Which is more unfortunate, a videogame that has a great idea but executes itself in poor fashion or a videogame with a bad idea that carries itself off well? Would you rather be pleasantly surprised by a bland concept done well or disappointed by a large concept done badly? It is a tough question, one side has you applauding the ideas and the other the execution. Today, we get to deal with great idea-poor execution side of things as we look at Remember Me.
This review will not get itself bogged down by a discussion of sensens and pressens and the various other made up names and pieces that someone spent a long time thinking of on Remember Me and which you might see elsewhere. The spiffy terminology the game uses feels like it’s there to high the game’s high gloss sheen, and not because it actually adds anything to the title. You will forget the names the game offers, possibly even as you’re playing, so I choose to not burden you with them unnecessarily.
Let us instead dig into the concept. The game takes place in the near future in Paris. The world has, more or less, gone to hell over the course of 70 years and little is recognizable. This is all due to mankind’s ability to yank memories out of people’s skulls. These memories can be transplanted or wiped away clean. And, as I write this, I become disappointed even in Remember Me‘s concept.
You want the game described succinctly? Imagine a low(er)-rent version of a Total Recall-esque plot mixed with simplified Arkham Asylum fighting. You are Nilin, you have had your mind wiped, but when people start yammering on inside your skull, you opt to listen and follow blindly, even if they’re kind of asking you to kill people. Okay, the voices in your head may seem like they’re right (what with the enemies trying to end you), but we’re not sure that even with a wiped mind we’d accept being led the way Nilin is in the opening chapters of the game.
So, that is what you do, you are led on a mission by a voice inside your head, and you meet friends and enemies along the way. Fine. Good idea or bad, for me the fact that the execution is off is a bigger problem.
There are very few games in today’s world that make me physically queasy to play. Back in the day, when I first encountered Ecco the Dolphin, I definitely got sick, but it doesn’t happen anymore. Except with Remember Me that is, and it’s not because the graphics are super-slick (they’re certainly not bad), it’s because the camera moves around in truly uncomfortable ways. Every push of the analog controller to move Nilin in a direction results not only in Nilin moving, but the camera moving too, and not just following Nilin sort of camera movement, weird unnecessary shifting camera movement. Whether it is because developer Dontnod wants you to see the beautiful ugly that they created or because it’s just poorly designed I couldn’t say, but the easily queasy out there should think twice about playing lest they want to revisit their lunch
Everyone else should think twice about playing because there’s not much to the game. The big selling point action-wise is the idea that the game lets you create combos to strike your enemies. And, it does do that, but only kinda sorta. You see, you can only hit or kick and the game pretty much tells you what sequence you’re allowed to do these things in to execute a combo (as you progress you unlock more combos). The “creation” comes into effect when you choose whether you’re going to execute a hit that regenerates your power or damages the enemy or allows you to execute a super mover more quickly or chains together with another move. You make this choice in a menu as you unlock the various actions the two different types of strikes will execute. Yes, I don’t know why, but you can throw punches which regenerate your health as opposed to hurting the other guy. The punch still lands, so I don’t really understand the imagined physics of what’s taking place, but if it sounds like an inconsistent world to you, that’s because it is an inconsistent world.
One of the things the game does have going for it, is this apparently very well realized future version of Paris. Except that, as with everything else in the game, the more you think about it, the less well realized it feels. Remember Me is not an open-world title. In fact, it’s so not open world that the vast majority of time there are arrows telling you exactly where to go all the time and you’re absolutely not allowed to go anywhere else. It may look like there’s a ledge you can jump onto just off to your left, and you may have jumped onto ledges that look exactly like that at that height in the past, but if you’re not meant to jump onto that ledge, that game will not allow you to jump onto that ledge. It is the most basic sort of platforming and while playing the game I kept wondering why they didn’t just make it an on-rails title in which you automatically move from location to location. At least then the camera work may have been better.
And here’s where I have a problem with Remember Me. There are games you play which feel slap-dash and ill-conceived, they feel like something that was just thrown into a box to be sold to unsuspecting consumers. This isn’t that. It isn’t by any means that. It feels like nearly everything in the game was thought about and mulled over and contemplated and massaged and reworked and rethought. I think that when you read positive reviews of the game, it may be that you’re getting someone responding to that, because it’s wonderful to play a game that feels so highly conceived, it’s just bad playing this game.
I actually want Remember Me to succeed because I think if they get the chance to make a sequel they can make the combo system worthwhile and fix the camera and come up with a good story and give the player a chance to explore. But, gosh, it’s really hard to recommend a title where so much about it doesn’t work. You are just going to have to make up your own mind about this one – it is the best of times and the worst of times.
Remember Me is rated M (Mature 17+) by the ESRB for Blood, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Violence. This game is also available for XBOX 360 and PC.