Remember Me Review
How much you’ll ultimately enjoy DONTNOD Entertainment’s Remember Me very much depends on how you feel about linear games in general. As for me, I enjoy linear games greatly; having a predefined progression of events means that both the characters and story can develop in a much more focused way. Open-world games, on the other hand, often flail around, forced by their openness to be written generically. They inevitably fail to include worthwhile characters or stories because of this. Linear games are the ones capable of delivering those knockout moments that cling to your memory, but this of course comes at the price of spontaneity and choice, elements that open-world games tend to have in spades. For those looking for the freedom to do whatever you want, Remember Me isn’t for you, but know that passing up this game means missing out on a one-of-a-kind experience.
As strange as it may seem to say after calling the game a one-of-a-kind experience, gameplay in Remember Me will feel very familiar to anyone who’s played Arkham Asylum/City and Assassin’s Creed. The combat of the former and the climbing of the latter appear to have been inspirations, but both have been enhanced and bettered to the point where they take on their own identities; scaling walls and finding ways around obstacles proves to be a far smoother process than in Assassin’s Creed thanks to the simplified, intuitive controls, while combat plays like a more complex and feature-rich version of Rocksteady’s Arkham games. However, despite the similarities to those other games (which, it should be mentioned, never makes the game feel derivative), Remember Me really is completely unique. A large part of that is due to its incredible locations, music, and characters.
First, a note about the main character: when I first saw a gameplay trailer for this game, I was hugely skeptical. Female protagonists always seem to be undermined somehow, and I wasn’t exactly confident that she wouldn’t have to be rescued by some valiant male character at some point in the story. Even worse, I feared that she’d end up being unnecessarily victimized to elicit a cheap emotional reaction from the presumably-male player, which happens more often than you’d probably think. It’s sad, but female protagonists have been so butchered by the industry that it’s difficult to believe that anyone could succeed anymore.
That being said, Remember Me’s main character Nilin has become one of my favorite protagonists ever, male or female. She’s realistic, nuanced, and more capable than Jack Bauer on caffeine pills. She starts the game as an amnesiac, having had all of her memories taken from her, and this allows her (and by extension, the player) to see the zealotry of the game’s opposing sides with fresh eyes, a perspective that twists and changes as the story progresses. The changes in her character are subtle and realistically reflect the events happening around her, and these are often communicated through facial expressions that are unusually spectacular; games with great graphics typically stumble on the facial animations, either looking too overdone (LA Noire) or just plain weird (Witcher 2), but Remember Me’s characters are capable of expressing a wide array of emotions through their facial animations without ever looking strange or unnatural for it.
The music contributes heavily to the game’s atmosphere, and though it’s constantly making you aware of how incredible it is, it’s typically at its most noticeable in combat. I’ll get more into the music later, but wanted to point it out so that you pay attention to it when you watch the next few embedded videos.
The videos are of combat, so I first want to explain how combat actually works to give you an idea of what’s happening: there are several combos with predefined input sequences, such as punch-kick-kick-punch-kick-kick, and performing them is a matter of timing. You’re even able to continue performing them after dodging if you’re fast enough, which lends a great deal of fluidity to the whole system. Now, Nilin uses fighting moves called “pressens,” and they come in four varieties that are represented on the screen by a color: one is a power pressen that does extra damage (red), one heals her (yellow), one reduces the cooldown of her special abilities (purple), and the last one mirrors the last input but amplifies the effect (blue). That probably makes it sound more complicated than it is, so here’s an example: for the punch-kick-kick-punch-kick-kick combo, you can set the first punch to heal Nilin, the following kick to amplify that healing, the next kick to be a powerful attack that does extra damage, and the rest to cool down her special abilities.
You only have so many pressens, but you unlock more as you play, and this allows you to come up with more creative combos. For example, early on you may be limited to a few power pressens, but as you progress and unlock more and more, you’ll suddenly find yourself able to come up with combos that do an insane amount of damage and heal you. The video above stands as an example of why this is important: there’s a special type of enemy you face later on in the game who damages you when you attack him, so having one of your combos set up to heal you means offsetting that damage and staying alive. Since you can have multiple combos at once, you end up being able to use different combos for different enemies, and combat ends up having a surprising amount of depth for it. It also manages to make enemy encounters incredibly fun, as you can clearly see in the videos below:
The only downside to combat is that there are occasional QTE sequences (shown in the first embedded video on this page). These are rare and only occur during the game’s periodic boss fights, but they’re made especially troublesome by the fact that they don’t just tell you which key/button to press. “Punch,” “kick,” “use,” and “jump” all get represented by icons that can pop up during QTEs, and distinguishing between them can be difficult at first since associating the symbol with the correct input takes a little getting used to. All things considered, though, they’re not too difficult: I was able to take screenshots during them and succeed (eventually, at least) without getting too frustrated. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to get frustrated at the QTEs, because you’re given the chance to try again and again until you succeed. Should you fail the QTE and die soon after, you can find comfort in knowing that the game autosaves frequently and always at the right time; even if you die in combat, you’ll never be sent too far back. In fact, I should probably mention that I died in a boss fight at one point and was able to restart mid-fight.
Another thing I should probably mention while I’m on the subject of potential flaws is that the game’s highly-touted “memory remix” feature is severely underused. For those who didn’t follow this game up to release, the memory remix is when Nilin gets into someone’s memory and changes the events to alter the way the person thinks. The memory first plays out in real time, and then you’re given the ability to fast-forward and rewind it to find “memory glitches,” which are small elements of the scene you can change. Only a certain combination produces the desired effect necessary to move on, but that doesn’t really change the fact that it’s a lot of fun to experiment with random combinations. The problem is that you’re only able to do this four times in the entire game, and one of those four memories you can remix is a repeat of an earlier one (but in someone else’s mind). It’s a really fun feature, and it’s a shame to see it so underutilized, but if you go into the game knowing that you’ll only be able to use it when the story calls for its use, you probably won’t mind its rarity. Honestly, the game is great enough without it to where its absence didn’t detract from my enjoyment, but anyone who’s looking forward to that feature will inevitably be disappointed.
Now that I’m officially out of things that could be perceived as flaws, it’s time to talk about the locations that help make this game feel completely unique. It is, after all, only a few minutes into the game that you’re exposed to Remember Me’s incredibly beautiful, futuristic world full of people. The game may be linear, but its world feels alive and “lived in,” nonetheless. Random characters will occasionally comment on your attire or have conversations among themselves that can be eavesdropped on, and while none of this is particularly innovative, there are enough characters around to blow other cyberpunk-ish worlds away; I’ve played through many games that have tried to create future dystopias, but all of them felt completely empty, as though their developers felt that a future setting was an excuse for having worlds where city populations hover around 15 or so people. The bustling city areas full of random people may just be an illusion, but it’s a convincing one. It could even be said that the crowds of strangers and their change as Nilin acts upon the world are a character unto themselves.
Remember Me’s world may be a dystopia full of garbage and graffiti, but all of this combines to create some truly lovely areas. I simply can’t overstate how great the graphics are, and yet they’re only the smallest part of why the game’s locations are so overwhelmingly pretty; from the high-class areas to the lowliest slums, the art design is perfect. I don’t throw words like that around often, but it’s completely warranted in this case: every location in the entire game has its own distinct identity, and it’s obvious that they’ve all been meticulously crafted. Each area manages to be wonderfully colorful and picturesque to the point where I can confidently state that there’s not a single place in the game that’s not pretty—the graffiti gives the lower-class areas a distinct appeal, the upper-class areas tend to be cleaner, and even the prison manages to be be a beautiful place thanks to the game’s great lighting. If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you probably know that I’m not a graphics whore at all—that is, after all, why I typically talk about the graphics at the end of reviews—but everything about Remember Me’s graphics, from its environments to its characters designs and overall art design, stunned me. Midway through the game, you find yourself in a level with rain, and as Nilin progresses through this level, she becomes wetter and wetter until she has wet hair sticking against her forehead. Even her clothes become wetter from the rain. You’ll notice the attention to small details like that, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself walking slowly through areas to fully take them in. It’s easily one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played.
I can’t say enough about the music, either. It’s so unusual and unlike the kind of stuff developers usually put in their games that it blew me away over and over again as I played; every time I thought I had heard everything the game had to offer, I noticed another song playing in the background that made me slow down and listen, and this happened more times than I could even count. Some of it is reminiscent of Yoko Kanno’s work for Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (in the best of ways), while other tracks are simplistic, moody synth pieces. Perhaps the most interesting of all is the style you’ll first hear when you get to the main menu: it sounds like a lovely orchestral movie soundtrack got thrown into a blender with The Glitch Mob, and these tracks in particular suit the game’s glitchy, technology-centric aesthetic perfectly. Taking the soundtrack as a whole, it’s truly the kind of music you could put on an iPod and listen to on repeat for hours on end.
Here’s what you should do: