Reviewing a game always comes with some degree of time pressure. We can pretend it doesn’t, but it does. Even with no official deadline, it’s sometimes hard to just play a game at your own pace. Bit bored? Tough. Stuck on a boss? No time for a breather – and so on.
I didn’t review Remember Me when it originally came out in 2013, but the game has been sat in my PlayStation + collection for a while now and I finally got around to playing it over the last few weeks. Some days I’d play for twenty minutes, others it would effortlessly pull me in for hours.
So, I thought: just because the promos, reviews and walkthroughs have been and gone, doesn’t mean we should just forget about games. So it makes sense to start talking about our experiences with games after distancing ourselves from the pressure of reviews or the hype train that can derail the experience of a new game we’re playing when compared to the one we were promised.
So Remember Me, which one’s that? A blunt summary: Third-person action game set in Neo-Paris in 2084. It stars Nilin, a female lead who specialises in melee combat, light platforming, oh and remixing people’s memories in order to make them believe past events occurred differently.
The memory remixes were one of the reasons the game caught so much initial buzz. Essentially, you rewind and fast-forward through a memory and look for ‘glitches’ to expose in order to alter events in the hope they’ll lead to drastically different end results. So maybe a person believes a loved one died (when they really didn’t). Playing around with these memories was a fun experience, but it was disappointing to only see about five sessions for this over the whole game. When factored into the game’s running time, it came down to a series of all too brief intermissions.
There’s enormous potential for someone to take Dontnod’s ideas for the combat and well, make it much better. I loved the idea of a combo editor, especially seeing as using the same moves over and over in games like God of War or ThugTwatter XXV can get seriously irritating. But the combo editor turned out to be a misleading term as the button inputs for combos are locked down. There are four or five combos to unlock, but the only thing that you can edit is the effects of each button. You can choose power, health regen, special meter regen or an enhancement to any of the former.
That said, considering the need to balance the special meter and Nilin’s health I found it to be an effective system. While initially limited to what Pressens (a strike’s properties) to choose from, before long I was able to load them up with strikes that would ensure most hits rebuilt my health. After I got the hang of the rather plodding combo timing I was able to act a little bolder and swap them out for Pressens focussed on extra damage. So in that respect, there is more depth than meets the eye to the combat system. That doesn’t mean I don’t want someone to give me a full combo editor that essentially lets me choose the order of buttons and what moves to activate. Come on ‘next-gen’ have at it!
The lasting memories from Remember Me aren’t going to be the memory remixes or the fighting though, it’s going to be the sights and sounds. The Neo-Paris of 2084 is like a grimier version of Mirror’s Edge with a dash of Blade Runner’s fondness for neon advertising. Environments chop and change from polished glass skyscrapers with fashionable districts of opulent shops and restaurants in some areas, to run down areas reminiscent of Max Payne 3’s favelas. The stark contrasts between districts is more than a little evocative of Final Fantasy VII’s Midgar too and the flooding scene in Remember Me certainly brought the comparison even closer when you compare it the destruction of a lower district in Square’s classic RPG.
The music is integral to the visuals too and is often beautifully matched to the pitched emotional scenes or when emerging from a sewer to yet another gobsmacking skyline of Neo-Paris as you slowly pan the camera around to soak it all in. The grandiosity of a full orchestral score is something rarely heard in games as the combination of strings and horns, that add a terrific rush to the game’s events, are usually reserved for your larger sci-fi action movies.
I’m less keen on some of the fight-scene music that purposefully inputs ‘glitching’ noises, perhaps to emphasise some of the game’s digital chaos philosophy – I understand what they were aiming for, but it’s just too rough on the ears.
The further into the story you get, as you listen to Nilin reflect on the pieces of the puzzle (her memory) that are starting to come together more, I suddenly realised I was hooked in after a slow start. The scenes with Scylla and the figure at the story’s conclusion are remarkably emotional and well-written too. I’ll not go into further detail, in-case you fancy playing the game for yourself. Someone at Dontnod clearly has some writing skills though and I’m especially looking forward to getting stuck into their new episodic adventure, Life is Strange.
The ‘final boss’ was a slight miss-step and felt bundled in seemingly, because well, games like this have final bosses. Just beforehand, the story seemed to be winding up quite naturally and I was hoping it would just end right there. It wouldn’t have had been an explosive ending, but I felt the extended revelations that put all the pieces of the puzzle together had enough gravity to them to end on. So after finishing off the last battle, I’ve decided to take away more from the events just before. If I was to play through Remember Me again, I might even stop just before that final boss, because why not? How you play your games and how you remember them is totally up to you after all.