I recently finished Remember Me, after writing a short post about the game at the beginning of January. That post was influenced by the opening few minutes of the game, so I had around 98% of it to still play through to formulate my opinions on the game as a whole. And now, after completing the game, I can say it is one of my favourites of all time. I haven’t played the downloadable content (I plan to), but I just wanted to write down how this game captured my heart and mind, and hopefully spur some gamers who missed it first time around to give it a try.
Rappelez-vous bientôt – What did Remember Me do to get me hooked?
- The Setting
Neo-Paris, the cyberpunk setting of Remember Me, is beautiful to look at and is an extraordinary mix of new and old. For so long during the game I would never push the thumb stick all the way forward, because I just wanted to linger in the side-streets and on the rooftops of Neo-Paris, soaking in the excellent design of the buildings. Even when the game funnelled me into corridors and cargo bays (usually the bane of games), I still slowly made my way through the environments, just to get a look at everything. It’s a game that has so much world-building in just how it looks, with the setting paralleling the story. Visiting the St-Michel Rotunda twice (with a notable story point happening in between), the Bastille lake/dam (and what lies beneath it) and the “Long Corridor” to the Conception Cube all having narrative resonance.
When it rains, the neon lights in the slums pop out a la Blade Runner and when you’re on the rooftops of the rich areas, the vistas stretch onward and upward, it’s a visual treat. Coupled with this is the overlay features that helps creates a city that feels lived-in. Since everyone has a Sensen (think Google Glass but in the back of your head), everyone can see overlays in the world, such as adverts or menus/opening times for shops, similar to how Ghost Recon: Future Solider highlighted battlefield information. I love those little titbits of world-building.
It might sound odd to praise a game that is linear (it’s usually seen as a negative), but Remember Me works so well. You could see why Remember Me might have worked as an open-world game, but that would have diluted some of game’s best set-pieces. For example, in one of the early episodes, main character Nilin has to climb up the side of a building to reach the roof. As you climb you get peeks of the giant skyscrapers that litter Paris. You move along a billboard and the camera moves further right, giving us a gorgeous location shot; the Eiffel Tower in the distance, and the hustle-and-bustle of the streets surrounding below. It’s a beautiful moment that could only be achieved in a linear game. A similar situation happens near the end, with the previously mentioned “Long Corridor”, with a lovely orange glow reflected off the dark black floor and walls. Open worlds have become such an overused trope in games at the end of the last generation and this one, it’s refreshing that Remember Me takes a step back and crafts single visions rather than try and fail with an empty sandbox.
Nilin, the main character of Remember Me has to be one of the best, original characters I’ve played in a long time. Sexy without being objectified, determined but unsure of herself, conflicted, kickass and most importantly, relatable. She’s bi-racial, which is interesting; it’s only until quite recently that I’ve noticed that bi-racial characters have had an increased appearance in games, such as Clementine in The Walking Dead, Sam in Tomb Raider, Chloe in the Uncharted series and Connor and Aveline in the Assassin’s Creed series, and more diversity is always cool. The small scar above her lip is a light touch, but adds something to her character, just a little bit of personal history that hints at a bigger story than the one that we are being presented with here.
The thing is though, with the way the game starts, Nilin is tabula rasa. Most game protagonists are, it allows the player to quickly identify with the character due to having nothing to their character. But Nilin has a story and has a history, and as it’s slowly uncovered through the game, she becomes even more interesting than I ever thought she would have been, especially once Nilin starts actively doing “bad things”. The co-art director Michael Koch said there was a resemblance to Lisbeth Salander (another great female character of the 2000s) and I can definitely see the connection. (Also, I just realised how many females are prominent in the game, with five of the main eight characters being female, and three of those being non-white).
- The Combat
This is a small part of the game, but it is something that I picked up on very quickly. The combat in the game is mostly non-lethal, which is pretty cool, especially from all the killing that is in games nowadays (I’ve spoken about that here with Assassin’s Creed and here with L.A. Noire). Nilin’s fighting style is realistic and looks like a blend of Capoeira, Savate and Jeet Kune Do (which speaks volumes to me as a martial arts nerd). But what I really love about the combat is the rhythm to it. The combos in Remember Me work like a fine-tuned clock, the next part of the combo won’t work unless you hit it at the correct time. It’s a bit odd coming from the button-mashing, quick-as-you-can-hit-them combat of Sleeping Dogs, Batman and Assassin’s Creed, but once you get that rhythm, it’s really fun. At the beginning, when you’ve only got one combo, you’ll be overwhelmed by three guys. But by the end of the game you are taking out rooms full of enemies with a few button presses, making you feel like a complete badass. It gets even cooler once you have to start using tactics to defeat your enemies, such as waiting for lightning and thunder strikes that make invisible enemies easier to spot on the night-time rooftops, or flipping over an enemy to dodge a strike and continuing a combo.
And since it was published by Capcom, the game got downloadable content involving Shoryukens, Flash Kicks and Spinning Bird Kicks, which is cute.
- The Music
Composed by Olivier Deriviere, the soundtrack of Remember Me is one of the more striking I’ve heard in a long while. Much like the setting, the music is a blend of old and new; Deriviere used a 70-piece orchestra and then used electronic equipment to sample and alter it. The main theme is scattered throughout, accompanying Nilin on her journey to uncovering the dark doings behind Neo-Paris. The only time you hear it in full for the first time at the end of the game, once Nilin has finally reached her goal, as if the theme was the revelation to her journey and now we understand it for what it meant in those small moments where we had previously heard it.
The music also feeds into the combat as well. Once Nilin has successfully pulled off a string of combos, the fight music adapts. In my playthroughs it felt like the music meshed with the fighting, notes hitting with the punches and kicks. Sadly, that does mean that if you get tagged by an enemy you couldn’t see (due to the appalling camera, which is probably the worst thing in the game), the funky music disappears, and you have to work your way back up to it.
- The Remixes
While the bulk of the game is the dual gameplay of platforming and fighting, the unique gameplay in Remember Me is the Remix Memory sections. As Nilin is a Memory Hunter, she can extract memories, but she can also change them, making people see events differently. It plays it almost as an interactive cutscene where you have to fast forward or rewind the memory, looking for the objects and sequences that will change the memory to suit you. It’s a cool concept, especially as you have to figure out which parts need changing, leading to some funny “Game Over” situations where you accidently kill the person whose memory you are changing whilst in the memory, leading to a paradox.
Sadly, there are only four in the game, but each one is an interesting and imaginative gameplay variant. And when you start getting to the later stages of the game when plot details are discovered through the memories, or you get into multi-layered memory remixes, the puzzle element really shines. It’s similar to Dontnod Entertainment’s time-travel puzzles in their latest game Life Is Strange, rewinding and fast-forwarding until you hit the right moment to change the game. The other puzzles in the game, a pair of mnemonics that are used are codes for locks are a fun addition, even if the first one made me feel incredible stupid for spending an embarrassingly long time trying to figure it out.
Even though I’ve only had the time to play through it once, I’ve fallen in love with Remember Me. It hit the right notes at the right moment for me; an emotional, character driven main narrative, in a beautifully-realised city full of history (full of optional historical data that you can read) and a tri-blend of climbing, fighting and a unique puzzle mechanic. I look very forward to playing it again and possibly sampling the downloadable content.
If you’re a fan of Dontnod’s other game Life Is Strange (which interestingly also featured a narrative-driven story filled with unique puzzles and had a minority female as its main character) or are looking for an underrated, underappreciated gem from the last generation, this would be a fine choice.
Banner photo source: youtube.com (Remember Me – Game Movie by Gamematics).