Remember Me – Better Off Forgotten
What we’ve been seeing with video games over the course of the last few years is a sort of event horizon where there ceases to be a dividing line between a movie and a game, as evidenced by such emergent titles as Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophecy (with a new title to be soon released from the same studio). Back when the processing capacity of a computer or console was so very limited, a short cut scene or static image upon completing a level would be the player’s reward. The opportunity for storytelling has increased manifold as computer technology has advanced. But the compartmentalization of the game development process has brought about a pitfall which unfortunately many titles fall into.
Good video game development involves incorporating puzzle-solving and skill elements into what can seem to the player to be an open-ended narrative, but what all too often ends up happening is that you’re directed by a series of arrows to complete an obstacle course and fight a couple of monsters in order to trigger the next cut scene and advance the plot a step. The game and story should be seamlessly interwoven into one another, but regrettably in the case of Remember Me, I’d probably be better off watching a compilation of the cut scenes on Youtube.
For what it’s worth, Remember Me has some excellent ideas, the core concept being that a future company in Paris has discovered a way to digitize human memories, allowing them for download, upload, transfer, manipulation, and even theft. This is brought about by the Sensen, a sort of holographic implant sprouting from the back of the neck which allows memory transfer through thin air, ineptly thinking to avoid all the plotholes associated with the biology and technology that might be needed to make such a thing a reality, taking what could be a concrete and visceral concept and making it too nebulous and airy-fairy for most people’s liking. Sculpting a perfect past by means of buying new memories becomes an addiction of the social elite and trickles down to the lower classes, who bankrupt themselves and create a new sub-human underclass of memory addicts who don’t even know who they are anymore.
It hits the mark well as a dystopian cyberpunk game because it emphasizes the militant order imposed by the corporate powers that be while at the same time showing how utterly little they care for the core concept of one’s humanity. We as both the character and the audience get a strong sense of helplessness and weakness in the face of this vast, overgrown, corrupt machine which eats people up and shits them out. But whoever planned it doesn’t have a good grasp of storytelling, as they fail to set the scene properly by showing us the whole of the city in its decrepit splendor. Consequently, while I know I’m running around through Paris, it’s not like I would’ve recognized it unless I’d been told that’s where I was. The location adds nothing to story. The same goes for much of the gameplay and scenery.
And who on earth decided to rip off Star Wars for the soundtrack? With the sharp clatter of drums, hailing of trumpets, and shriek of violin strings surging up at the slightest notice, the only thing that was missing was the familiar and somehow calming beeps of R2-D2.
And whoever wrote the character’s dialogue needs to go to a corner bar and listen to the drunks for a couple of weeks so he can figure out how real people talk. I’d prefer leetspeak over the ham-fisted soap opera-ish twaddle the game’s characters trot out. As the player, you are Nilin, a French-born British-accented revolutionary-turned guinea pig-turned revolutionary whose memory has been taken, and you must find out who you are while being guided by the only other active member of your cabal, with the ultimate intention of bringing down the company responsible for establishing this pseudo-new world order. But we’ve yet to identify the bad guy behind it all, or even identify an evil plot. The company is a world power with its own military. What it could want to obtain through evil means that it couldn’t obtain through perfectly legal ones boggles the mind and leaves me thinking that the game’s writer just couldn’t come up with a decent goal for the bad guys to get involved in an actionable plot. Consequently, you fight the company because of its unethical but perfectly legal business practices, and I feel a bit stupid conducting industrial espionage trying to take down the futuristic equivalent of Wal-Mart just because they’re not nice people.
I would call it a saving grace were it worth the 10+ hours of work, though it’s not, but the one innovative approach to gameplay is memory remix, where Nilin dives into a person’s mind, replays a given memory, and then alters it as if one were editing a film in order to make the person think something that didn’t happen did. Aside from this, you engage in many hours of parkour which would feel like Assassin’s Creed if you had an open-world environment to roam instead of being told where to go constantly, taking away the spontaneity that’s the entire point of parkour. And occasionally you also get into fistfights superficially reminiscent of the 10 on 1 fights from Sleeping Dogs ala Bruce Lee. The developers tout their combo lab combat system as revolutionary, in which you can mix and match attacks to create your own attack combinations which do damage, heal you, or create status effects. What you’re really doing is putting pegs into holes. There are five combos that you unlock over the course of the game and will be carved into your soul given the mindnumbing frequency they are used. But with a limited number of attacks you can plug in, one combo becomes your damage dealer, the other heals you, the third establishes status effects, and the remainder are never used because they are too long and you are always interrupted before you can complete them.
True dystopian cyberpunk titles are few and far between, meaning I really had my hopes up for Remember Me. But the combination of high-tech low-life isn’t there, nor is there the cast of supporting characters and corporate intrigue one needs to show the many shades of grey inherent in a world where money is all that matters. This is what happens when each department in a development company is given a job and a deadline with no one who has the vision and leadership capabilities to keep everyone working together and all headed in the right direction. The compartmentalization of responsibilities in game production has led to the deaths of many titles in the past; Remember Me will not be the last to fall to bureaucracy. What it sought to achieve should indeed be remembered, but what it actually managed is best left forgotten.
|Pros:||Excellent premise. High quality graphics. Sweeping soundtrack|
|Cons:||Poor storytelling and execution. Boring gameplay.|
|Game producer's website:||Dontnod Entertainment|
|Official website:||Remember Me|
|Game available at:|