Remember Me Review
Reviewed by: ClayMeow
Reviewed on: June 26, 2013
Remember Me is a far cry (pun intended) from my previous review. Whereas Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a bargain-priced, open-world, first-person shooter that takes no more than ten hours to complete in its entirety, Remember Me is a linear, third-person, action-adventure game. I naturally went into Remember Me expecting a deeper experience, but also hoping for a longer one, due to the AAA price tag.
While I was excited to finally get my hands on Remember Me after watching numerous gameplay videos, I had my trepidations. After all, it's a brand new IP developed by a completely unknown French developer, DONTNOD. It was also a project originally called Adrift, which was canceled in February 2011 before Capcom purchased it and funded its further development. And speaking of Capcom; that's a company that has had more downs than ups in recent years, arguably dwarfed by only Electronic Arts.
Maybe it's no wonder Capcom avoided the hype train that is E3, opting instead to unveil Remember Me at the 2012 Gamescom months later. Probably smart considering its shared similarities with Watch Dogs, another third-person, action-adventure game that was generally viewed as best in show (indeed, it was my winner). But Remember Me has the advantage of hitting the market first, so here we are. None of the history really matters now that the game is released, so hype and trepidations aside, let's get on with it.
Remember Me takes place in a futuristic version of Paris called Neo-Paris. The year is 2084 and mega-corporation Memorize has invented a new brain implant called the Sensation Engine, or Sensen for short. Using Sensen, people are able to upload and share memories – imagine if you fed your exact memories directly to your favorite social media sites. Apparently, the vast majority of the population in Remember Me actually thought this was a good thing, with 99% electing to do so.
While that may seem farfetched, the major appeal of Sensen is not in fact the sharing, but rather the forgetting and remixing – you can have all your bad memories removed or changed. No pain, no guilt, no anger. The privileged few do just that, living a very jaded life, completely ignorant of their past indiscretions and crimes, and oblivious to the world crumbling around them. On the flip side are the Leapers – memory-addicted humans living in the sewers and slums of Neo-Paris. They've absorbed so many memories that their Sensen has actually become corrupted and they've mutated into grotesque subhumans.
You play as Nilin, whose background you uncover as you play. You've been imprisoned in Bastille Fortress and had your memory almost completely wiped – the only thing you remember is your name. While the amnesiac hero is rather cliché, in Remember Me it actually makes complete sense. As you stumble down the hall, waiting to get the rest of your memory taken from you, you hear a mysterious voice over your com who helps you escape – his name is Edge. After a quick chase sequence (hey, it's not an adventure game without one of these, right?), Edge tells you to hop into a coffin in order to escape the facility. As I stated earlier, Remember Me is a linear affair, so even if that seems like an odd request from a guy you've never met, you have no choice. It is while you're being transported in the coffin that Edge explains the situation:
The enemy is Memorize, a corporation that has digitized and commoditized memories. They call it Sensen technology and the world is addicted to it. You follow? You were a memory hunter, Nilin... The best! Other hunters merely pillage memories, but you can remix them! And above all, you are an Errorist, just like me. You were a revolutionary fighter! And my best agent! We all fought to assure that no firm might build a monopoly on all human memories…But I've failed. We were rounded up and imprisoned.
That is how the prologue ends and the game begins. Throughout the game, I found myself not only questioning who Edge was, but who Nilin was as well. Was she really an Errorist like Edge claimed? What if this was all a ruse? Nilin's amnesiac state matched my own quite well. Edge is your guidance throughout the game, in frequent communication telling you what you must do next – he is your mission giver. As it's a linear game, you have no choice but to follow, no matter how suspicious or reluctant you may be. But thankfully, Nilin is equally suspicious and reluctant, which I felt eased my own trepidations. I felt emotionally connected to her and her decisions seemed like they would have ultimately been the ones I made if I did indeed have a choice.
A lot of the choices Nilin makes is to kill a bunch of people. And maybe the worst offense you can say about Nilin is that she doesn't seem to bat an eye at doing so. Maybe the fact that she's clearly been trained in combat has her believe that she is meant to kill. Of course it is arguable that she never actually kills any human enemy, but rather just knocks them unconscious. Either way, combat is unavoidable, with the game frequently ushering you into a locked-off area, unable to escape until you dispatch every last enemy. You'll be battling the aforementioned Leapers, armored human security detail (S.A.B.R.E. Force), and robots. There are several different types of each with unique characteristics in addition to bosses (and mini-bosses) that provide even further twists. Combat is simplistic, yet engaging, though it does get repetitive in the same way it does in the Batman: Arkham games. But thankfully, I never got bored by it. The number of options available to you are also thankfully more in line with Arkham City than Arkham Asylum.
Your basic combat boils down to just three buttons: left click to punch, right click to kick, and space bar to dodge, which includes somersaulting away or vaulting an enemy. The artistry of the combat comes in the combos you can form in the aptly named Combo Lab. As you progress in the game, you unlock a variety of Pressens (combat moves) that come in four flavors: Power, Regen, Cooldown, and Chain. Power Pressens deal extra damage and trigger finishing moves; Regen Pressens regenerate health on hit, but deal low damage; Cooldown Pressens reduce the cooldowns of all S-Pressens (more on that in a bit), but deal low damage; and Chain Pressens duplicate the previous Pressen and double its effect, making for some insane combos.
There are seven of each type for a total of 28 different Pressens (three of which are pre-order exclusives), but they're only performed when placed into combos and executed properly. Eventually you'll gain access to four combos: 3-move, 5-move, 6-move, and 8-move. Each combo is always executed in the same way, but the Pressens you place in them determine how much damage, regeneration, and cooldown occurs, plus the aesthetic look of each combat move. The 3-move combo is Punch-Punch-Punch, 5-move is Kick-Punch-Kick-Punch-Kick, 6-move is Punch-Kick-Kick-Punch-Kick-Kick, and 8-move is Kick-Kick-Kick-Punch-Punch-Punch-Punch-Kick. You get bonus experience when pulling off a complete 6-move or 8-move combo, but you don't always have the time to do so, whether it be because another enemy attacks you or your target dies before you finish. Whenever you perform the first combat move, a handy combo tracker appears at the bottom of the screen so you know whether you're landing the appropriate hits at the proper time – if not, it'll just reset. Thankfully, the combo system is rather generous with the timing and actually allows you to perform a dodge in the middle of a combo as long as you land the next hit immediately after.
The experience you gain is called PMP, or Procedural Mastering Points. The sole purpose of PMP is to unlock new Pressens. Whenever you reach a "PMP threshold", you are able to unlock one new Pressen, though not all are available to be unlocked right away. I wish I could tell you how or why certain Pressens become available or not, but I have no idea. It made sense when the game didn't introduce me to a certain type yet, but once I had all four types available to me, I didn't quite understand why some were still hidden and unavailable. Even by the time I completed the game, I still had two "question marks" in my list of Pressens with no message as to why those were still unavailable. Did I not find enough secrets? Do they only become available if I attain a certain achievement? Your guess is as good as mine… but I digress.
Alongside your combos are Special Pressens, or S-Pressens. They are introduced to you one at a time throughout the game, typically when you encounter a new type of enemy for the first time, as each of them has a very specific usefulness to them. For example, the first one you gain is Sensen Fury, which allows you to engage in free-flow combat for a short amount of time, jumping from enemy to enemy and dealing increased damage with each blow. As you may surmise, it has a very similar feel to the combat in the Batman: Arkham games. Later ones include: Sensen DOS, for stunning enemies and revealing invisible ones; Logic Bomb, which explodes, dealing heavy damage to all enemies caught in its blast radius and destroying shields; Rust In Pieces, which converts a single robot to your side before self-destructing; and Sensen Camo, which turns Nilin invisible for up to 30 seconds and allows you to insta-overload (insta-kill) an enemy from behind.
Whereas in many games that offer different abilities, players tend to lean toward one or two, in Remember Me you will certainly be utilizing all five S-Pressens during the campaign, as they each provide different benefits. Each one has its own separate cooldown and utilize one chunk of Focus apiece. You gain Focus by landing hits or getting hit, but you initially only start with one chunk unless you discover hidden Focus Boosts. Every five Focus Boosts you pick up grants you an additional chunk and there are 15 total hidden in the world, allowing you to eventually be able to store up to four full Focus chunks. Similarly, there are up to 25 SAT Patches hidden throughout the world, with every five granting you an additional Life Chunk to your health gauge. You start off with five Life Chunks, so you can ultimately end up with ten.
If all this doesn't sound like enough variety, there's one more tool at your disposal – the Spammer. You obtain the Spammer after defeating the game's first boss, Kid X-Mas (he's been shown in trailers, so shouldn't be a spoiler at this point). The Spammer is an attachment to your glove that allows you to shoot out energy blasts. Aside from some of the S-Pressens, it's also the only way to damage robot enemies and an eventual upgrade allows you to destroy enemy shields. To shoot the Spammer, you simply hold Left Shift to aim it (it uses locked-on targeting, not free-aiming) and then left-click for small bursts or right-click to expel all its energy into one heavy blast. The orange crescent in the inner-half of the bottom-left HUD circle is the Spammer's energy gauge, which regenerates fairly quickly when not in use. The Spammer is also used extensively in non-combat situations – to open doors, destroy structural weaknesses in buildings, remotely move certain devices like shutters, and even to "pick locks" in a rather unique digital way I won't spoil.
Though combat is a large part of the game, Remember Me also features its fair share of platforming. Many people will naturally draw comparisons to the Uncharted series, though I guess those people must have forgotten that the Tomb Raider series came first. Remember Me does feel a little like a Tomb Raider game set in the future, though it is a bit more combat-centric. In fact, I'd liken Remember Me more to the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time trilogy – heavy on platforming and combat, with just a few "puzzles" sprinkled in. Still, the comparisons to Tomb Raider are certainly valid, since like that series, Remember Me stars an intelligent, acrobatic, badass female protagonist – something rarely seen in video games. Even more rare is the fact that she's not sexualized – not in her attire, nor in the dialog. Combine that with the fact that Nilin is mixed-race, DONTNOD definitely took a gamble and indeed, many publishers were reluctant to sign on, wanting your typical Caucasian male hero – kudos to Capcom for taking the chance and allowing DONTNOD to create the game it wanted to create.
All that aside, the platforming elements are your typical third-person, action-adventure fare. You grab ledges, shimmy across, jump across gaps, climb up or slide down pipes, etc. Unlike Uncharted, there is no combat while hanging on a rope or ledge – the platforming and combat segments of the game are always separate. Remember Me's platforming is also a lot easier than Uncharted, Tomb Raider, or Prince of Persia thanks to digitized readouts, clearly identifying anything grabbable. Not only are there clear orange arrows, but it also lists the distance from your current location. At least once, if not many times, in all those other aforementioned titles, I died because I thought a ledge/rope was grabbable or within reach, when it was in fact not. That's not to say you won't die during any of the platforming bits, but at least it will not feel like it was due to poor game design, where things were unclear. I still did drop into the occasional bottomless pit, but it was because of my own curiosity... or stupidity.
While this may sound like "easy mode", it actually fits into the lore – the readout is generated courtesy of your Sensen. In fact, the Sensen logo accompanies the readout like a copyright notification. Practically everything in Neo-Paris is digitized, from shop signs to hazards. The shop signs are merely aesthetic, but add a bit of life to the world. The hazard warnings, on the other hand, are quite useful – when your Sensen detects fire, it even lists the degrees Celsius below the "Danger" part, letting you know just how hot the flames are. The temperature may be a completely pointless readout in terms of the gameplay, but little details like that go a long way into creating a world that looks and feels lived in. When Nilin walks past fire, she holds her arm over her nose and mouth to keep the smoke out – again, a nice touch.
Neo-Paris is indeed a living, breathing world with incredible detail. Trash, debris, and graffiti clutter the sewers and slums. The high society section looks sufficiently futuristic and lavish. The slums have memory-addicted bums mumbling in corners like mental patients, while the upper class are waited on hand and foot by humanoid robots and cleaning drones. The difference between those two sections are striking and intentional. And then of course there are the interior sections, featuring an abundance of metal, glass, and digitized signs. While every bit of Neo-Paris is highly detailed, it's sadly mostly a very good texturing job. There is no physics system for objects – you cannot knock over chairs or knock garbage around. This is unfortunately not surprising since Remember Me is a multi-platform title and the current-gen consoles would have struggled if environments and objects were interactive with the amount of detail in the game. It would have been nice if the PC version had PhysX support. Still, I felt surprisingly immersed. If only Remember Me allowed exploration.
If Neo-Paris is the star of Remember Me, the memory remixes are its scene-stealing co-star. Memory hunters are able to steal memories, but what makes Nilin the very best is that she can actually change them. While DONTNOD has done its best to make the platforming and combat elements of Remember Me feel as unique as possible, it is the memory remixing that really sets the game apart. Memory remixes are exceptionally done. When you first enter someone's head, the scene starts to form like building blocks coming together. You then watch the memory unfold as it actually occurred and when it ends, you're asked to change the outcome. You are now able to rewind and fast forward as much as you want, searching for memory glitches. Memory glitches are elements in the memory you can interact with and they flicker briefly for the split second they can be accessed. You can change as many as you want and then watch the effect. There is only one solution for each remix, but you're never penalized for selecting the wrong glitches – you're actually rewarded. Each change, no matter how minor, affects how the memory plays out, which can result in some interesting scenes.
Going into the game, I thought the memory remixes would play a huge role. It was one of the first things shown off when the game was unveiled and it is what sets Remember Me apart from the crowd. They do play a huge role in terms of pushing the narrative forward, but I'm disappointed to report that there are only four. In a sense, this could be seen as a good thing because it prevented it from being overdone or feeling like a gimmick. Each memory remix felt unique and important. But most of all, they were emotionally engaging. Affecting someone's memory caused drastic changes in their life and they were believable. You really felt like you were messing with someone's life. It's to DONTNOD's credit that I wanted more of them, so I guess it's not fair to knock the game for only featuring four.
The other memory-related gameplay element is Remembranes. Remembranes are memories that Nilin can view in a holographic manner within the environment. Remembranes are used to expand some story elements, show the safe path through a minefield, and solve some riddles. The riddles are not overly difficult, but do require you to think. They have a bit of an adventure game feel, but thankfully they're fully logical. From a visual standpoint, they're pretty cool, but from a gameplay standpoint, they're merely filler between larger set pieces. Still, it was a decent change of pace.
From a technical standpoint, Remember Me runs smoothly and looks beautiful. When you enter new areas, the camera zooms out to give you a nice panoramic view. The soundtrack is also quite good and the voice acting was more than acceptable – not quite on the Batman: Arkham level, but better than most games. The movement and combat is also surprisingly easy to use and master with a keyboard and mouse. The reason why this was surprising to me is because when I first fired up the game, the very first thing I noticed was the lack of a mouse cursor in the menus. The menus were controllable with a mouse, but without an actual cursor, it felt awkward and didn't provide a very good first impression. I thought for sure this would be a horrible port, but I was thankfully proven wrong. That being said, the controls during memory remixes are a bit odd, having you move your mouse in a circular manner to rewind or fast-forward. I got used to it rather quickly, but it was quite jarring at first to the point where I didn't even understand what the in-game prompt was telling me to do.
There are really only two negatives in the game. The first is that boss fights are capped by quick time events (QTEs), something I absolutely loathe. The only saving grace is that if you fail a QTE, the boss fight simply continues on (the boss usually smacks you to the ground), with you requiring one more blow before engaging in the QTE once again with the same exact pattern. The fact that the pattern isn't randomized was a huge relief, especially since I often missed a keystroke while taking a screenshot at an inopportune time... oops.
The other negative is that the game is short – I beat the game in roughly ten hours. That being said, unlike Blood Dragon, I missed quite a few hidden objects. The game claims 87% completion, but I missed 55 hidden objects spread out between SAT Patches, Focus Boosts, Mnesist Memories, and Scaramechs. Thankfully, the game tells you how many of each you have left to find in each episode, and you can either load up an individual episode or replay the story again with your previous unlocks (basically a New Game Plus mode). The game offers three difficulties: Script Kiddie (easy), Errorist Agent (normal), and Memory Hunter (hard). Knowing about the "New Game Plus" mode, I chose Errorist Agent for my first playthrough and Memory Hunter for my second playthrough. The combat the second time around definitely took longer, but I don't know if that's attributed to it being the second playthrough, the harder difficulty, or both.
I see a lot of people knocking the game for not being open-world, like all of a sudden there's no place for linear, story-driven games. As I've repeatedly said, I do wish I could explore more of Neo-Paris, but like the memory remixes, it's to DONTNOD's credit that the studio has made a world I wanted to delve into deeper. While I enjoy games with more freedom, including but not limited to open-world games, I still enjoy structured linear experiences. Remember Me was never advertised as an open-world game.
If you're looking for a linear, story-driven action-adventure game, Remember Me is a solid choice. Its structure is extremely rigid, not allowing for any exploration or player choice, but its setting and story are engaging and Nilin is an easy character to relate to, despite her badassitude. Nilin is the near-future version of Lara Croft – strong, intelligent, and nimble with some advanced technology to make life slightly easier. Because she's not sexualized – and has smaller, more natural breasts – she also happens to be a better role model for girls, though the combat-heavy nature of the game may cause girls to steer clear.
If DONTNOD decides to make a follow-up game, whether it be a prequel or sequel, I hope they consider making it open-world, but my desire to explore more of Neo-Paris should be viewed as a positive, not a negative. I cannot fault a developer for failing to deliver something that was never promised. I can just hope that the studio's next game is bigger and better, whatever it may be. Remember Me was a great first effort and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game.