Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
# of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Score: B+ (85%)
A stylish and thrilling combination of cinematic elements and action featuring a memorable new character, Remember Me is a grand example of the “shut up and play it!” game. You can be on the sort of clueless “Well, my friend says he heard it’s not like so and so…” side of the fence, or you can step right up, slap your money down and enjoy a well made, always entertaining and somewhat innovative thriller that, while borrowing elements from a few sources, ends up feeling original and refreshing on a few fronts. This is a game that, if you’re in the mood for a good story (save for a slight stumble near the finale) delivers on that promise pretty well. While it may not seem sequel-friendly, the overall experience makes you want to see a second game that features a lot more of the richly detailed 2084 Neo-Paris developer Dontnod Entertainment has created.
After an advertisement for a memory implant called Sensen (not related to Sen-Sen, by the way!) that tees off the 2084 setting, the game doesn’t wait to drop you into the action as former memory hunter Nilin has her brain wiped and escapes from the medical facility she’s in (during the control tutorial – a nice touch). After hopping into a coffin and washing up at the bottom of a Neo-Paris dump where groups of twisted denizens live, the game introduces its timing based combat system that’s going to initially baffle almost anyone expecting a faster button-bashing experience.
The key to success here lies in rhythmically tapping out combos while paying attention to visual cues appearing over an enemy’s head as he/she/it is about to strike, then dodging or leaping over your foe. Once you get the hang of this, it’s possible (and necessary) to string together multiple combos without breaking them, making for some fluidly animated battles. As Nilin fights through the game, she starts recalling her Pressens (as the fight moves are called) and you’ll be able to create custom combos in longer and longer strings as the adventure progresses.
There are 24 Pressens in the game divided into four types: Power, Regen, Cooldown and Chain, plus five S-Pressens, or types of special attacks Nilin will learn and need to use against certain foes. The Pressen customizing (which can thankfully be done during combat) allows for a wide range of combo types that keep things interesting, although it’s possible to drag battles out and stick to a few basic moves. Granted, this actually makes the game harder when you have multiple invisible enemies, faster moving creeps who need to be dealt with quickly and some bosses that take a bit more effort than the garden variety Leapers and such.
Nilin also games the ability to “remix” memories, and this feature is one of the best things about the gameplay and definitely the most innovative. At certain important points in the story, Nilin can enter the mind of a character, see their memories and alter them by changing elements around to achieve a different outcome. It takes a little bit of rotating the left analog stick to rewind or forward through a memory to find and activate elements that change the memory, so some patience is needed in these scenes.In other words, if you use your brain and eyes, those event triggers are actually fun to locate and activate and the scenes shouldn’t take all that long to complete.
What’s great here is Dontnod made these sequences with at least two outcomes, so you may actually kill someone you didn’t need to (oops) or otherwise affect the memory and fail the sequence. If this happens, it’s not a “Game Over” situation – you just get to try again until you get the proper result. Unfortunately, memory remixing is only used four times during the game, and combined with the somewhat linear navigation, you may end up wishing the game world was more open.
There are also some well done “stealth” sections here, and like the combat portions, they work best when you play them unlike you’d automatically do so in other stealth games. Sometimes postponing or avoiding conflict is necessary here, but it would have been even nicer if the game allowed skipping combat as an option in more areas (there’s that wish for an open world again!), as it seems that Nilin just has to fight some enemies she should be able to leap away from and move onto a new area. Granted, she’s ambushed quite a few times here, making fighting back a necessary “evil”. That said, gaining some sort of reward for finding non-violent solutions to a few battles would have been a cool thing to see on a more regular basis here. Of course, I’m in the minority on this, I bet…
In case you haven’t peeked at those screenshots yet, Remember Me looks absolutely incredible. Dontnod’s use of Unreal tech is excellent and on both Xbox 360 and PC, the game looks fantastic (I haven’t played the PS3 version yet, but it’s on my want list). Granted, PC owners get the best looking version if they’ve got a rig that can run it with all the settings maxed. But even on the lowest settings, the game looks great. The ruined under-city with its trash, falling-apart flooring and all sorts of detritus is a stark contrast to the lovely Neo-Parisian architecture mixing old and new structures and some gorgeous skies. Worker robots of a few types flit and float about doing their menial to major tasks, and while not as interactive as they should have been, NPCs look great and will sometimes toss a compliment or snarky comment at Nilin as she approaches.
Even the smallest details look wonderful. Graffiti is everywhere, all of it striking and worth checking out when you some across it. The amount of trash on the ground and in the waterways of the city are nicely disgusting, as they would be in any city where so much is built up and around old structures with no major maintenance system for the poorer sections. Given that the developer is in Paris, the game can be seen as a sort of twisted love letter to the City of Light that, while not predicting an actual future, makes for an impressive fantasy version of one possible future.
You may or may not experience a bug or three in the PC version, one of which occurs early on when after a ledge collapses, Nilin can’t jump up to escape because her model has fallen too far off screen (oops). A reload should fix that when combined with pressing UP on the controller or keyboard after the cut scene, followed by the jump command. Other than that and two crashes back to the desktop (my fault, as I tweaked some settings when playing the game on an even older PC than my laptop just to see if it would even run acceptably and got booted out of the game), the game is pretty stable overall. Even better, it runs FINE in Windows XP (something I can’t say for Iron Galaxy’s otherwise excellent Dungeons & Dragons Chronicles of Mystara)
The sounds and music also reinforce the game’s setting, with composer Olivier Deriviere creating an wonderfully dynamic music score that’s part orchestral remixed with digital elements that fit the action and cinema scenes flawlessly. It’s quite a treat to see the screen change as Nilin takes damage and have the music also get intentionally glitchy as she’s hurting. Voice acting is strong, although I’d say Edge comes off a little less edgy than he should be. Still, the rest of the cast is strong here and overall, the writing is very well done. Nilin’s amnesia isn’t the dopey crutch the affliction is in other games. She stumbles around at the start for a bit, but once she’s able to run, the game only slows down during story portions where she’s forced to walk for a bit as some exposition plays out.
As far as length goes, that depends on your own play style. I completed this on the 360 in about 21 hours and on PC afterwards in around 18, but I tend to explore as much as possible in order to see as much of the game world. The linear nature of the game didn’t bother me one bit, as the story was tight and made me hope this sells well enough to get a sequel that allows for that open world, more memory remixing and some of the few issues found fixed. Those issues would be the option to turn off some of the onscreen descriptions (Sensen implanting is sort of like Google Glass’ offering you info at anything you look at it deems important), the option to skip cut scenes on replaying the game and more NPCs with interesting things to say.
For me, Remember Me represent a victory for single player story driven narrative in the age of multiplayer-focused content where replay value only comes from buying into new content when sometimes, a good story is worth the admission price. It’s not perfect, but Dontnod and Capcom deserve credit for making sure the current generation of consoles gets a character worth remembering and who will hopefully get a second life on newer systems as they take over space in homes around the globe.