Remember Me – Cherished Memory or Totally Forgettable?

(originally posted January 23rd 2015)

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Sometimes all it takes is an idea to get me to play a game. It could seem relatively minor but the very notion is enough to grab my interest. For Remember Me, it was the ability to enter a person’s memory and alter it. I can’t remember exactly where I heard about it but it made me want to give the game a go, despite its mixed reviews. Having now played it, though, is the game itself any good?

Remember Me takes place in the year 2084, specifically in the city of Neo-Paris. A corporation called Memorize has invented a brain implant called the Sensation Engine (or Sensen, for short), which allows people to upload and share memories online. So, essentially, a slightly more warped version of every social media site ever (or less warped depending on your viewpoint).

The Sensen also allows people to remove any unpleasant or unhappy memories. Since nearly everybody uses it, Memorize winds up having an immense degree of control over the population and more or less takes over the city in typical 1984 style. Naturally, this incites a rebellion to bring down Memorize; a group called the Errorists.

The player takes control of their best member, Nilin, who has made a name for herself as a memory hunter, someone capable of entering and altering (or remixing) a person’s memory. At least, that’s what she’s been told because guess what? She’s lost her memory. Or rather, had most of it taken by Memorize after she was captured. After managing to escape imprisonment with the help of the Errorist leader, Edge, (who only ever speaks to her via a comm device) Nilin finds herself forced to work for the Errorists in order to reclaim her memory and bring down Memorize. Now with all that out of the way, onto the actual game.

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Remember Me is very much a modern action-adventure game. You ever played Uncharted or Tomb Raider? It’s a lot like that. You’ll be running, jumping, platforming and getting into fights – you know, basic stuff. And it all works fine; there’s nothing wrong with it. But there’s no real sense of exploration since there’s usually a yellow arrow pointing to what you need to jump to or climb next. There’s not a lot of opportunities to go exploring – well, there’s some deviations from the path but they always lead to a dead end, usually with objects that contribute to health upgrades or data packs that contain extra info regarding the world itself. To be honest, I gradually lost interest in doing some extra exploring, partly because the environments all began to blend together and I was soon bored by the scenery.

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Neo-Paris looks like every futuristic dystopia; there’s not really anything about it that makes me think of Paris, aside from the occasional bit of architecture that I rarely noticed. There’s not even any French people in the game. I’m not joking here. I know it’s the distant future so there’s bound to be people of many nationalities living there but you’d think I’d have met at least one French person. And when people do speak French, it ends up feeling gratuitous and, ironically, out of place.

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What about the combat? Is that any good? Well, yes and no. Combat’s kind of interesting since you have a slight level of customisation to it. In a menu called the Combo Lab, you can see what combos Nilin currently has (she unlocks more as you gain experience from beating enemies). These combos only ever use two buttons (for reference, I’m going to use the PS3 controls so the buttons will be the square and triangle buttons), but Nilin has access to four different kinds of Pressens which all have different effects.

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Power Pressens deal the most damage, Regen Pressens restore health, Chain Pressens double the effects of the Pressen that came before it and Cooldown Pressens reduce the cooldown period needed for the S-Pressens (Nilin’s special moves). So, for example, the first combo you have consists of just three squares so out of your available Pressens, you can choose which square ones you want to put in the combo. Do you go for an attack that just deals damage, one that heals you or a bit of both? You’re not creating your own personal attacks but you are creating what kind of effect they have which is nice, and the more Pressens and combos you unlock as you play, the more customisation you get.

However, that’s where the good points end since fighting enemies ultimately becomes quite repetitive. New enemy types are thrown at you throughout the levels that do require different kinds of strategy but it always ends up feeling the same. You could argue that this is a minor complaint since any game with a focus on combat is bound to get repetitive, which is a fair point but that’s not the only problem.

While I’ve certainly seen worst cameras, it can sometimes be a bit hard to follow and there were certainly a few times I got hit by an enemy that was just off-screen. Nilin can dodge attacks, and it’s necessary to dodge over an enemy mid-combo and then continue said combo on either the same enemy or a different one. The problem there is that sometimes I end up just cartwheeling away from the fight and the combo I was building up breaks; even if there’s still an enemy nearby I can keep wailing on. My biggest problem, however, is whenever Nilin gets hit, she stumbles for a good second and while this isn’t normally a problem, it means that by the time she recovers, another enemy has had the opportunity to reel up for an attack and hit her as soon as the invincibility frames wear off. There were also times when I would try to dodge an incoming attack but because Nilin was technically still in an attacking animation, the dodge wouldn’t work.

“Look, game, the enemy wasn’t attacking until after I pressed my attack button but now it is attacking so can I dodge please?”

I don’t know if it’s because I suck at the game or not but the fact that all of these problems were reoccurring meant that I never looked forward to getting into a fight, especially with certain enemies that either like to lunge at you from off-screen or the ones that damage you every time you attack them (seriously, those ones were just pricks – what kind of enemy design is that?)

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I mentioned S-Pressens before, which like I said are Nilin’s special moves that she can use if she has enough energy. Using one of these causes it to enter a cooldown period so even if you have the energy to use it, you need to wait until it’s recharged, which is fine since it prevents the player from spamming them, and the aforementioned Cooldown Pressens help too. Nilin gains them at certain points in the game (with no reason as to why or how she gains them; they just seem to randomly happen) and they range from Nilin getting a speed and power increase to rack up damage to planting a bomb on a nearby enemy. They avoid being situational; you’re usually going to have a good reason to use these powers when you get the chance (though one is really only useful when dealing with mechanical enemies) but I found that sometimes fights just wind up being you punching enemies until the S-Pressen you need becomes available, turning what should be exciting battles into a waiting game.

This is particularly true for certain boss fights, with many of them just being mook rushes, causing them to lack any real identity of their own; they wind up being like every other fight in the game. Even the final boss succumbs to this. A boss fight shouldn’t be just another swarm of enemies with one slightly bigger enemy hanging at the back.

The story’s not much to write home about either, despite having some interesting concepts. The amnesia plot has been done to death but I felt that maybe it could do something interesting here, especially since Nilin seems to possess some doubts about working for the Errorists. I thought that there might be some internal conflict regarding whether Nilin wanted her memories back or not. Is Edge someone she can trust? Unfortunately, this is all dropped constantly. Just when it looks like some interesting development would happen; it seems to be swiftly forgotten about, especially concerning the ramifications of Nilin’s ability to alter someone’s memories. It looks like this would have a huge moral impact, resulting in some sort of debate about whether this is right or not but aside from maybe two seconds of a cutscene, this is never talked about or brought up.

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Speaking of memory remixing (the very thing that made me want to play the game), what a disappointment that was. It’s essentially editing software – you’re shown a memory, you rewind and fast-forward through it, slightly altering specific objects that the game shows you and, hopefully, you get the result the game wants. I hesitate to call these puzzles because I barely put any thought into them. It was more or less guesswork and there’s no punishment for getting things wrong so there’s no challenge. The idea itself is great but it manages to be boring and, also, barely used.

There are no proper transitions between levels either; a level ends, Nilin does some monologuing about what she’s been told to do in the next level and then she’s in the next level with no explanation as to how she got there. How is she able to avoid the police? Where does she go to rest? Is there an Errorist hideout somewhere? I don’t know and I don’t think the game does either.

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But even if the plot is barebones, it can still work if it has good characters right? Well, the characters are just as plain. Nilin is pretty much generic action female and while I do appreciate how she isn’t overly sexualised, she’s so generic and boring that I had no real desire to care for her. Maybe if she had some actual growth or change concerning her memory remixing, she could’ve been interesting but she just ends up being as complex as a four piece puzzle. The rest of the characters are pretty forgettable; a couple of them vanish from the plot moments after being introduced, and most of the villains are so generically evil that it verged on being painful. There’s no depth to them; they’re just bad people for the sake of being bad.

But by far, my least favourite character was Edge, who pretty much sums up the worst parts of the story itself. He’s meant to be Nilin’s only confidante but he’s such a pretentious arsehole that I just wanted him to shut up. To me, he was like one of those teenage poets who thinks he’s being really deep but winds up annoying everyone and doesn’t get invited to parties. He has no real dialogue and no actual conversations with Nilin; he just tells her where to go, what to do and why he’s in the right while everyone else is wrong. There’s no grey morality here, which probably explains the generic bad guys; the writers clearly wanted us to side with Edge, but he aggravated me so much that I wished there was an option to side with Memorize; hell, I actually hoped that would be the big plot twist. The actual big plot twist, by the way, happens so suddenly and with such little build up that it confused me more than shocked me.

All around, the dialogue is bland at best and just plain atrocious at worst (one character makes his debut by making nothing but Little Red Riding Hood references for no reason). You can tell the moment you boot the game up, it’s going to be filled with nothing but messages that the writers want to put across instead of actual characterisation. There’s nothing wrong with having an overall message to your story but when that’s all you focus on and you don’t weave it into the story itself, it comes across as forceful and, like I said, pretentious. It just annoys the viewer because you’re not letting them figure it out for themselves; you may as well have written it on a bat and repeatedly hit them with it.

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The funny thing is that, from a technical standpoint, Remember Me isn’t a bad game. It works; I didn’t run into any major glitches or bugs throughout my playthrough, but when I tried to think of who could potentially enjoy this game, I could not think of anyone.

The combat’s too repetitive and simple for fans of action games; it’s too linear for fans of exploring and its story and characters are so bland that fans of those won’t like it. I am amazed that such a game could exist; a game that functions but cannot be fun for anybody. About halfway through, I just wanted the game to end and I was groaning through every cutscene. I even skipped the credits, something I have never done before.

Still, credit where credit is due, this was Dontnod Entertainment’s first ever game. Nobody strikes gold the first time round, and they are working on a graphic-adventure game called Life is Strange which has grabbed my interest. Since it’ll be very story heavy, they’ll hopefully have the resources and time to make it interesting and entertaining.

As for Remember Me, I think it’ll soon meet a rather ironic fate and fade from memory. Although, I have spent a surprising amount of time talking about it. Maybe the true irony here is that despite my claims of it being rather forgettable, I don’t think I’ll be able to.

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