(Xbox 360 Review) Remember Me

Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Action / Platforming
Players: 1
ESRB: Mature
Reviewer: George Damidas

Overall: 7.5 = Good

In 2084, memories are a commodity. The Neo Paris-based corporation Memorize controls Sensen, one of the most profitable—and dangerous—technologies that the world has ever known. With their software, and the ubiquitous interfaces found at the back of every citizen’s neck, customers can share, buy, or sell memories. Not everyone is happy with the status quo, however, and a clandestine activist group known as the Errorists is out to topple Memorize. The group is led by Edge, an unseen revolutionary who exerts his influence through his technical know-how and an army of agents. The Errorists see that the world is turning in on itself, as people not only distract themselves to the point of obsequiousness to Memorize but also to the point of physical deformity and mental instability.

The player is Nilin, a former memory hunter and Errorist agent who was caught by Memorize’s private police force and turned over for a forced memory wipe. She faces the worst punishment because she was the best of the memory hunters, and the only person known with the ability to spot and interact with memory glitches in order to remix events in her target’s mind. She was using her abilities for the Errorist cause when she was imprisoned, and her memory partially wiped. Before total deletion, Edge intervenes and takes her and the player on a journey throughout Neo Paris, from Slum 404 to the high-rise apartments of the elite, as he guides her to the group’s ultimate goal: Memorize’s central database.

Nilin slowly regains her memory throughout the game’s eight episodes, and her struggle to break Sensen’s hold on herself and the people unfolds a bittersweet tale of pain and loss. The story is one of the game’s strongest elements, with reveals coming at a steady beat right until the end. The theme of pain plays into the game’s larger narrative of a world succumbing to the temptations of a life lived without sorrow. People use Sensen without worrying about their slow mental and physical decline because they can just hide in happy memories, and this process has fed itself to the point where the gloss and grime of Neo Paris hide an even greater horror: the devolution of man. There is one weak link in the plot, however, and that is Edge. For all of his verbose and flowery rhetoric about the ills of the age, his single-note message is not only tiresome but borderline parodic. He has all the affectations of a mysterious revolutionary, referring to his agents as “comrades” and painting the struggle as a proletarian uprising, but it doesn’t stick—sand without lime. It also doesn’t help that his lines are delivered with all the conviction of a sulking teenager. Nilin, thankfully, calls him out on his persona, though not frequently enough; her relationship with him is often a strange one, with her voicing my concern as to why she should follow or trust him one moment, but then be totally in line with whatever weird plans he has the next. His story arc has a solid follow through, but that doesn’t negate his pervasive annoyance throughout most of the game.

Unlocking those missing chunks of her memory will require Nilin to battle a number of foes. She must not only fight Leapers, Sensen abusers who have turned into crazy semi-mutants, but also Memorize’s array of soldiers. Just as she slowly remembers who she is, she also gradually remembers just what she is capable of. As her old combat instincts kick in, players gain access to a rich and fairly unique combat system. Her trials of traversing the city by climbing up pipes, shimming across chasms, leaping from catwalks, and scaling walls will be punctuated by encounters that will require her to utilize everything she can remember. Her repertoire comes to include an energy-based firearm, the Spammer, a set of customizable combo strings, and special focus powers. Her five special powers unlock as she regains her memory, which allow her to turn robots against their controllers before self-destructing, plant logic bombs, speed up her attacks, cut off Sensen users’ interfaces, and turn invisible for half a minute to sneak behind an enemy and overload their interface. Each requires one bar of focus, which is earned by attacking and being attacked. While these are all helpful, especially the particularly cool-looking overload finisher, the meat and potatoes of combat are her melee combos and the Pressen powers they unleash.

Each enemy defeated nets Nilin the experience necessary for her to unlock Pressens. These are button-specific attacks that fit within a set of combo-string templates. There are four Pressen types (power, regeneration, focus, and cooldown) and four combo strings. Of the four combo strings, two begin with X and two begin with Y, and each consists of a different number of attacks: three, five, six, and eight, respectively. Each subsequent attack in the templates, after the set starter attack, can be fitted with any unlocked Pressen of the same button type. Each Pressen has three X attacks and three Y attacks, and each is assignable to only one string at a time. This allows for a great degree of customization, despite there only being four combo templates, as each attack string can include different or identical types. Combat can get pretty tough due to varied enemies attacking in groups, and often in waves, so players will need to be willing to adapt to avoid being overwhelmed. For example, a Memorize soldier who sports an electrically charged suit that damages attackers on impact can kill Nilin if she doesn’t use a combo that includes a health-regenerating Pressen attack. The lack of either a parry or block mechanic means that it is essential to come to grips with the controls in order to properly dodge attacks, and to continually attack with the optimal combos. Being willing to switch up combo proficiencies will be the difference between nail-biting finishes and controller-gripping restarts.

On the whole, combat is satisfying, as melee attacks have a satisfying weight to them while Nilin’s cat-like agility adds a nice dose of kinetic energy. It does have two pitfalls, however: the camera and the controls. The camera can be maneuvered however the player wishes, but it often defaults to angles that aren’t conducive to a system that requires such precise timing. Encounters often occur indoors, and the rooms and hallways that play host to the fisticuffs can limit the view to the point where all that can be seen are masses of flailing limbs. Enemies tend to engage one or two at a time, but the mass of them huddle around Nilin as often as possible, which makes it difficult to follow what’s going on, even with the red exclamation icon indicating an incoming blow. Making things trickier is the fact that there is a slight lag in the controls, which I believe is the developers’ attempt to emulate momentum. If the analog stick is slowly pushed forward, then Nilin will begin to walk slowly after about a quarter of a second. However, if the stick is quickly pushed all the way forward and released, she doesn’t begin walking until the stick is nearly recentered. What this means is that players must always make allowance for some give, whether it’s when jumping across pits from one labeled interactive object to another—it’s possible to jump too late even when on solid ground—or sustaining combo strings. Pressens are only engaged as long as combos are continued, and this is only done when the next attack is inputted right before the current attack lands. Trying to properly time the attacks is difficult because of the slight delay, but it is even more so whenever the camera is in a poor position or obfuscated by enemies; it’s hard to know when to launch an attack when all that’s visible is the back of a shoulder or the side of a head. Timing remains an issue even when the camera is in a good spot, and I frequently had my combos break despite seemingly spot-on timing. Small graphical and audio cues engage whenever an attack hits or misses to make combat more fluid, but they are often lost in the chaos, which forces the player’s attention towards the combo bar at the bottom of the screen too often. There is a rhythm to the combat system that develops over time, and it is incredibly enthralling once it hits, but it’s far too elusive.

The last move in Nilin’s arsenal is also her most potent: remixing memories. There are only a handful of these puzzles, which shows some remarkable restraint on Dontnod’s part because these are really interesting. Some situations require a more cerebral touch, and it’s at these moments that Nilin forces her way into a target’s mind and alters their memories. Players watch a scene play out and then fast forward and rewind through it in order to find glitches, instances where objects can be manipulated. This might be knocking a cup off of a table, cracking a window, or breaking a strap. After altering an object, the scene then plays out with that change in effect. These aren’t true brain teasers, but they do require some thought as messing with everything, or the wrong object, might have unintended consequences, such as the death of the target or an unexpected positive outcome. Playing through these scenes was a genuine treat, as they not only did a wonderful job in breaking up the platforming-combat sequences but were incredibly effective in demonstrating why Nilin is considered such a threat. And truth be told, I actually felt like a jerk in some cases.

By the end, it’s hard not to wish for more of Nilin and Neo Paris. The worlds Dontnod created, both the physical city and the more ethereal world of memories, are beautiful to behold and beg to be explored. Despite copious amounts of platforming, the game is very linear, with the few side alleys leading disappointing dead-ends, or to force or health upgrades left by Errorist agents. That’s not a fault of the game but an acknowledgement of how interesting it is. Remember Me displays an incredible amount of potential, and I hope to see Nilin return in a more grand adventure in the future.

Remember Me is a solid action-platformer that manages to achieve something rare in the action genre, and that’s to actually be interesting. The game is by no means perfect, with some episodes weaker than others and some encounters being too much of a slog, but in the end, it’s an enjoyable sci-fi-fused exploration into an intriguing theme with a unique character set in an engaging world. Action and sci-fi fans should give it a look.

(This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher.)

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