To think: I almost missed out on Dontnod’s Remember Me after failing to get the right impression from its trailer. That would have been a real shame, considering this has been one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played so far this year (perhaps only eclipsed by XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which I was playing concurrently, making for some damn fine nights of gaming!). Sometimes the best games are the ones sitting on your shelf for ages, collecting dust, until one day Providence deals her hand and you finally decide to play it.
I really only downloaded Remember Me because it was a free offering on the PlayStation Plus service – this was shortly after my best friend had bought me a 1-year subscription as a gift, so I was eager to download all the free games that were thrown at me, even those I’d never heard of. And I hadn’t heard of this, although I vaguely recall seeing the cover art in some retail store’s game section before. The way I first learned of the game – mostly the fact that it was a free PS download – caused me to mistakenly believe that it was actually an indie game, developed by a small core team on an extremely limited budget. So, even though as it turned out this isn’t the case, I went into the game with tempered expectations. What I got just about blew me away, all the more coming from a supposed independent developer!
Before playing the game, I found myself highly underwhelmed watching the trailer, wanting to know what I had just downloaded. Maybe it didn’t do a good enough job selling the futuristic atmosphere (I generally dig this type of game – more on that later), or more likely I was in the mood for something less action-oriented and geared more towards thematic storytelling with an intriguing, mysterious plot. Whatever the reason, I watched the trailer and immediately relegated this title to remain on my Dashboard game hub – in the cut, as it were – unplayed. In fact, I always made sure to scroll past it quickly to avoid triggering the first few notes of that annoying title music to play – quite a silly thing to base judgement on, I know. Regardless, Remember Me hadn’t scored any plus points in my book thus far.
Driven more by the desire to clear out some of my rapidly-filling hard drive cache, I finally booted the game up and gave it a whirl…and didn’t put it back down again until I emerged on the far end, victorious. The two things that appealed to me right off the bat were 1) the look of the game, as it’s graphically phenomenal, with an appealing visual design that puts a pleasantly unique spin on the whole ‘dystopian future’ theme, and 2) the actual game world itself. This game features one of the best-implemented post-apocalyptic visions I have seen in a game in some time; Deus Ex: Human Revolution also did a great job, but games like Syndicate left me feeling as barren and void as the future worlds they attempt to create. Remember Me‘s Neo-Paris is grimy, gritty, but feels both lived in and alive. Though I would have been twice as impressed had this been an indie development team, Remember Me‘s visual appeal is nothing to sneeze at even with its less limited budget.
Right from the start I was interested in the story. Memory hunter Nilin wakes up a prisoner,shackled, with a case of amnesia, on her way to some sort of ultimate mind wipe. Unlike many of my contemporaries, I really have no problem with the ‘amnesic protagonist’ cliché, and in a game using memory manipulation as a major gameplay mechanic, it really just makes sense. Or maybe my bullshit tolerance level is just extra high; I don’t know. In any case, as Nilin parkours her way out of imprisonment and through the sewers and back alleys of Neo-Paris, I grew to greatly enjoy the gameplay. Even though there’s little here that hasn’t been seen in other games to date, it’s the combination of all the parts, then placed into a dystopian universe that makes the game work well all on its own. Blindly trusting in Edge, the leader of the rebellious Errorists and the one responsible for getting her out of prison, Nilin goes up against the evil mega-corporation Memorize, who pulls all the strings in the city, and its ranks of ruthless memory hunters, whom Nilin once used to be one of. I felt the story worked well, with good pacing that brought it to an exceptionally satisfying ending, tying up many loose ends – it felt very complete.
I’ve since read some of the criticism leveled at this game, specifically in terms of story and battle system. As I mentioned, I found the story quite satisfactory, and didn’t find the battle system to be a chore or get stale during my playthrough. The game often reminds of many other titles, as it borrows freely from numerous tried-and-true design elements, apart from the excellently fun and original memory remixes in which Nilin subtly alters the memories of a subject – just enough to make them remember certain events a little differently, which in turn changes their demeanor or attitude in the here and now. The combat system, though it lets you concoct your own combos, is a down-and-out brawler; Nilin shimmies across ledges and wall-runs like countless action games today; the setting, no matter how well implemented, is hardly original; and the plot is heavily based in industry motifs, i.e. amnesic hero has to thwart domination of wealthy corporation.
But what trumps all of this – and what is really the only thing that matters in the end – is that everything was ultimately put together in such a fashion as to craft a genuinely fun game that I enjoyed immensely. I’ve already recommended it to my friends, and am considering going back in to find a few more of the scattered collectibles, simply because the world I found myself in became so familiar. I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase a sequel…high praise for a game that I was all but willing to let slowly decay into tiny binary 1s and 0s in the digital limbo where too many high-quality unplayed games go to die.