Review

Remember Me

She Blinded Me With Sci-Fi

Remember Me can’t decide if it’s a heady think piece or a dumb adventure.

By Anthony John Agnello • June 5, 2013

There are two types of science fiction, and Remember Me can’t decide which one it wants to be. The first kind imagines new discoveries and tells a story about how they change what it means to be alive. The film Moon imagines a world where cloning is easy and asks, “Why are we the way we are, and what are we becoming?” Patience and insight are required to pull off this kind of sci-fi. Quicker is the second style, which imagines the future as the answer to the question, “You know what would be crazy as balls?” Take the movie Equilibrium, which is all like, “Dude, in the future, all emotions are illegal! So, like, terrorists horde art and antiques, and the kid from Newsies has to shoot them until he feels some stuff.” Remember Me, the debut game for the Parisian game studio Dontnod, has the opportunity and the setting to ask big questions, but eventually it gives up on those questions in favor of straight adventure.

The world is weird in the year 2084. After society collapses in the mid-21st century, France is on the mend thanks to a little piece of kit called the Sensen. This little device is ubiquitous, an all-in-one computing tool plugged into everyone that can store, remove, and share your every memory. Painful breakup? Take it out. Want to remember your first date? Load it up.

Remember Me

According to the little history books that you sometimes find in the game, the Sensen tech started as a social networking tool before becoming the foundation of society. As you can imagine, the technology is susceptible to large-scale abuse, but fascism isn’t the biggest threat. The Sensen is causing human individuality to disappear, so Errorists—revolutionaries adept at altering people’s memories—rise up to fight the man. You control Nilin, Errorist extraordinaire, after she’s been captured and her memory partially erased.

From the moment Nilin wakes up in the bowels of a prison to the second she infiltrates the core of the Sensen industrial complex, Remember Me doesn’t slow down to smell the roses. This doesn’t lessen the impact of its imagined future. The developers at Dontnod are capable visual storytellers, letting their techno-chic metropolis inform the player rather than resorting to exposition. Neo-Paris is a remarkable place, from its rotting slums to the rooftops of the privileged class, and it’s all awash in color and light. Even when you get into the back half of the game, when Nilin is wandering the comparatively bland halls of prisons and corporations, the world is still convincingly full.

The world has to be communicative since Nilin is constantly pushing forward toward the goal in each of the game’s nine chapters. There’s no exploration, just clambering across awnings and scaffolding. It’s superficially similar to the rote pathfinding in games like Uncharted, but this is more involved. When you’re not jumping over things, you’re fighting Leapers (mutated people suffering from identity collapse) and cops.

Remember Me

Remember Me’s rhythmic brawls are strange. Rather than just mashing buttons to string together punches and kicks, you have to slowly unlock and put together strings of specific attack. For example, a three-button combo with a red, a yellow, a purple, and a blue X would respectively do damage, then heal, and then speed you up. It sounds more complicated than it is in practice.

Between all the jumping and fighting, it’s easy to miss the parts of the plot don’t make any sense. Why has the rise of Sensen technology created such rigid class distinctions in the future? It makes sense that Nilin has to steal an architect’s memory to figure out how to blow up a dam, but why does she suddenly have to fight a giant wrestler at the end of the stage? It’s fun regardless, but like Nilin, I found it hard to maintain a clear sense of why I was doing anything at all.

Which brings us to the mealy core of the story. Remember Me shows us villainous doctors and prison wardens obsessed with controlling people’s memory, but it never truly looks at what’s happened to society as a result of their deeds. Your guide and leader talks about how evil it all is, but you never see it in a meaningful way.

Remember Me

The closest the game comes is when you get to do some memory manipulation yourself. At key points, Nilin dives into people’s brains to alter their perceptions in her favor. This is the Errorist way, “using the tools of the enemy to demonstrate their danger.” Early on, you have to enter a bounty hunter’s memory and make her think that the authorities killed her husband, so she’ll help your rebel cause rather than having you arrested. You rewind her memory like a movie and alter bits of recollection in a particular order, like you’re setting up a Rube Goldberg machine in real time. It’s a fascinating moment that demonstrates the creepy reality of post-Sensen living, but then the results don’t make any sense. The bounty hunter’s husband didn’t actually die, she just thought he did. So why is she still helping you at the end of the game?

Remember Me overflows with rough edges like this, deflating its most interesting ideas as they get off the ground. It keeps you guessing as to its true nature. Is it an imaginative but thin adventure or sci-fi with an anti-technology message? On the whole, it seems to be more the former.

Remember Me doesn’t have much to say about the human condition and the nature of memory, even though those concepts are used to start the conversation. The game just tells the story of its hero. Dontnod’s first time out is laudably ambitious and beautiful to look at, but it’s ultimately less than what it could have been. Is it crazy and cool? Often. Is it profound? I don’t really remember.

Remember Me
Developer: Dontnod
Publisher: Capcom
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Price: $60
Rating: M

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  • Jackbert

    It’s nice to see the various opinions surronding this game. In recent years, it seems like nearly all blockbuster video games have been solely acclaimed or criticized. But I’ve seen positive, negative, and mixed reviews of Remember Me. I wish that happened more often.

    • PaganPoet

      I find it hard to trust any game review that assigns a numeric or star score to a game, which is why I appreciate Gameological reviews. No score = no potential for pandering, bribing, lobbying just so the game can get a high Metacritic score.

      I remember all the 9s and 10s Final Fantasy XIII was getting across the board when it came out. Now, I’m not a hater of the game like many are. Quite the opposite, actually, I really enjoyed it. However, there’s no way in hell that game deserves a perfect 10.

      • neodocT

         I also appreciate the lack of number scores in these reviews. I can’t help but remember the whole debacle with the AVClub’s (entirely justified) C grade for Uncharted 3.

        • Fluka

          Speaking of Naughty Dog and debacles, Polygon’s “shocking” 7.5 review of The Last of Us is totally gonna hit 1000 comments.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

        And the people who gave 9s to Final Fantasy XIII hated it. 

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-John-Agnello/1362601810 Anthony John Agnello

          I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

          I really like Final Fantasy XIII. It ain’t perfect but it’s pretty neat. And the soundtrack is great.

        • Citric

          FFXIII is a good game hidden inside a bad game.

        • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

          Hooray, I found the other people online who don’t hate Final Fantasy XIII!

          Yes, the soundtrack is excellent, as is the bulk of XIII-2′s (though that one is marred by the inclusion of a few truly terrible songs… pretty much anything with that throat-scratchy gruntmetal guy they found).

        • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

          For the record, I enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII. The point I was making was that, when the game came out, you’d read what sounded like scathing reviews. They’d complain about the characters, the linearity, and especially the hand-holding. Then the score would turn out to be a 9 out of 10. In a 2-page review, they might have offered a single paragraph praising its virtues. 

        • zzyzazazz

          Oh man, other people who liked FF13. I really enjoyed FF13, despite all of its flaws. And its soundtrack is really good, it’s just a shame that the battle music takes about a minute to get to the good part, and most fights are over about 20 seconds.

        • Citric

          @Chalkdust_TMAI:disqus You mean you didn’t love Crazy Chocobo? Because I genuinely love Crazy Chocobo. 
          Also, that composer is downright excellent and I love all his things.

        • JamesJournal

          I felt masochistic just getting to the second disk. I can’t imagine how anyone could have finished FF13.

        • neodocT

           I’d count myself in the liked FFXIII camp. It wasn’t the best game in the series, but it wasn’t as horrible as people make it up to be. I like the battle system, and I like the focus on character (despite not particularly liking most of the characters).

    • neodocT

       ZombiU has also had really mixed reviews, and it’s a game I’m really excited to play if (when?) I get a WiiU.

    • Citric

      Is it weird that I get way more excited about games that get mixed reviews? Lots of the stuff that gets universal acclaim leaves me cold, but it seems that the delightful weird stuff can’t get out of the 70 ghetto and I keep thinking back to how much I loved Nier (so much).

      • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

        It may be weird, but I’m right there with you. I’m the same way. Anthony’s like that, too.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        Games with mixed reviews tend to be ambitious/inventive but flawed. Games with unambiguously great reviews across the board tend to be highly polished middlebrow mediocrities (the game equivalent of Oscar bait). Game with unambiguously bad reviews across the board tend to be..well…bad.

      • duwease

         Y’know, I don’t actively look for games in that category, but when I think back to games that I enjoyed the most from this gen, *most* of them were love/hate affairs in reviews.  Mirror’s Edge, Banjo Nuts & Bolts, Duels of the Planeswalkers, Catherine, 999.  Then again, I also loved Red Dead, Binding of Isaac, Arkham Asylum, Dishonored.. maybe I just contradicted myself.  I like games, OK?!?

      • ProfFarnsworth

        For myself, mixed reviews tend to be better for me due to the eclectic tastes that are presented. I love liking something most people dislike or find boring.

    • Simon Jones

       What kinda worries me about it is that the most consistent criticism I’ve seen is that it’s kind of boring. Which is never a good sign.

    • JamesJournal

      This game seems unusually unique. Original even.  Like someone made it because they personally felt like it would be a cool idea. Some would agree, some wouldn’t. That is so weird.

  • The_Helmaroc_King

    Well, I’m glad I’ve already seen Moon. Good movie, but I think The Swapper would be a more cogent comparison than Remember Me. Uh, spoiler alerts and all that.

    Unfortunately, I doubt I’ll be picking this one up, despite its pulpy sci-fi charms. Look at all those colors!

    • Aurora Boreanaz

      Did you like Moon and Wall-E?  Then you’ll probably like Oblivion too.

      (Seriously…it’s a pretty good movie, it just inevitably brings comparisons to both of those films.)

      • The_Helmaroc_King

        I enjoyed all three, although I’d definitely consider Oblivion third on that list.

      • http://warren-peace.blogspot.com/ WarrenPeace

        For a second you had me wondering what Elder Scrolls had to do with those two movies.

      • hcduvall

        Oh man, I had those comparisons in my head. But my thought was I wish Duncan Jones directed Oblivion. That movie hit the square spot where I liked it enough to be disappointed in what turned out. It was really pretty, but kind of an old school sci fi story that was a bit rushed to the magazines. I wish they gave the story (which indeed was pretty good. or almost was…) as much thought as they did the look.

  • neodocT

    This game looks pretty neat, and the premise is really appealing to me, but it’s just not something I’m planning on getting right now. If the gameplay was a bit more interesting, maybe, but it sounds like a very rigid mix of Uncharted with beat’em up mechanics. Maybe if there were more memory manipulation parts? Anyway, this this is the sort of game that screams much-improved-sequel in a few years.

    In others news, did you guys see that the new Deus Ex game is a mobile title?

    Also, The Last of Us seems to be getting good reviews, but I haven’t finished the last Tomb Raider yet, so I think it’s a bit soon to jump into another Uncharted-like thing.

    • Citric

      Is The Last of Us Uncharted-y? I was hoping for something a bit more survival horror and atmospheric, a bit less just shooty shooty.

      Also, stores are rather flagrantly breaking the date on it, so I could buy it right now probably if I want.

      • neodocT

        To be fair, my knowledge of the game comes from a preview video from last year and snippets from a few of the written reviews, but it seems to have a dark, atmospheric tone with a more refined Uncharted-y gameplay.

        Apparently resources are scarce, and there is both more exploring and more planning in how to proceed to survive the situations. But I can’t shake the impression that it’s more of a scary roller coaster than a survivor horror game.

        I can’t pick the game up right now even if I wanted to (damn you South America!), but I think I’d rather wait to see the GS’s take on it anyway.

        • Citric

          I think my problem with Uncharted is that it makes you shoot people because that’s what you do, which eventually gave me a Spec Ops-esque discomfort with what I was actually doing (though in Spec Ops that’s intentional, but in Uncharted it isn’t supposed to be).

          I suppose I hope The Last of Us is a bit more coherent in what you’re made to do, rather than just killing millions because it’s a game and games have shooting sections.

        • neodocT

           @Citric:disqus I completely agree with your problem with Uncharted, and it does seem like The Last of Us attempted to justify the killing in its plot and atmosphere.

          My other problem with Uncharted, though, is that they are games where you vary between extremely linear platforming (if you can call it that), behind-the-cover shooty bits, with very occasional puzzle parts. It’s repetitive and dull, and I’m not sure The Last of Us quite fixes that aspect.

          I mean, I realize all action games are basically getting from point A to B, but I appreciate when games at least give you some illusion of freedom, like the most recent Tomb Raider games did with its exploration bits.

        • 2StoryOuthouse

          Admittedly, my exposure to the series is limited, since I never actually bought any of the titles, but I really, really don’t like the Uncharted games. Their near universal acclaim has always baffled me. The spectacle and setpieces are great, but every second you’re not on rails is repetitive and boring.

          In theory, I don’t even really mind the implications of Drake killing way, way too many people (which is pretty much the only criticism I normally see about the series), it just bothers me that the sheer volume of killing leads to a dull sense of sameness. To again make the Spec Ops comparison, that game does the same thing but it ups the ugliness of it all, so it’s both making you more numb and making the killing more brutal, quite deliberately.

        • JamesJournal

          @Citric:disqus 
          @neodocT:disqus 

          I never really found myself taking Uncharted that seriously. “It is a game and games having shooting sections” is how I felt about all the killing therein. If it took itself more seriously it would just fall into the trap the Tomb Raider reboot did when it called so much attention to how horrible it was that Lara killed someone in self defense, only to have the player in rambo mode an hour later.

          I also killed scores of people in LA Noire and Red Dead Redeption.

          The Last of Us looks like it has a completely different tone and setting though.

        • neodocT

           @jamesjournal:disqus I don’t have a huge problem with the Drake is a mass murderer aspect of the game because it’s not a series that takes itself too seriously. It’s just a cheesy action adventure romp, and I’m okay with that. I just find it weird how acclaimed they are, considering they’re just cheesy action adventure romps.

        • Toparaman

           Yeah, I don’t get why Uncharted is always singled out for having way too much murdering.  It’s a light-hearted series not meant to be taken seriously.  RDR and GTA IV are way more serious in tone, and have just as much (more?) unjustified killing.

  • ferrarimanf355

    2084? Have the Robotrons risen up and destroyed humanity?

  • beema

    I like the point that another review brought up which is that Nilin’s actions are supposed to be seen as heroic, but they are actually deeply unsettling, and that it would have been nice if the repercussions of this were addressed at all.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

         Yeah, the implications of manipulating people’s memories to serve her own political purposes, while an awesome game play device, seems to be as morally questionable as whatever evil commissar is enabling humanity to become a digital collective.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-John-Agnello/1362601810 Anthony John Agnello

        I didn’t really get a chance to discuss it in the review, but her actions are presented as morally questionable. Nilin is not happy with what she’s done at all. The game just doesn’t go too deeply into that territory since ultimately the moral question isn’t the point of the game.

      • JamesJournal

        Isn’t this exactly what happened in Inception

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          SPOILER: The last puzzle in the game is very Inception-y.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      It seems like that sort of thing would be a great addition to one of those CRPG-style games that afford different ways to solve problems. in addition to the tried and true “fight your way out” vs “talk your way out” choices, and the “hack your way out” afforded by some sci-fi games, an option to rewrite memories or reality to resolve or circumvent conflicts could be interesting, and might afford more space to play out the moral repercussions of those choices.

  • Effigy_Power

    I think what I said yesterday probably fits better today:

    “I suppose you could surmise that the struggle to find a publisher willing to front a game with a female protagonist has given this game publicity  beyond what it deserves.
    It’s easy to assume that this game would have had a mediocre launch and disappeared into the pool of games
    that are not terrible, but not great either, if it hadn’t set itself up (deliberately or not) as a lightning rod for current discussions about gender issues.
    It’s definitely a thought worth having.”

    • boardgameguy

      It’s not addressed in the review (although Anthony may have discussed it in the yesterday’s video – I didn’t get a chance to watch it), but does the fact that the main character is a woman factor into the plotting or story? If not, I think more games should include a Mass Effect-like option to pick whom you’d like to play as.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        I’m about 2/3 of the way through, and thus far, Nilin’s gender hasn’t really factored into the story at all. In fact, the game features characters of all sorts of genders, races, ages, and ethnicities, without ever really addressing gender, race, age, or ethnicity. It’s refreshing, in a way. I like that a game can just display diversity as a fact of life without making a big deal out of it. It’s the sort of thing that normalizes positive (or at least neutral) attitudes towards diversity in the real world.

        • hastapura

          Better that than having the cannon fodder shout “bitch” and “whore” every twelve seconds, interspersed with colorful threats of rape and cinematics helmed by the Sven Nykvist of perfectly-framed ass shots.

          • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

            Weirdly, the word “bitch” is tossed around in dialogue and cutscenes in reference to some of the game’s female villains, but none of the generic enemies you fight ever shout it at Nilin.

            The camera can get a bit ass-tacular during some of the traversal sections, but I think it’s actually a byproduct of trying to frame the scenery in an interesting way. That being said, there are no butt-shots during the combat, for whatever that’s worth.

        • boardgameguy

          i’m glad to hear that. it is refreshing that this game just treats people as people.

  • The_Juggernaut_Bitch

    This look like it might be fun, but not at $60.  Think I’ll wait for a Steam Summer Sale or something to pick this up for $20 or so.

  • Ryan Smith

    All I know is that this game would be 100 times better if they used Sarah Sarah Mclachlan’s “I Will Remember You” as the theme.

  • Xtracurlyfries

    “… doesn’t have much to say about the human condition and the nature of memory, even though those concepts are used to start the conversation. The game just tells the story of its hero.”

    That’s so weird, because my review of Bioshock Infinite would user precisely these words.  Is overstuffing a fascinating world with nonsensical facets thus robbing the story of emotional resonance in vogue these days?

  • ChicaneryTheYounger

    The concept of this game sounds awfully familiar to the Black Mirror episode The Entire History of You.