Remember Me Review
Remember Me tried to be something it unfortunately isn’t. …that may be the worst opening sentence for any review I’ve ever written, but it sprang to mind, word for word, after playing Dontnod Entertainment’s new game. Therefore, it’s fitting. It also drives me nuts. When something has such great ambition, and when it presents the player with singular, fantastic ideas, one assumes it succeeds on a number of levels. But when these great ideas aren’t developed enough, we find ourselves going— “wait…but…that was cool, why is it so boring now?”
Graphically, the latest from Capcom excels in a general sense. Essentially, it’s the atmosphere and nuances that work hard to enhance our immersion and enjoyment. The futuristic city of Paris is intriguing and flashy, and many characters feature solid detail. The protagonist, Nilin, is well drawn and most of her animations are smooth and properly executed. But the nuts and bolts of the presentation, that which comprises the actual foundation, aren’t especially impressive. It’s just doesn’t qualify as a technical tour de force, although it aspires to be something more. Aspiring without quite achieving; that’s the crux of Remember Me.
The sound is somewhat less accomplished, even though the acting is decent and the soundtrack is well orchestrated. The effects leave a little something to be desired, and some of the voices come across as less than professional. More could’ve been done with that interesting score, too. There just aren’t enough compelling musical pieces to keep us entranced by the imaginative world around us. As for the effects, they slip into a repetitive, generic mishmash of smacks and thuds when involved in combat, and that’s disappointing. For the most part, the technical elements, while definitely passable, just don’t live up to expectations.
The developers put forth a variety of mind-tickling concepts, such as how our memory works, how it dictates our lives and our very identities, and what the future might be like if our digital wizardry could impact memory. The adventure even has a great title. The only problem is that such these concepts aren’t really reflected in the gameplay. They just tell us the story via long, often overdone cut-scenes. As a result, we never really feel emotionally connected to what should be a pretty emotional and dramatic plot. The closest I felt to the story was when I participated in the Memory Remixes, which I found enjoyable and challenging.
These sequences allow Nilin to invade the memories of an unwitting individual. You don’t actually move Nilin around; you effectively rewrite history through a puzzle-based trial and error process. For instance, you must alter the environment in some way so a particular event doesn’t occur. I don’t mind trial and error gameplay and I always appreciate innovative attempts to redefine how we view interactive entertainment. I really liked how connected I felt to the experience, and reveled in the power to change a life – or in truth, many lives – by making small, seemingly inconsequential alterations to the past. There just aren’t enough of these Remixes.
The rest of the game involves some bland platforming and only mildly entertaining combat. Nilin is an agile, ultimately effective fighter, and she has access to several wicked cool abilities. When utilized correctly, those skills allow Nilin to dispatch large groups of enemies with relative ease. It’s just nowhere near as enticing as it sounds, as you end up using the same combos over and over again, and most of the enemies are completely unremarkable. You do have to use some strategy, though, and the Combo Lab is a big bonus. In fact, along with the Remix sequences, the Lab is one of the biggest highlights of the game.
Not only can you construct combos that inflict more damage, you can also create combinations that actually regenerate health or cool down one of your super powerful moves. For instance, those combos that use Regen Pressens restore a little health with every successful attack. You also have to experiment with the system to make combos that deal with particularly difficult enemies. But again, much like everything else, this feature starts to lose its luster all too soon. It’s not anywhere near as deep as you might imagine because once you’ve found a set of combos that work for any given situation, you’re done. No real need to do more.
The S-Pressens, those super powerful attacks that are best saved for special foes, add a bit of flavor to the fighting. The rest of it just falls into a repetitive jumble of attacking and dodging. The control isn’t overly precise, either, and the camera isn’t always 100% cooperative. And when you’re not engaged in combat with more faceless opponents, you’re “exploring” Paris via platforming. “Exploring” is in quotations because this remains a very linear experience and you basically have to go where the game tells you to go. Actually, the platforming is one of the more irritating aspects of Remember Me, and for several unfortunate reasons.
Firstly, while I don’t have a big issue with platforming made easy (i.e., a little automatic assistance when jumping), the assistance here is overkill. You just can’t possibly make a mistake. You can miss by a little or even a lot, and Nilin will still make it. Sometimes, it’s comical to watch the game magically pull you to a position you never would’ve hit in a million years if the game left you to your own devices. Then you’ve got these absurdly bright orange arrows telling you where to go all the time. Direction in games should be subtle, like the light yellow shading on climb-able parts in the Uncharted games. Direction shouldn't ever dominate the screen.
The bottom line is simple, really— the developers didn’t do enough with the concepts and ideas. You can’t see enough of what might’ve been an exquisite city, far too much generic gameplay bogs down the potential for innovation and nothing is as dynamic as it initially appears. The Combo Lab, the fighting mechanic, and even the Memory Remixes just don’t deliver in the way you hoped they would. Great ideas can only get you so far; it’s the execution that ultimately matters. Dontnod laid the foundation but didn’t finish the deal. It’s like erecting a solid yet boring ranch house on a foundation designed for a five-star hotel.
Remember Me aims high but sadly falls well shy of the intended goal. There aren’t any glaring glitches or errors; it’s just unimpressive and too generic from a gameplay standpoint. Nothing ever seems to come to fruition. The story isn’t bad at all and there are glimpses of some truly fantastic storytelling, but that’s all we get…glimpses. A lot more could’ve been done with most every segment of the gameplay, as entertaining as it can be, and the platforming is dull and even annoying. It’s a thought-provoking dystopia on the surface and there is fun to be had, but delving beneath that surface yields little satisfaction. It's really too bad.
The Good: Good background design. An interesting story with a cool protagonist. Memory Remix sequences are unique and well constructed. Solid control. Very ambitious overall.
The Bad: Generic sound effects. Platforming is bland and way too hand-hold-y. Repetitive combat. Combo Lab isn’t as dynamic as anticipated. Great ideas that are never fully realized.
The Ugly: “It’s always hard to see such great ambition fall so short, because you know the designers really reached for the stars.”
6/4/2013 Ben Dutka