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Remember Me [2013 -- Dontnod Entertainment]

Started by Starfox, Mar 24, 2023, 12:47 AM

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Originally published on August 23, 2013

This game was promising, at least its what I thought after reading a bit of the story. And this story is quite original. Unfortunately if there's one thing Remember Me successfully demonstrates it's that in a game both the story and the gameplay are important to build a success. It doesn't matter how good one of these is if you bore your audience to death with the other.

The year is 2084, the town is Neo-Paris (France). The story evolves around a technology that was developed twenty years before the game begins, the Sensen. This technology allows for digitization of memories for the purpose of sharing them with (or selling them to) others in what is considered as the ultimate step in the evolution of social networks. Like a lot of technologies this one was soon perverted to serve the needs of the financially powerful. The player's avatar for this game is a young woman going by the name Nilin. She's the member of the Errorist, a subversive organization fighting against the abusive use of the Sensen technology. As the game begins she was arrested by the authorities and had her whole memory wiped clean. The chief of the Errorist movement, a guy nicknamed Edge, manages to contact her before some final damage is done and allows her to escape. From now on, Nilin intends to continue fighting the system and to recover her memories in the process. Nilin is what is called a "Memory Hunter". She's able not only to directly interface with other people's brains to steal their memories but also to rewrite them and that's a unique and quite vaunted feature of the game which appeared once again, very engaging. Changing people memories to alter their perception of the reality and push them to adopt a behavior they wouldn't have otherwise. That certainly offers some gameplay possibilities.

Such a promising debut... Alas, the promise falls quite short. Instead of capitalizing on what new things Remember Me could bring to the table, and probably wanting to play it safe to please their main target audience (consoles), the French from DONTNOD Entertainment  just engaged in a series of the worst gameplay cliches that was done and redone and... well, let's just say Noah was probably already playing with that kind of gameplay while constructing his arch. Yeah, so I'm exaggerating about Noah but imagine a cross between Beyond Good And Evil (BG&E), Mirror's Edge, several Iterations of Tomb Raider and a pinch of Assassin's Creed... and that's just some of the titles that came to my mind at mid-game. When I refer to those titles, I only talk about the gameplay of course. The game universe and settings of Remember Me are quite unique but the gameplay itself is painfully common (and painfully boring) "hit buttons repeatedly in the correct order and with the correct timing to perform combos and kill waves of enemies that behave like gazillions of other enemies you probably fought in other games and of course, kill the mandatory end level boss by using a devious tactic known as "hit them where it hurts". And yes, between the fights you'll have to jump/climb/jump/climb/go lateral/vertical/down/up/in reverse in a way that Lara Croft would definitely applaud as would do the girl from Mirror's Edge.

And don't get me wrong, none of the games I quote as example of gameplay features are bad, but they are not especially "unique" right now (although each could have been deemed unique in its own time). And so what about the "memory altering" or "remixing" sequences that were so vaunted... At mid game I only had performed two, a grand total of four by the end of the game. So much for the unique experience.

But that's not the worst. No the worst about Remember Me is that the gameplay is so numbing by its repetitiveness and its quite senseless brutality (especially with bosses) that it manages to make you forget that there is a story buried in here that is worth following.

Also I'm not a fan of forcing the player to go through hoops to unlock  pieces of information that serve to better understand the story. In the game you have a gallery of artwork that are locked at the beginning then gradually unlock during the story without the player having anything special to do for that. But important information that allows to better understand the game universe characters and story? They remain locked until the player find some ridiculously small pieces of memories called "mnesist" in the scenery. And if you miss one because... I don't know... you're too busy surviving a nth numbing fight, the corresponding info will remain locked until you replay the chapter (or Episode as they call it -- it's so Half-Life) where the mnesist is located.

I'm not fan either of the so called "stealth" sequences that are a direct copy/paste from another (much older) French production: Beyond Good And Evil (and boy, I really hated those parts of BG&E). For those who played BG&E back in the days, remember how Jade was crouching during stealth sequences and how you had to avoid the spotting rays of detections systems, especially drones? Same thing in Remember Me, Nilin crouches and the goal is to avoid the detection cones of drones that this time do not stand immobile. There's no multiple way either. You just have to follow the path and timing and occasionally use the devices that the developers intended. And like in BG&E if you are spotted... instant death. It's truly the poorest form of stealth mechanic one can ever conceive. Garrett (the old one that is) is looking down on Remember Me and slowly swings his head in affliction or facepalm.  And as the developers really did seem to enjoy the principle, you'll get a lot of that during the game which after a while gives you the feeling to be a lab rat in a labyrinth following the only route designed by a mad scientist. Flexibility is not the word here.

And while we're on the subject of gameplay... get a controller... seriously. This game plays like a console product, so much that even if you're not used to controllers you'll find the gameplay a hundred times easier with one rather than the normal keyboard/mouse combo.

But well, enough about the bad stuff. Good one? As I already said, the story is original and well written, the game universe well designed and unique enough picturing a 2084 Paris that has almost nothing in common with the Paris I know (I don't even remember seeing the Eiffel Tower as a matter of fact... Paris without the Eiffel Tower, like in the pre-1890 era... that's a disturbing thought -- edit: actually the Eiffel Tower is there but kinda subdued and I didn't noticed her at first). However it's rather difficult to understand how Paris got that way because most of the info is locked in the little pieces of memory (mnesists) hidden everywhere that one can easily miss. There was a civilian war apparently... or a revolution... or something, combined with the use of "Tremora" bombs (bombs that artificially generate earthquakes). Why the war happened exactly is totally unclear though.

Anyway... What truly makes the uniqueness of this game is the "altering memories" gameplay concept -- or "remixing" as it is called in game. So how does that work? Basically the player is presented with a scene representing the memory of an individual. This scene plays as the individual remembers it but obviously the player's goal is to "rearrange" the scene so that the end result of the memory is different. for instance if someone tries to kill your character for a particular motive you might want to rewrite their memory so the said motive does not apply anymore. To "remix" a memory, one has to alter different elements (like a table, a weapon, an oxygen mask... and other things) so that the memory plays differently. To that purpose you rewind and advance the memory "movie" until you can locate glitches. Those glitches are elements not clearly remembered and that you can use to modify the memory starting with the oldest one. The trick is to find what sequence of glitches will have the desired effect. There's no time limit so one is free to experiment at leisure until one finds the correct sequence. Once it is done correctly, the person who wanted to kill Nilin and who had their memory remixed will not remember why they wanted to kill her and might even change their focus to her enemy, effectively becoming her ally.

Unfortunately, this unique feature of Remember Me is underused while the much more BG&E-like "stealth" sequences are overused.

To sum up, Remember Me is a brilliant story, accompanied by interesting level design and environment yet almost crushed by a repetitive gameplay composed mainly of some furious "button mashing" that the couple of original gameplay ideas dropped in here and there cannot manage to salvage. What could have been a true gem find its awesome points almost exactly balanced by the boring ones... A true shame.

Still, the game has its merit and if you can manage to forget the gameplay -- or at least to not let it bother you too much, it is worth a try.

Guess what it means!