Wednesday
Jul172013

QCF: Remember Me

magine a world much like our own at its core, one that’s full of greed and desire towards power and affluence. However, the object of desire is something even most people take for granted, memories—an event that’s recorded within the depths of a person’s grey matter that has the ability to shape or define who we are. In the future, your precious recollections are used as currency from a tyrannical corporation that preys on its consumers like cattle to further their own sinister means. In the middle of all of this, you’re the resistance against the reign of mass psychological terror of science fictional proportions; this is Dontnod Entertainment’s Remember Me.

Sequels... man, it sure feels like the current video game scene plays host to them more than it does to an original intellectual property now, doesn’t it? Aside from all of the Resident Evils, Monster Hunters, and Lost Planets, it’s been a while since we’ve seen Capcom take a stab at something new (Darkvoid may have something to do with that). The premise of Remember Me and its tasteful represented female protagonist perked a lot of ears during its reveal, but after having some time with it, there’s potential to it being something great that’s ironically lost by the fact that the fiction forgets that it’s held back by the conventions of a game. And, well, there’s nothing great happening in that aspect.

After the flashy Theremin intro, which is the start of many attempts that try too hard to exaggerate the “Sci-Fi” factor that the title wants to so desperately beat into your skull, you assume control of Nilin, a newly amnesiac who stumbles into string events that rope her into leading the fight against the man. The moment you move Nilin about, there’s a stiff, almost rigid disposition in all of her movements. From simply maneuvering around to jumping to the nearest ledge, moving the Memory hunter feels like steering a shopping cart filled with boulders, regardless of whatever direction you nudge the left thumb stick in—you’ll either adjust to it or forever feel awkward because, either way, every motion feels unnecessarily clumsy. These flaws seem the most haunting during the platforming segments with touchy contextual interaction and stage design that almost works to combat against playing physic. Also, just a quick mention: Throwing a trail of indicators to lead where you’re supposed to jump and move is one of the laziest design choices I’ve seen in this generation. But considering the stage architecture does a poor job of encouraging exploration, and coupled with the fact that moving feels like a chore within itself, I can see why the climbing way points exist. While the controls don’t break the experience, they definitely cause some considerable damage when you fight and dodge anything, but gracefully against a mob of enemies consistently; it feels a lot less like adapting and more like compromise.

Combat plays a heavy role within the dystopian future title, with you upgrading and customizing combos as you advance through chapters. And while there’s a genuine sense of growth when you acquire new abilities and moves, the process of executing them feels just as choppy as movement. As you brawl against enemies, you’ll have a number of combination attacks at your disposal that you can customize under four categories known as Pressens—power, regen, cool down, and chain. The labels are most self-explanatory, but the exposition on them is unfortunately poor within the game, so I’ll do a quick break down.

Power moves break through guards and do more damage. Regen moves grant your health back when landed and are more of the technical moves, Cool Down moves shorten the time for your special meter to regenerate, allowing you to use your super move meter, which allows you to, uh... use your super moves, and the chain attacks, which are quick and can be linked with any combination in any order. These attacks function to their effect, and you have full control to arrange them as you see fit. However, the input to launch them computes to a very robotic motion. Movement changes, and attacks or evades flow in a rhythmic-like output between determining when to attack to when you should evade, but the enemy AI doesn’t appear to adhere to these rules of physics that your confined to as a player. The results culminate into a repetitive and choppy system that forces players to exploit their combat skills in ways that the game doesn’t intend for. Overall, playing by the game’s rules just leads to frustration with most of the battles playing out like a mess.

To be fair, you get abilities that specialize in crowd control from the aforementioned Super Moves, but further in the game you end up rinsing and repeating the cool down combos just so you can manage waves. Overall, the combat’s complexity is deceptive when it boils down to how the game influences you to use it, it ends up being pretty shallow.

The visuals and fiction surrounding Remember Me is the defining merit that makes the experience worthwhile. Other than superficial tropes that merely exist to pander to the unwritten checklist of science fiction, walking down the streets of Neo-Paris and uncovering the various conspiracies that they’ve laid upon society to advance their slimy agenda delivers beyond standard expectations, and can actually be quite compelling.

Walking down the streets during points of interest involving narrative exposition are some of the more eye-catching moments, especially when traveling in areas at great heights and witnessing all of the incredible vistas that the world of Remember Me has to offer. Nilin’s naiveté as she stumbles to recover from her amnesia seems well written in regards to the pace of how her thoughts of trying discover who she was, and what kind of person she becomes as events unfold. Most of the supporting characters, however, don’t share the same quality of presentation or personality, but it doesn’t harm the experience too much. The concept of memories being the core of everything that drives the world feels organic to the construct of the setting. The particular mechanic of memory remixing, where you change certain events with one someone’s memory to completely alter the outcome and premise of it in order to manipulate the game’s real-world events is the most fascinating and innovative thing that Remember Me has to offer.

It’s just a shame that the fiction and interesting concept of the story is weighed down from the shitty performance of the mechanics that drive the experience.

As a game, Remember Me is painfully average at best when you’re not forced to make concessions for some of the glaring flaws in how plays out (especially during the first half of the game). As a story, though, I recommend giving it a shake, as there are moments where the characterization and concepts that take apart of work into making the game a lot more enjoyable. If you’re not willing to make this compromise and expect to play a great action game, then Remember Me is not that game, and you should just move on.

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