The lights are on
Within gaming at the moment there is a trend of safety in terms of what is released. This is not to decry the quality of sequels or to belittle the enjoyment or work that they provide. However the resulting vacuum of original IP's is beginning to become noticeable and it its therefore refreshing to see Capcom taking changes on new ideas and franchises such as Dragon's Dogma and now, Remember Me.
Set in a futuristic Paris, where Memories have become a commodity, we take on the role of Nilin, supposedly a world class ‘Memory Hunter’, who has awoken to find herself imprisoned and remembering little to nothing about her previous life. It’s here that we assume control and are plunged into hunting down Nilin’s lost mind.
As the game begins we are almost instantly throwing into its ‘Neo-Paris’ setting. Futuristic yet recognisable the setting is one of Remember Me’s greatest strengths. Clearly heavily inspired by the likes of Minority Report, I-Robot and the latest Total Recall, the city of Neo-Paris is a fantastically realised backdrop to your adventures. Assistant robots wander around shopping centres as couples sit on park benches caught up in there own lives. The city feels living, a space that existed before my presence and one that will continue without it. It is also refreshing to see a setting that is supremely underused in modern gaming, the lack of games set outside the continental United States is staggering and Remember Me’s Paris is a prime example of how such a setting should be done, with recognisable monuments incorporated into the city to help show a Paris that has grown organically throughout the years.
All of this conceptual flair is supported by a strong graphical showing from the studio, with Neo-Paris looking beautiful in the rain and light pouring through futuristic apartment blocks as Nilin dodges gunship fire and the apartment is carefully torn apart in a beautiful display of choreographed destruction. The attention to detail also extends to Nilin herself, who will shiver as she comes in from the rain and will take stairs in a manner that makes sense (a pet peeve of mine in many video games)
(Neo-Paris brims with character and style)
However once you get over admiring the setting you are forced to deal with the gameplay and story, and it is in these areas that Remember Me begins to struggle.
Gameplay first of all is clearly inspired by the likes of Uncharted, in terms of platforming and general control. The combat on the other hand is an Arkham City tribute that never quite takes off. Both elements lack the polish that makes their inspirations so gripping. Combat especially never gelled for me in the way Arkham did, the system is designed to reward timing, however I often found it unresponsive and too delayed. Nilin seems weighted down during combat despite bouncing over the heads of enemies, she seems almost to perform her punches underwater. These problems are only exacerbated by the lack of combos (four really?), and the much-touted ability to customise the affects of your combo is ultimately underwhelming, with the only real use being to regain a bit of health quickly.
A ranged weapon introduced within the game holds a promise as a possible Batman-esque grappling hook but is unfortunately relegated to a minimal combat role and the special moves acquired periodically throughout the game, whilst visually pleasing, where usually forgotten about after a few fights.
(Prepare to do this same move..a lot...like...loads....)
To be clear the combat is not ‘bad’, however I began to find it a grind as the game progressed and limiting players to so few combat manoeuvres only served to increase my disenfranchisement with the battle system. A mid game boss battle especially drove me to anger, as I constantly had to repeat the same special move and combo for nearly 20 minutes.
The platforming and general exploration on the other hand suffers from a lack of clear guidance and yet also a strict linearity. The game will make it clear where you must go, but it will not always make it clear how to get there or which of the 3 possible ledges you can see is the ‘right’ one, often resulting in an unscheduled plummet into a Neo-Paris alleyway. This is certainly not helped by a camera who will occasionally decide that it is sick of your adventuring and has decided to stay right where it is, resulting in some frustrating sections that had Nilin repeatedly vaulting a ledge because I could see where I was meant to go.
However it speaks to the strength of the setting and world that Capcom and Dontnod have created that I never once wanted to stop playing. The setting intrigued me, I enjoyed Nilin as a protagonist (oddly skinny jeans aside), and the story, whilst in many places predictable is a well-balanced affair that deserves to have more light shed upon it. The Memory ‘Remix’ mechanic also, whilst under utilised in many respects is a highlight, and corrupting the memories of your enemies is an almost twisted experience that gamers will remember.
Remember Me then ultimately represents a step in the right direction and is an encouraging start for Dontnod studios. Whilst the gameplay is in some areas unsatisfying, it is surrounded by such loving detail and attention that it is almost impossible to hate. Developers can work on all the issues present, but the creation of a bold new IP is something that cannot be easily reproduced. Given a few years a sequel to this game could become one of the great new games of the next generation. For now however Remember Me will have to settle for being a game just short of brilliance, let down by it’s combat, but held up by one of the most engaging settings and concepts in recent times.
The production values are so high, you can't help but enjoy this singular game....the character of Nilin and her story are so filled with delightful twists and turns--nothing is as you would think it finally is--the gameplay, the challenges (take note of the memory remixes-you've NEVER played anything like it) make this so much fun and I promise you will fall in love with Nilin..worth every penny..