit them – so I had to go and make a few combos with equal parts regeneration and damage so that I could survive fighting them… and so it progressed.
And that, my friends, is the mark of a good combat system – when everything you have is useful and nothing can be exploited. Mind you, I was playing on the hardest difficulty, maybe there are some exploits on the lower settings – but I damn near hurled my controller at my TV a few times. Maybe wishing for a bit more variety is one of those self-damning things, since it would surely have been much harder to balance had there been weapons and more combat options – and there would probably have been exploits the designers hadn’t intended. As it is, it works fine.
The other parts of the game include Assassin’s Creed-style free-running platforming and a bit of stealth. These sections are perhaps the game’s biggest let downs. The platforming is just too easy. There’s no challenge to it and it’s almost impossible to die most of the time – and even if you do, you respawn a few feet away (after a 30-second loading screen, no less). Everything Nilin can grab onto is clearly marked by her Sensen and she won’t even jump unless she’s pointing directly at the next item. The only was she can really die is if you intentionally press the let-go button – or on those occasions when you want to run and jump onto a ledge, but the game doesn’t trigger the contextual leap-and-grab animation for some reason and she does a little reindeer hop instead and plummets to her doom.
But I lie… a bit. On rare occaions the game does throw in a moving sign or an electric fence to make the platforming a challenge, and you’ll probably run into it because it’ll catch you off guard. The stealth doesn’t even warrant its own paragraph. You move slowly, staying out of the robots’ detection cones. It’s brainless and not even as challenging as the stealth in the original Metal Gear on the MSX.
The most unique feature of Remember Me is somewhat bittersweet. As previously mentioned, Nilin can alter people’s memories, and the sections of the game where you do this are done spectacularly well. You get to watch a person’s memory play out like a movie, then rewind it and change little things – like taking the safety off a pistol, switching a doctor’s syringes around, or unbuckling a kid’s seatbelt – then unpause to see how it turns out until you get the desired result. It’s not only interesting, it’s also downright uncomfortable when you know what kind of result you’re trying to engineer. You could build a whole game around this and flesh out the concept for all kinds of purposes. Unfortunately, you only do this four times in the entire game, and only to achieve a single, simple result each time. I think this was a huge missed opportunity here.
Another plus is that the game looks absolutely amazing. The art direction and attention to detail is exquisite. I literally walked through the entire game instead of running just so that I could look at everything. There’s a nice variety of environments with unique background elements. The developers did give us some incentive to look at it, with all the collectibles hidden around to increase Nilin’s health and special ability stocks. The world is also nicely crafted if you’re inclined to read through the story fluff material.
So… Would I recommend Remember Me? Yes I would… but only if you’re the type of gamer who can appreciate islands of gold floating in a sea of crap. There are the borderline vestigial platforming and stealth sections that crop up way too frequently, but there’s plenty to like here too, like the amazing visuals, the tight combat and the gripping memory remix sequences. You decide.