Wednesday, June 12, 2013

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Do Yourself a Favor and Play DONTNOD's Sci-Fi Parisian Action Game Remember Me... On Easy Mode

RememberMe 2013-06-09 02-29-53-76
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Right off the bat, there's one thing you need to know about Remember Me, DONTNOD Entertainment's debut game: If you love the kind of sci-fi that takes familiar places and renovates them with the futuristically unfamiliar, you need to play this game. You just do.

Period.

I'm absolutely in love with this game right now... Or between marathons of New Leaf, anyway. I'd pour it into a tub and soak in it if I could. But here's my little secret... I've been playing on Easy mode, and that might be why I love it so much.

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I'll be honest in saying that when Remember Me initially came out last week I was entirely uninterested. I don't particularly enjoy the kind of rhythm-based combat and combos that the game uses, and what I'd seen of the game's Neo-Paris setting at that point didn't really inspire me (P.S. I was super wrong about that).

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The only reason I felt compelled to try it was because the cast is notably very diverse (including Nilin, the biracial female lead) and I always relish the opportunity to see a game handle race and gender evenly. In a way that's a somewhat shallow reason to play a game, but it's something you don't see often enough (especially when it comes to both race and gender in tandem), and therefore something worth experiencing. It's also the developer's first game. They took big risks, and while I don't think the game is 100% a slam dunk they've done a lot of things that are well worth supporting.

RememberMe 2013-06-09 06-07-51-27

Remember Me has been receiving somewhat mixed reviews. While the story and ideas presented are interesting and enjoyable and the world pretty damn gorgeous, the repetitive combat sections can be a significant thorn in the player's side. DONTNOD has tried to innovate with their combat system via the customizable combo lab, but sometimes the fights (beautifully choreographed as they can be) are an abrupt stop in the middle of a nicely flowing segment of the game.

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Now, that might sound familiar to those who played (or even just read about) Bioshock Infinite. Dragging, annoying, obtrusive...

But the combat in Bioshock Infinite felt perfect to me. It didn't drag on too long, it didn't stop the flow of the game, it wasn't too repetitive... Because I was playing that on Easy mode too. I'm not bad at games, but playing in Easy mode lets those combat segments last just as long as it needs to, and not any longer.

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There is some stigma attached to playing a game on Easy, and there has been for longer than I can remember. Difficulty settings still often imply maturity or skill level differences, casting Easy mode as newbie-mode or, in Remember Me's case, Script Kiddie mode. Some developers have backed away from that kind of language in the past few years, preferring to emphasize Easy as more of a Story-Telling mode, and I'd say that's been a step in the right direction.

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It boils down to this: I am not playing either of these games for the combat. Maybe you are, but in that case there are probably better games you could be playing. Maybe you enjoy the challenge, and that's fine too. Either way, there's no reason to force yourself to do more of a thing you don't enjoy.

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Personally, I'm playing these games for the story, the characters, the visuals, the world... And they are both fucking stunning in all of those areas. Remember Me's Neo-Paris gives me shivers, with just the right amount of the true Paris aesthetic choking under a heavy dystopian veil. The virtual interfaces and information glowing in the world feel far more tangible than in other games I've played that have tried similar effect. The camera movement and scripted moments sometimes make me wish that Remember Me was a movie so I could sit back and watch it again and again, but if it was a movie I wouldn't be able to poke and provoke the world myself, and that takes away half the fun... Especially when it comes to the sections of the game where you are altering ("remixing") others characters' memories on the fly.

 

The combat is really just the stuff that connects part A to part B and draws the game's length out to keep people feeling like they got their money's worth, because that's just how AAA games work. But why should I focus on the filler instead of the greater experience to be had? I don't care how long a game is so long as the experience of playing is worthwhile.

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So please, play Remember Me. Maybe play it on Easy. Soak in that amazingly gorgeous nightmare future, remix the memories of others and retrieve Nilin's own... Spend your time on the parts of the game that truly matter, and don't force yourself to slog through the rest just for the sake of your gamer ego.

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Mixed reality iris 2013Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.

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NetDwarf

So, basically, you prefer some kind of 'interactive movie' rather than something challenging. I sure can understand that, with each next year I have less and less time for games too, but I don't think it's a 'step in right direction'. It may be good for sales, as brings in casual gamers, but I always considered extra-simplification of games as a personal slap in the face to everyone who was spending hundreds of hours just to pass single game back then. It's like as if you used to get to your office by stairs, and was doing so for years, and one day someone shows you an elevator.

an entity of the net

Netdwarf, I don't think there's anything wrong or "slap in the face" about someone playing a game on Easy mode.

The choice certainly isn't being made for you: you could just as easily play on a different setting. Bioshock Infinite, as mentioned in the article, even offers a 1999 mode specifically for the hardcore gamers who want to spend those "hundreds of extra hours". Weirdly, the only games I can think of playing that much are tactical RPGs, but that might just be me.

I really think your problem lies more with games like Metal Gear Solid 4 than it does with a game played on Easy. The most combat-heavy of the series, rewarding slaughter over stealth, also has the most egregious FMVs. Would you rather watch a dozen soldiers run up and cock their guns for five minutes, or would you rather have the "interactive" part of the move available to you?

In the parts of the series that reward you for stealth, you're given the option of sneaking by or blowing a room of enemies away. And while certainly there's a boss battle or two that are necessary, the ability to creep past enemies doesn't detract from the story, regardless of whether or not that story is completely bananas.

In another example, LA Noire, regardless of the flaws of the game itself, could only be played by advancing the story, rather than whether or not you could master bad steering controls, etc. If you crashed your car over and over again, or took too many punches, you could go forward, whatever. If you failed to read a witness, you LOSE, GOOD DAY SIR.

Other games, like Journey, don't have combat at all. I don't know if you consider it an example of "over-simplification", but I also suppose that's neither here nor there, and more about the growing clamor for games to be recognized with "art". The ones that are held up as "evidence" are not combat-heavy games. Yes, there may be fights and/or action, but the ability to downplay or circumvent those entirely are honestly a new direction. In that regards, an "interactive movie" may not necessarily be a bad thing.

But most importantly, nobody is making you pick Easy. You can still do as you please.

Simon

This sounds like great advice. I was really interested in this game for the visuals & ideas, but then wrote if off precisely because of reviews pointing out the super-tricky combat system. It never occurred to me to think about "easy" mode.
Cheers.

Mark

Even on easy I found Bioshock Infinite's combat really tiresome. By the end enemies take so many bullets to kill that reloading itself becomes tedious. Why can't I skip combat like I can skip a cut scene?

Arcadia Codesmith

I've been computer gaming since there were computer games to play.

If I have to plow through the City of Bloodthirsty Beasties to reach a goal, sometimes I just want to move like a combine through a wheat field... especially if I've already killed several thousand Bloodthirsty Beasties and am growing increasingly bored with them.

And if I've beaten Boss Blud the Bloodiest on Impossible Nightmare Mode once, I don't feel any special compulsion to do it every time I repeat the mission.

So yeah, I play easier modes most of the time. I'm in it to have fun. If I had something to prove, I'd take up mixed martial arts.

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