Thursday, 5 September 2013

Remembering how to drive in a grid

Remember Me

Finally Capcom decides to put it's money into a new IP, it's about time to see something new and refreshing from them. Remember Me stirred up a bit of attention at E3 last year and has been on my watchlist until release. Has it delivered what the ambitious gameplay videos showed us? Yes it does, actually you can play the very segment just like the E3 video in the game, but like I foresaw with the video it is more restricted and guided than I'd hoped for.

Nilin, Remember Me's main female protagonist.
The game is very cinematic and has a nice transition between cutscenes and gameplay.
Walking though city areas calmly, could have been even better if the game was more sandbox approached.

The game borrows a lot of ideas from both movies and games. It plays somewhat like a Tomb Raider game with climbing, jumping and almost parkour-like traversing of high buildings. The artstyle and main character gives me vibes from Mirror's Edge. It looks so beautifully modern, stylish and with a strong sense of minimalism. The melee fighting combined with the sneaking and climbing and with the story of an dictator-like corporation reminds me of Beyond Good & Evil, in a good way. Maybe it's because it also is made in France?!

The gameplay takes a simpler approach to the climbing than a typical Tomb Raider game though. There usually is only one way to go, and this linearity kind of hampers the game from becoming a true adventure game. It consistently shows the way to the next ledge to jump to throughout the game, it feels like a training campaign that has outstayed it's welcome. This visual help is fine in more dramatic scenes, were you need to rush along and keep the game cinematic, but it could have let you explore far more freely. At least further into the game. There are hidden areas and items to collect, but they never fare far from the main route.

The fighting looks really incredible, finishing off the enemies gives you a spectacular move.
From dark, claustrophobic underground areas.... modern, bright and stylish ones.

Although the enemies are very generic looking the actual fighting takes a rather original approach. It plays like an old beat 'em up scroller, but lets you compile your own combos from various abilities. I kind of liked the approach, but it too could have had more depth. The fighting ended a bit like in the Batman Arkham games, repetitive,  after repeatedly beating the shit out of enemies with the same attack and weapon layouts. It is, however, refreshing to see a game free of guns and shooting in these days! It makes me think of how cleverly Mirror's Edge implemented the same, non-shooting apporach!

Remember Me covers more ground than just climbing and fighting though, it also has puzzles to solve and perhaps the games most original part: memory remixesNilin, the main heroine of the game, can connect to peoples memories and alter them. This introduces you to a sort of flashback movie of a previous event that happened to the character you have connected too. After seeing the movie you can rewind it and change the outcome and how the ending unfolds. Sounds confusing? Well it surely is a little tricky, but it really is one of the best parts of the game. A scene for instance shows a wife walking out on her husband and him becoming bitter, instead you change the scene so that he kills his wife and remembers the incident as a sad incident. The kicker though; it didn't really happen, it's just the memory that you have changed!

A typical memory remix scene, changing small things results in dramatic changes though the course of the scene.
To say Mirror's Edge's design didn't influence RE, would be a lie!
The game looks fantastic and varies a lot in the environments.
This brings me to the apparent fact that RM also takes ideas from movies. The story reminds me lot about the new Total Recall movie, and the memory remixing parts reminds me about Inception. Both are great sources of inspiration. The story in RE has a a nice build and requires you to keep focused to understand it. The heavy Inception influenced memory remixes enter a whole new level when you need to remix a memory, within a memory!

I would have liked some improvements in RM. The controls feel a little stiff compared to for instance Tomb Raider (2013), the fighting to be more varied and I would have enjoyed more memory remixes. These are in my opinion the most original and best part of the game and they only occur a handful of times throughout the game. A larger, more free roaming game, with a less linear playthrough, and much more adventure exploring would have made this game go from good to excellent.

The game is set in a future Paris.
Get ready for some Tomb Raider style climbing about!
The fights get quite hectic at times!
Remember Me is an original title that does a lot of it's ideas right, and takes influences from a vast amount of movies and games. The design and artwork of it's world and characters are fantastic, it also is a graphically pretty game. Perhaps though, takes on a little too much inspiration at once; needing more polishing and focus on each of them. However, it really is a game you should be playing this year, for there isn't anything like it and feels like a nice breath of fresh air in today's gaming market. I really, really hope Capcom continues the franchise and makes an incredible sequel.



Grid 2

Codemasters have really done a great job on racing games this generation. From the spectacular Colin McRae: Dirt, which first introduced us to the Neon game engine to the first Racedriver: Grid and right up to Grid 2. I've mostly been a fan of the Dirt series, and while I enjoyed the first Grid to a certain extent, it was far from a perfect game. I felt like the Dirt series nailed the controls and steering better. After three Dirt games in between it's original and now, Grid 2 finally gets it's spotlight again. This time it plays like it should have with the original!

Grid 2 has a lot of colour and looks fantastic for it.
Night races look great too!
The cars feel heavy and drifty, just they way they should be in a game like this.

Just from a glance Grid 2 looks much improved. Gone are the gritty, over-contrasted and yellow filtered colours of the first game and in it's place a colourful racing game with a large variation in scenery. Whether you are racing underneath a shadowy rail road, or speeding through a misty mountain past or enjoying the green countryside, Grid 2 looks great. You have a varied set of locations too (although not many track variations on each); like Barcelona, Paris and Chicago. Just like Project Gotham Racing, it's city racing done right. The night races underneath a full moon light really look pretty! The cars too look amazing and can be damaged in detailed crashes.

There's just something this developer nails in it's racing games that makes Grid 2 just as entertaining; it's the blend between looking and feeling fairly realistic and being arcadey, letting you constantly race on the edge between being in control and taking chances. It's an action movie for racing games. I love how the game puts all the cars in drift and grip categories, reminding me almost of the fantastic Ridge Racer Type 4 way back on PS1, and actually lets you race fast in both. Drifting isn't exactly the fastest way to go around corners, but in Grid 2 they simply encourage you to drift around corners in these cars.

It feels fantastic to zip underneath rail-roads in Chicago, slamming your car into the corners at high speed and burning through them, barely missing with the rear bumper on the roadside walls. All while making a huge cloud of smoke behind you. Realistic? Somewhat, but fun? Yes, so fun and intense when combined with the aggressive AI that can screw up things and make accidents just like a real racing driver. There are too many racing games that have AI opponents that just drive in a perfect line, never hardly overtaking or doing faults. Grid 2 feels much more alive with it's AI drivers. It makes each race unique and more unpredictable.

The overtaking events are actually very good.
Rage Racer?! Nah....Paris!
Get ready for some aggressive racing with lots of bumping into opponents!

There are some downsides to the rather action packed driving though; later in the career progress the game gives you races with very fast cars with equally fast opponents. These races end up forcing you to drive like a complete careless nut-case even to have a slight chance at winning. This reminds me of what I found the original game to suffer from and annoy me. The first game reached this level much sooner, but Grid 2 also ends up in this territory. It feels wrong to drive so recklessly and taking corners so dangerously simply because if you don't you have no chance to win a race. There seems to be an inconsistency of how fast the AI races, especially one-on-one races seem to be almost rubber-banded as the AI will never leave your tail. It resulted to that I had to lower the difficulty level for the later seasons, making some races far to easy and others only barely winning them. I still had tons of fun though.

The drift events are quite disappointing compared to the first game. Don't get me wrong, the drifting itself feels fantastic in the game, but they no longer have the open more free-roam drifting events. The original game had a location at the dock sides of Tokyo, sadly Grid 2 offers nothing in the same vein, only tracks. I really enjoyed these events in Grid 1 and it seems strange not to see something similar to the Gymkhana free racing events from the Dirt (which uses the same engine as the Grid games) franchise. This type of open racing space would have suited the drift racing very well.

Landmarks are everywhere on the international tracks!
Drifting is so much fun!
The track detail is detailed and feels large.

Grid 2 is a solid racing game, it does what it should do well. It looks, sounds and plays fantastic. It lives in the semi-realistic genre, much the same as Project Gotham Racing and Need For Speed ProStreet, and consistently keeps the racing action at a high level. You'll definitely be at your toes and loving each race, but miss the game taking any changes or delivering new ideas. But then again few racing games do. You will enjoy it more than the first game, at least I did, but I would have liked a less linear campaign and more variation in tracks and event types.



Me doing a long drift in Grid 2(!):

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