PAX East 2013: Remember Me Preview

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There were very few AAA games at PAX East this year that I had any desire to actually get some hands-on time with. If you would have asked me before the show, I thought I was the only person who had any real desire to play Remember Me. I asked around, both on the internet and to my acquaintances, and for those who knew what it was could care less. I thought it was one of the more exciting reveals at E3 2012 and have been cautiously optimistic. Apparently I wasn’t the only one and that was one of the longest lines at PAX.

I’m not sure why, but this hands-on demo didn’t have any of what seemed to make the game so unique, the memory “remixing.” Instead, the PAX demo is all combat and exploration in some of the world’s slums. Up until this point, I was running on the strange assumption that most of the game would be the puzzly remix sections. My feelings towards the game haven’t changed since playing the exploration and combat bits, instead I feel a bit relieved since I wasn’t sure the remixing could make an entire game. Though I’m now worried about how much of the game those fascinating segments will actually be.

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This demo shed some light on the plot. Nilin, the main character adorning all of the promotional material, is an agent of an evil corporation who cannot only take people’s memories, which seem almost like a currency/drug in this world, but posses the ability to change them, which is incredibly dangerous. The evil corporation (Memorize, because why not) steals Nilin’s memories and the underground resistance she was working with has to help her get them back so she can fight to the fullest of her abilities, hence the title.

Usually I would complain that we’re getting another story with an amnesiac protagonist, but there’s something about the concept of stealing memories that I find fascinating and don’t mind giving this premise a pass on the conceptual phase, hopefully the actual product won’t be a trope-laden exercise in familiarity. The exploration and combat, at face value, certainly seem to be that familiar exercise, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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My time exploring the slums brought the unavoidable comparison with Uncharted. Climbing around follows the same go after the obvious climbable surfaces surfaces system that Uncharted uses and as with that series, the vertical slice of Remember Me we were shown seems to indicate the same linearity of the Uncharted series, so using a similar traversal method works. What is necessary to separate the two is the reasons to be exploring and the environments and the slums of Neo-Paris were beautiful in their dingy grime.

As someone who seems to suffer from OCD in games with collectables, any effort to change the usual slog to collect everything is appreciated. Here there are standard collectables that you have to scour the environment to find, and these are the ones that only bring up your percent complete meter, and then there are the collectables that actually give you a stat boost. These more valuable collectables have small puzzles associated with them. You’ll run across hidden memory caches, single images from someone’s mind that reveal the location of a hidden item, provided you can find the area the image depicts.

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The system you’ll immediately recognize from another game is Batman: Arkham Asylum’s combat. Remember Me uses the same attack and dodge/counter mechanics that made the Arkham games so fantastic. Not content on simply using the what seems to be the new standard for combat systems, the team at Dontnod have layered what looks to be a surprisingly deep combo mechanic on top of it. While the demo only included two combos, a light/heavy attack and one that restored health upon completion, it kept saying that you can perfect combos in the combo lab and that would be useless without a much deeper system.

Combat was engaging enough, just like it was in Batman. It’s not that I dislike fighting, the fighting is an excellent part of both games and can carry them, but it’s the plot that keeps me going in games like these. You’re not just fighting thugs, you’re fighting the husks of people who have run out of memories, that have lost who they are and remain balls of unintelligible emotion. Remember Me is a game that I want to play because I want to immerse myself in this world. There are some interesting concepts at play and I will be one of the first in line to test them out when it releases on June 4.