Saturday, September 22, 2012

You Have My Attention, Remember Me

I recall Remember Me being announced as a thing some time ago, but I never really put it on my radar for reasons that more or less escape me.  Especially so when you consider that it really seems to have an aesthetic that I am craving, what with being semi-futuristic looking possibly going so far as to being called "Cyber-punk".  It -feels- like an aesthetic that has been done time and time again in games, but I will be damned if I can think of an example beyond the Deus Ex series which, to be fair, might be quite enough for some people.  (Because they play the games over and over again, you see.  Well....the first and third one.  Possibly.)  Perhaps because I have not yet partaken of Human Revolution, I have not met my Cyber-punk quota or something of that sort, but the point I'm making in a rather roundabout way is that, after checking out Remember Me I kind of like the look of it.  Of course, I never would have done that (at least, not this soon) had it not been for a Siliconera article titled Remember Me's Neat Combo Customization System Shown in Action.

Combo Customization?  As in, a melee system that is at least somewhat different than hitting a button a lot to punch a guy using a very under-thought, canned animation?  Well, let's have a look-see.  Ahh......hrm.  Hrrmmmmm.  That was basically my reaction throughout the video since it's....not a very good video, basically.  Or rather, it's an excellent video at showing off the very very basics of the combo system, but it stops there.  Beyond the "Over 50,000 possible combos" line, there's absolutely nothing to suggest that the melee system could be one of those "is as deep as you make it" systems, which are oftentimes the most fun, I should think.  In execution, of course, which leaves the presentation of it completely up to the developer.  I think this is really one of the 'barriers' that stops some games melee short in what's considered 'tedious and repetitive' versus other games' 'deep and satisfying' appraisal.

If you'll allow me a moment to draw some comparisons, I'll do the outlandish and bring up Batman:  Arkham Asylum and the more recent Lollipop Chainsaw in the same breath.  As I'm sure you're all aware, the former was praised (perhaps rightly so) for having 'a deep and intuitive melee system' whereas the latter was criticized (incorrectly) for being 'boring, tedious combat' and, being somebody who kind of has a thing for melee systems and who has played both games, I believe I can offer something of an explanation for why I think they were perceived as such.  Without playing the very obvious cards of the former being goddamn Batman, and the latter being a campy, B-Movie-looking (but amazing, excellent) game, because even though I'm sure those factored in a little bit, I have to believe that we're all always just looking for the fun experience, no matter the framing, and that the latter would be just as touted as the former if it made one very little change.  That change, that reason for the difference in appraisal I believe, is all about presentation.

By that, I mean specifically what happens on-screen when you push the attack button in an attempt to, well, attack a dude.  It seems like a minor, weird thing to think about, but it is -not- and is, I believe, one of the more important aspects you could incorporate into a melee system.  In Arkham Asylum (I can't speak for City since I haven't played it), you push punch and Batman might roll and punch, might take a little hop and punch, might swing around and punch, etc. - my point being simply that Batman, when ordered to punch, does not have just one animation dedicated to doing so.  Let's face it; if you strip both games I mentioned down to their inputs, they're pretty much the exact same thing.  You're hitting Square (on PS3) a lot and sometimes Circle to break it up (when Batman needs to break a block with the cape, or Juliet needs to vault over a dude to hit a different one because it looks awesome) while every now and then you hit the other buttons for auxiliary commands.  As Batman, you're flipping around and doing all sorts of impressive-looking shit that isn't expressly the same because there's just a few variations on just about every animation so while you'll see the same thing over and over again, it won't be right after the other after the other.  Juliet Starling, on the other hand has substantially more variation in her moves and her combos, however every attack more or less just has the one animation.

The result of that is that you end up, likely, settling on one or two different combos that seem to do the most damage and use them again and again, leading you to see the same animations again and again in the span of mere seconds.  The effect wears in rather easily because it's not exactly fluid, it's not, well, different, even slightly.  So, for Batman, because everything is slightly different in context with itself, it's that much more visually interesting, which means you're drawn into watching it, into paying more attention.  It's nothing approaching a question of mechanics, it's purely visual interest, because when you strip that away it is, as I said, virtually identical.  So really, that is kind of my theory on what makes the difference in the wide audience opinion.  I am kind of an outlier in that theory because I know of it, I suppose, since I enjoyed Lollipop Chainsaw much much more than Arkham Asylum, which might seem like heresy, but that's just how it is.  There, I said it.

Anyways.  Obviously, I brought all that up and went through all of that because I am going to use that to address my problem that I can see with Remember Me already.  It is precisely the problem I identified with why I imagine some people are less drawn to a melee system, and that's kind of an issue if Remember Me is really touting itself as a brawler of any sort.  Every single animation for the combos that you can create is the same for that combo and combo type.  Now, while it's likely a difficult task to change it up, I'm sure it could be done, and -especially- when it comes to the finishers for the Power line combo.  You're gonna have to vary it up if you want to attract the wider audience because nobody's going to care about making their own combos if it's just going to be a matter of setting one or two combos to last you the game and seeing those same five animations over and over again.  Because nobody is going to change their combos -just- to make it look different as it plays out.  Still, it's a pretty nifty idea in concept, so it certainly got my attention.  I just hope for their sake that they put a little more thought into it before it releases, because I can see a lot of middling impressions forming already.

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