Platform: Xbox 360
Review Date: 2/17/14
The game opens in Neo-Paris during the year 2084, where a notorious memory hunter named Nilin is incarcerated and having her memory erased. With the aid of a revolutionary leader named Edge, she manages to escape and flees into the slums without a clue as to who she is or what's going on. With Edge's help and guidance, Nilin begins a dangerous journey to recover her lost past and overthrow the oppressive government. It's an existential journey as well, and Nilin may not like what she finds out about herself, her family, and her friends.
As a science fiction action game with a strong female protagonist, it was a no-brainer that I was going to buy it. However, I also bought the game on principle, since the developers were told by several publishers that they couldn't (or wouldn't) sell a game with a female lead. I call bullshit on that, because those are the majority of the games that I buy. Unfortunately, the game is a frustrating mess, and while that has nothing to do with Nilin's gender, the game industry will undoubtedly use that as an excuse for the game's poor performance.
Most notably, the game is absolutely gorgeous and the art direction is spectacular. "Remember Me" is one of the most visually stunning games I've ever played, and I was in constant awe of the amount of beauty and detail in the environments. It's easy to immerse yourself in the aesthetic and feel like you're actually there. Unfortunately, the flip side to that is that the game is overly linear and doesn't allow for much exploration, which makes you feel like you're being cheated out of what the game has to offer. The game is populated with numerous NPCs which bring life and energy to Neo-Paris, and while listening to their casual banter is informative and amusing, you can't actually interact with any of them, which tends to break your sense of immersion. And when someone does happen to notice you, it's usually just to tease Nilin about her fashion sense. Much of the population consists of androids, which are fascinating to watch. Sex droids are very prevalent, and there are even robots who sit in the park feeding pigeons.
While the setting is interesting, the story isn't particularly engaging and the narrative is forced and cliché. Apart from Nilin, all of the supporting characters are annoying and exaggerated to the point of absurdity (which reminded me a lot of "Heavenly Sword"). The dialog is awful and the characters' motivations are often contradictory and unclear. The writing attempts to be clever, witty, and edgy, but only succeeds in coming across as grating and stupid. Terms like "errorist" and "remembrane" sound silly and juvenile, and one character even goes by the handle "Bad Request." Seriously, was this written by a thirteen year old? (although I will admit that calling the chief of police "Captain Square Jaw Tight Pants" made me giggle)
Sadly, the gameplay is where "Remember Me" suffers most. I really wanted to like this game, but it's simply no fun to play. The difficulty is simultaneously too easy and too hard, and never manages to strike a good balance. The constant hand-holding is annoying (especially when there's only one way to go and no way to backtrack) and combat is overly difficult. Combat consists of stringing together combos of offensive and defensive maneuvers that are customized in the needlessly complicated Combo Lab. Executing combos is excruciatingly difficult as the timing is unnatural and requires a high level of precision. Enemies are extremely unforgiving and attack you in groups, so if you fail to time your combo correctly, it becomes nullified and the retaliation is swift and brutal. Adding insult to injury, the game constantly reminds you how bad you are at combat by repeatedly popping up a message saying that you're doing it all wrong. This was a deal breaker for me, and the combat difficulty forced me to quit the game about halfway through. While 3-hit combos are fairly easy to perform, 5-hit combos are nearly impossible, and 6-hit and 8-hit combos are completely unreasonable. Hell, just remembering the sequence of a 5-hit combo is hard enough, let alone getting the timing right AND ensuring that every hit connects and isn't deflected. The more complicated combos are required to make progress later in the game because the enemies become increasingly tougher. And some enemies are invisible, which makes things even worse. (I absolutely HATE invisible enemies) Another problem is that you can't accurately gauge Nilin's jumping distance because it constantly changes depending on the current context, so you're never quite sure how far she can jump or if she's going to overshoot her target.
As a memory hunter, Nilin's greatest skill is the ability to steal and/or rearrange peoples' memories. This allows her to gain information and change peoples' attitudes towards her and society in general. In fact, the first time she uses this ability, she immediately turns her greatest enemy into her ally. Unfortunately, this was a bit of a dramatic letdown because the fierce reputation of Olga the bounty hunter was built up so much before the confrontation, and then she's suddenly your friend. In theory this sounds like a neat feature, but in reality it turns out to be tedious and silly. You're basically given a memory as an animation timeline, and you have to tweak various glitches to get it to play back differently. There's little rhyme or reason involved, and you end up having to keep playing back the memory until you randomly stumble upon the right sequence of changes that will allow you to continue the game.
In addition to the frustrating gameplay, the game is also rather buggy. I ran into several game limiting bugs that caused me to have to reboot, including a glitch in the very first arena fight that wouldn't allow me to leave the area. I also ran into several critical switches that were unresponsive, which forced me to reboot and go back to a previous checkpoint. The game utilizes the Unreal engine, which exhibits numerous texture popping and clipping issues. I also found myself trapped in the geometry on several occasions and Nilin would occasionally fall through the floor and meet an untimely death.
With enough time, patience, practice, and endurance, I probably could have finished "Remember Me", but the bland story, annoying characters, and increasingly frustrating combat system eventually killed my desire for closure.