Title: Remember Me
-Beautifully detailed environments
-Uniquely interesting, psychologically
powerful and captivating storyline
-Personally customisable upgrades
-Fight scenes are fun
-Nice, digitally inspired musical score
-Camera angels can occasionally
-Controls take a while to learn
-Limited availability to exploration
-Vast quantity of hints take away
from one’s general enjoyment
Rating (out of 10): 8.5
Summary: A character oriented, powerfully gripping sci-fi oriented title with a terrific, lead female protagonist who pushes the narrative forward until the very end.
This particular review is based upon my experience with the XBOX360 version.
‘My name is Nilin, and this time, you will remember me.’
Female protagonists; in movies they are a dime a dozen. It isn’t everyday a warrior woman comes blasting through the doors, but in games, every so often a woman of unfathomable grace comes exploding through the screen with unparalleled charisma, potential and power. Remember Me’s ‘Nilin’ is certainly soon to join the ranks of these prior heroines. Unlike the stereotypical dragon slayer, Nilin exhibits emotions. She does not like the idea of innocents being caught between her and her target; she feels empathy towards others, and she is concerned whether her actions are helping those around her or if she is simply another antagonist. This alone makes her an incredibly well rounded character that you immediately begin to enjoy playing as. Of course, the fact she can take on a large group of fighters all at once and get out reasonably uninjured and is additionally a gorgeous minx with the body of an hour glass does not hurt her alluring appeal either.
I apologise if I come off sounding like a sex crazed loon – that is not my intent. So often in games, female characters are objectified as sex symbols. Take Angie from Psychotoxic for instance – she spends the game running around flaunting her thong. This decision by the developers takes away from the experience when portraying a certain character. In the games industry, often female characters are visualised as being unable to acquire the same large audiences as games where males play the lead role. Epic Games for instance back in March admitted that they would never have the leading protagonist in any Gears of War game be a heroine. Adjunctively, according to online sources, it has been speculated that Dontnod Entertainment had some difficulty attempting to acquire a distributor for Remember Me as it was doubted that the game could acquire such a mass audience, with the review on Gamespot going so far as to say that Nilin was focused upon too much, which prevented the other characters from coming to life. Many of these characters are men, and in this particular title the men take the back seat whilst Nilin drives the narrative forward.
After each Episode (level), Nilin reminisces over what has happened thus far and thinks about the ramifications of her choices and the kind of person that she is. In most games the player shoots first and never contemplates the consequences of their decisions or the loss of their humanity from taking another life, which is a major difference about Nilin; she does. This vulnerability of hers is perfect at showing her humanity. True, she is a hero and there is the expectation that she is to be big and strong, but she also comes off as the kind of young women you could totally be BFF’s with. This assists with her becoming such a likable and very understandable character, for the player does not just see her physical appearance, but her emotional interior as well, and it is very enjoyable to watch such a real character coming to life before one’s eyes.
Nilin herself, although as previously mentioned is physically beautiful, her physicality is not what is focused upon. Many other games seem quite misogynistic when developing women as pure sex objects, whereas Nilin is fully clothed. Sure, her cleavage is partially visible, but unlike in many games where a woman’s breasts stick out from her chest like two cannons on a pirate’s ship, in Remember Me, the lead female protagonist is not exactly flat chested, but her lady parts are not the focus of what draws the gamer to admire her so – it is her character as a woman; her emotion; her charisma; her attitude. The actress who voices Nilin, Kezia Burrows, does a fabulous job at bringing the character to life, but her mannerisms also assist with this. When she is splashed with water, Nilin sighs and grunts, throwing the water off her body and wiping it from her face. She shields her eyes from fire and she looks behind her when running from enemies as to know exactly where they are. She gasps and sighs in all the right places and when she is anxious she reassures herself ; ‘okay, get up Nilin! You can do this!’ These small aspects make her so much more human, and although I will admit that games are simply designed to entertain, sometimes sheer action is not enough to do just that. Sometimes a person can be as entertaining as an action scene, and Nilin herself is a real pleasure to watch and control throughout the entire experience.
Okay, first things first; Remember Me is powered by the Unreal Engine. I don’t know about others, but I on occasion cringe when this is revealed to me. Either, the graphics are going to be really good (Mass Effect, Bioshock) or they’re not (Gears of War (1), Singularity). Luckily, Remember Me is the former, rather than the latter. The cinematics often move from Nilin walking into a new environment to broadly showing the entire region in all of its futuristic appeal. Towering skyscrapers, large flying ships and intricate holographic advertisements are just some of the marvelously detailed creations the player will bear witness to, each of which is beautifully conceived, showing the impeccable vision that is Neo Paris 2084 in all of its glory.
The characters too are well detailed, especially their clothes, which look amazing upon each of the individuals, whether they have a pivotal role to play or are simply civilians you happen to walk by. The robots too that live amongst the humans are additionally well designed to such an extent you can see the detail in each and every one of their parts, from their wires to the metal casing that surround their exterior.
Walking near businesses and other such buildings and like places will cause holographic screens to immediately appear around you, articulating what the place is and what is on offer. The developers have gone to a great extent to make the player feel as though they are a part of the world, and by God they have done an amazing job at making the world welcome the player with open arms into the future.
Of course, although I have described how beautiful the future of Paris is, it ain’t exactly a Utopia. SENSEN, a massive monopoly in the future is in the business of memories; buying, selling, changing; you name it. This here is the most lucrative venture in the future. Memories are knowledge which in itself is power, and SENSEN dominates it all. A person can for instance purchase a happy memory rather than living it, and happy memories can be stolen just as easily. A world where your thoughts; your feelings; everything you are is free to the highest bidder? Now that is something else entirely!
Errorists on the other hand are a small group of people fighting to keep their memories to themselves and to bring SENSEN to its knees. These people seek to remove the unjustly error of creating such a tyrannical business. Nilin herself is one of them; one of the best as well.
The game begins with her memories unfortunately being sucked right out from her skull. The sound of her screaming in excruciating agony as her brain is wiped of all knowledge is almost too much to bear as shudders no doubt run up and down your spine. The game itself is not violent in the sense that blood is sprayed across the walls; all of it is psychological. People plead for their lives as you go to rip into their minds; people scream as their brains implode from the inside. This game may not be in your face violent, but it certainly ain’t for the faint of heart either. Today we live in a world where our thoughts and memories are sacred, but the very idea that they are not and can be stolen is unbelievably frightening, and the developers cash in on this particular ideology.
The opening cinematic of Nilin losing her memories immediately causes the player to feel a great deal of sympathy towards her. Although initially we do not know this young lady, we will be playing as her and almost feel her pain as our own. She stumbles out of her cell, being led down the hall, told that her pain has only just begun and there is one final process to completely eradicate all of her thoughts that she is yet to experience. Nilin is forced into a queue and is then made to watch as people have their final thoughts sucked out, their screams ricocheting about the halls.
Safe to say not everything goes according to plan, with Edge, the brother of Nilin contacting her and efficaciously assisting her to break out. With little knowledge of her surrounds, the player and Nilin form a quick attachment, for neither of us know anything about the city, who we are, or what we are supposed to do, which further helps us adjust to her as not just a character, but as a human being. Nilin is initially scared and freaked out beyond belief, and although it is not typical to see the heroine losing it, this moment works unbelievably well.
Nilin however cannot be too freaked for long because soon enough she needs to get dirty. Although Nilin lost all knowledge of her fighting skills and her abilities, she is a fast learner and can adequately reacquire them. At the beginning of the game Nilin is unfathomably weak, and the combat scenes seem a bit of a drag – they take time to complete and the fact that the keys take a while to learn additionally doesn’t help matters. Nilin’s health is unfathomably low and if you are anything like me, you feel as though Nilin will be unsuccessful initially in the first few fights. In fact at one point a cinematic causes Nilin to lose most of her health and then forces her to go up against a good five combatants; not very fun!
Nilin as previously mentioned does reacquire her skills, which is only too good to be true! In the BACK menu, the player is able to enhance Nilin’s abilities. Her fighting skills come down to three separate flavors; damage, regenerate and recharge. Now, each attack does ‘damage’ per se, but the player is able to increase the overall efficiency of each attack. Regenerate on the other hand (Y in combat) will provide the player with a small boost to their health with each critical hit. Lastly, recharge provides an extra boost to Nilin’s abilities, enabling her to use them more often. A mandatory cooling down process is activated after each use, and by using the recharge ability, Nilin is able to quicken its pace.
During the game, the player is able to personally customise their abilities, to a certain degree of course, but they do have a little leeway denied in other games that strictly state ‘you must follow this particular upgrade tree.’ In Remember Me, the player can create their own. With each attack combo, the player is able to select what benefits Nilin will acquire. For instance, the player could create an attack that does ‘damage, regenerate, damage, recharge, recharge.’ There are a multitude of other options of course; this here is just an example.
These combos however are not quite as easy to perform, as one needs to remember which keys to press. One can always return to the skills screen to see what is needed to successfully pull off a particular combo. Nilin will still acquire the benefits of each key that is successfully hit in the appropriate order, however, as soon as the player hits the wrong one, a new combo immediately begins.
When Nilin’s abilities are used however, which is where the ‘recharge’ comes into it, none of this really matters. The player can more often than not press any key at any time depending on the power they have selected (only one can be used at any given time) and these do an unfathomable amount of reliable damage. When going up against groups of opponents, well, let’s just say they never stood a chance! When this happens, it is incredibly fun to watch for the enemies are basically helpless to even halter the attacks that Nilin devastates them with.
Nilin can increase her attacks effectiveness and decimate her opponents. She can toss in a grenade that will destroy enemy defenses, or she can render enemies temporally incapable of standing up for themselves, allowing her to attack them whilst ensuring they cannot fight back.
During combat, Nilin can flawlessly dodge out of an enemy’s reach (A), with the game alerting the player to an enemy’s attack before it takes place, giving them fair time to efficaciously move Nilin from one location to the next before she sustains damage. On top of this, Nilin can jump over her opponents, allowing her to continue her assault, or even her combo, on her opponent’s back, front or wherever she damn well pleases. Or, hell, she can just as easily jump to some new prey and inflict pain and suffering upon them too.
If this is not enough, Nilin can perform a devastating finishing touch (B) on some particular opponents that have been defeated, but not yet decimated. These often involve destroying one’s mind, and the player cannot help but cringe and smile at the exact same time as they watch enemy’s minds being invaded as Nilin thrusts her fist through their heads.
The issue with combat has nothing to do with how it is orchestrated, but more along the lines of how easy the scenes eventually become. As soon as the player becomes accustomed to the controls and Nilin begins to reacquire much of her old capabilities, she can smite her enemy with ease. Even when going up against a number of enemies at once, the chance of Nilin falling becomes less and less likely, which renders the originally challenging atmosphere moot.
However, even with this said, sometimes the game does go to the extreme, and the player finds themselves up against a large mass of bad guys. True, these scenes are not always terribly challenging, but on a few occasions you cannot help but stare in awe at the sheer amount of enemies the game has just thrown at you, and it’s even more ludicrous that the game expects you to survive. Of course, Nilin has to, but in reality, it is doubtful even a well trained militarian strike team would come out without a scratch.
Boss battles too are not genuinely terrible to face down, although all of them do originally appear incredibly powerful, each of which always presenting something new, not two battles being alike in nature. These battles often are a little time consuming as you attempt to discover the appropriate methodology needed to eradicate the threat, each boss being a fun challenge to decimate. Some bosses are best eliminated by being in close proximity to them as to keep from allowing such combatants the use their long range attacks, whilst others are the exact opposite, and it is best to keep as far away from them as possible until Nilin has the advantage of striking a vicious blow.
One part of the battles that is entertaining is that not every opponent can be efficaciously eliminated in the same manner as the last. Robots for instance can only be eliminated by blowing them into smithereens. On other occasions, some opponents carry shields that must initially be broken before the enemy themselves can be attacked, and other opponents are immune to all attacks until their defenses have been temporarily taken offline. Simply put, the player is forced to adjust to every fight differently, which keeps the fighting fresh and invigorating which ensures it does not become stale.
As entertaining as these fight scenes can be, and I am not denying that they often are very fun to fight through, the game often works best when it is not a pure fighting experience. There are a few occasions when it is just fight scene after fight scene after fight scene, and on a couple of those occasions I personally felt like saying ‘okay, enough is enough!’ More often than not I acquired more enjoyment when Nilin was evading security, climbing through areas or taking out a couple bad guys every so often, not when she was forced to go up against entire armies time after time.
However, moving back to the topic of complete and utter destruction, every opponent killed delivers points that unlock additional upgrades to help with combat performance. Additionally, there are bits and pieces of upgrades available across the world for one to acquire. Collecting five health upgrade devices will permanently provide Nilin with another health bar, which is damn well necessary in preserving her existence. Power upgrades can increase the longevity of her abilities (again, five are required) and memory fragments too are placed about the environment which allow her to recover her memories about the futuristic world we inhabit.
For these to be acquired, the player needs to explore, and a problem can be encountered here. Although environments are large and beautiful, they are also restrictive. As soon as a player goes in the direction of their objective (more often than not unintentionally because the game doesn’t exactly say which way is which) a cut scene will often begin to play, after which Nilin will not be allowed to venture back because often she is sealed into the next area. On top of this, the game often checkpoints when this occurs, preventing the player from reverting to their previous automated save to ensure some further exploration can be achieved. Basically, if you miss an item; you miss it permanently, which is just frustrating.
If the game can be relied upon for one thing, it is checkpointing, which seems to happen quite frequently. On top of this, after every major battle, often Nilin can find a health kit around the corner which will replenish all of her lost vitality. If this is not enough, the game also babies the player a little more often than it probably should. Whenever something is unlocked, the game provides helpful hint after helpful hint, explaining every little thing in great detail. Although this proves to be of assistance, since every rookie Remember Me player is initially a layman on first play through, the wealth of information can sometimes make one feel a little as though the game is belittling your general intellect; if something is explained, it doesn’t need to be reiterated with alternate words or phrases. This is not only a little insulting, but also takes time away from kicking ass and taking names, and after acquiring a new upgrade the first thing you want to do is test it on the first poor sap you can lay your fingers on, not be told all about it over and over and over.
Although as previously mentioned, the game is initially very beautiful, the first level (not including Episode Zero) is set in decadent slums, which although look finely crafted, do not reflect the gorgeous visuals which can be procured later. The fighting is not nearly as fun as it is later when going up against SENSEN Security, for it feels wickedly sick to outsmart a large cluster of well trained soldiers. For the first hour, although the visuals are stunning and the storyline is captivating, the gloomy atmosphere and surrounds, along with the enemies you encounter is blatantly dark and grim. The game in fact seems to lag at the start, but by the second episode you are finally introduced to a far wealthier area and the game does what it does best; entertain your socks off! If only the first hour could have been just as effective, then I might have been hooked right from the start, but instead, the player is forced to wade through a wee bit of the game before discovering how much of a gem Remember Me truly is.
Although one will no doubt spend a bit of time admiring their environment, visuals themselves play a large role in the game. While moving about the world, image files can be uploaded to certain locations that show where an item can be found. If the player wishes to later find said item, they need to study the environment the photo showcases. Visuals again have a large role to play when shifting through a player’s mind and altering their memory. When this occurs, the player is able to rewind a character’s memory back, and as it begins to play once more, they have the opportunity to alter certain aspects of the world the memory occurred in; they can move items, exchange objects, turn things on or off; there are a vast quantity of actions that can be taken. Visual cues are provided to help show when the player is able to take action, however these are fast and can be easily missed, hence the mandatory need for the player to pay particular attention to their surrounds. Of course, dire ramifications can occur if the player inadvertently changes something in the memory they shouldn’t (there is always a set mission directive when altering a person’s memory, and it is not always as simple as changing every single thing). On occasion the player will need to repeat the process several times to acquire the desired effect, the game being alarming kind to the player and allowing them the opportunity to continuously repeat the process until they have succeeded without the need to return to a checkpoint, et al. These particular puzzles are genuinely fun to solve, and the challenge they bring adds another unique fixture to the game. Although such can prove a little annoying (due to the fiddly controls), they never lose their appeal, and if anything, the only really disappointing factor about these are the significant lack of them, being an incredibly rare puzzle to find in the game.
Breaking into a person’s mind and kicking ass and taking names are not the only occurrences which transpire throughout the campaign, with Nilin adjunctively climbing through numerous sections. Climbing is very similar to other games (Enslaved: Odyssey of the West, Fuse, etc) and is often hardened with certain difficulties that Nilin must on occasion cross. These obstacles can include navigating around hazards, or even timed sequences when she must hurriedly move across a piece of the environment else she becomes knocked off. Climbing however is not without its hindrances, for it is in these moments that the camera decides to take over, the player no longer having any control where it decides to settle itself. On more than one occasion the camera decides to place itself in the most inconvenient location; either being extremely far away or at an odd angle. Whenever this occurs, on occasion the player is forced to venture a guess in which direction they may be forced to navigate in if what they are forced to jump to cannot be acutely seen. This is not always the case mind you, but when it does happen, it is certainly limiting to one’s enjoyment and is thus not as flawlessly articulated as other games where climbing sequences are engineered to a higher standard.
But don’t let any of these potentially negative issues remove any of the positive ideologies I have previously discussed, or even cause you to immediately fathom that the game is not worth procuring. Although original in its nature, the main reason a player will perhaps participate in such a campaign will be due to the character of Nilin herself. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, Nilin has had her memory stolen from her and is thus made to reacquire all that once made her who she is. To do this she is forced to help a number of characters, from her brother to other Errorists fighting to bring down SEMSEM. Due to this, over the course of the game Nilin wonders if she is really doing the right thing, and if she had her memories, would she actually be participating in such actions? Fearing that she may very well be working for an enemy organisation and is being manipulated; the constant fights she has with her own consciousness; and the journey she must undertake to discover the truth about who she really is, is an adventure in itself as amazing as the actual game.
In conclusion, despite a couple of issues, such do not take away from the player’s enjoyment, and Remember Me will ultimately prove to be a fun, futuristic experience quite unlike anything the player has discovered before.