More Art Than Video Game
On the surface, the source material for PC's come from very familiar territory. I for one already had my share of stories about dystopian futures, evil mega-corporations and amnesiac heroes. But upon reflection in the 13 hours I put in to complete this game, I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. Here is a video game that takes worn-out tropes and with them creates an interesting narrative and a conceptually and aesthetically compelling world . So if you can stomach some glaring gameplay hiccups and flaws, you will find a lot to like in Capcom's latest action game.
The story of takes place in 2084 Neo-Paris. Citizens there extensively use SenSen technology, the gadgets to digitize and regulate memories. You play the game as Nilin, a young woman who had most of her memories wiped. Thanks to a man known as Edge, Nilin escapes from the facility and begins to rediscover her past. The protagonist learns that she was able to alter memories, in essence toying with emotions and behaviors. For instance she made a man believe that he killed his wife [even though it never happened], causing him to commit suicide. With this awesome power, Nilin helps Edge and friends to take down Memorize, the giant corporation responsible for spreading SenSen tech.
The narrative strength of this game largely resides with Nilin. She is clearly a capable woman with superb knowledge of hand-to-hand combat and traversing urban terrain, on top of her ability to "re-mix" memories. But you can tell that she is also scared of her gift; her ability to "play god", as she puts it, genuinely chills her. She also questions Edge's motives concerning the destruction of infrastructure and ruination of hundreds if not thousands of Neo Parisian lives. Given her lack of knowledge about who she was before the memory wipe, you are eager to discover who she was before her adult life. In sum she is a very intruiging character who is easy to root for; you want her to succeed.
The praise I sing for Nilin cannot really translate to the other characters in this game. The villains get the worst treatment, most of whom are psychotic and masochistic without any rhyme or reason as to why they are so. They want to shoot stuff and make a mess out of the people they have authority over, their fervor approaching cartoonish levels. The supporting cast is better off slightly; there are no psychotics there. Although most characters on Nilin's side are nice guys, that is all there is to them. Edge has some character development but that is at the end of the game. In short no character has the depth and the rounded character that Nilin has.
is split into eight episodes, with each episode containing its own platforming and combat sequences, culminating in a boss battle. Nilin traverses Neo Paris by climbing onto pipes, hanging on windersills and other sorts of parkour maneuvers. There also might be puzzles that come with riddles, forcing Nilin to move this object or that to progress through the stage. I like the puzzles/riddles, some of which are pretty clever and require some thought. If you are stumped, though, the game will hand you fat hints to proceed. Aside from some awesome moments, like running away from a military chopper, platforming sequences are nothing to write home about; it's just a good vehicle to go from Point A to B.
The highlights of playing the game come when Nilin remixes memories. You are given a memory, and you have to change little things in that recollection to produce a drastically different result. Back to the example of the man killing the wife, you need to turn the safety off the gun for the wife to die among other trivialities. These portions are like the riddles, in that you need to think things through. There are some red herring options to avoid and parts you must change before you can create the desired outcome and continue with the game. Little by little you can see how the memory changes and the impact your modifications are making, and there is tremendous satisfaction when successfully remixing a memory.
While platforming is largely innocuous , the combat of this game has its peaks and valleys. Fighting consists of hand to hand combat against zombie-esque Leapers and armored policemen. With various 2-button combinations comprised of attacks called "Pressens", Nilin punches and kick through the enemy hordes and bosses, with a dodge button as a useful tool to avoid damage. As the story progresses Nilin unlocks special moves [S-Pressens], such as an attack steroid that improves with every strike, and a stealth option that can instakill one giant baddie. You can also modify the Pressens, so while one blow will do less damage it can regenerate health. You can also alter a punch or kick to reduce the cooldowns of your special abilities.
There are some instances when the video game combat hits a sweet spot and everything works perfectly. Nilin will resemble a graceful ballerina on the stage, disposing foes with a beautiful combination of uppercuts and flying kicks, all the while leapfrogging from foe to foe to get out of harm's way. But later in the game the enemy numbers multiply, and all of a sudden the fighting turns from an artful dance to a tedious, boring slugfest. The dodge mechanic simply cannot keep up with more foes as it becomes confused about where Nilin should dodge. To make matters more aggrevating, enemies can deliver cheap shots once Nilin just finishes a dodge move.
Aside from the inconsistent combat, the game has a bad habit of making awesome moments less so. In the first boss fight you are trapped inside a violent reality TV show with rock music blaring . This is supposed to a glorious of the game! But the dodge mechanics fail to deliver, and by the time I beat the boss I was more relieved than exhillerated. But the most egregious offenders of making great moments worse are the quick-time events. The prompts do not stand out at all, so unless the scene goes into slow motion, you will have absolutely no idea what to press and when to press it. Lesson? Do not subject players to trial-and-error in a cool moment; badassitude wanes from this practice.
Now I want to get back to why this game is worth your while: The presentation. is the best-looking game I've been around since Child of Eden. The visuals are a wonderful blend of realism and...erm... non-realism. Both setting and character alike contain the killer combo of distinct design and deft details. Neo Paris, for instance, has both the futuristic buildings and the pre-20th century sculptures, on top of a graphics engine that makes the city realistic-looking. Nilin herself has the texture and shadows accurately dancing throughout her body depending on the lighting of the stage. Her walk animations, such as limping from a bad ankle or shielding herself from searing fire, are also very convincing.
There is also that element in the aesthetics that are the antitheses of real. The Nilin monologues are instances where she is sitting on a floating block and reflecting. It makes sense; memories and the mind are abstract and have no real physical form so to speak, and the non-realistic art design reflects their intangible natures. But Nilin's remixing tool also has some jagged edges that own that same blocky look. When she learns a new S-Pressen, blocky angelic wings sprout from her back. I cannot describe the graphics sufficiently; you have to play the game to judge for yourself. What I will conclude is that this weird polygonal art design complements its realist counterparts beautifully, resulting in a great game to just look at.
The soundtrack fits with the game's setting like a glove. It has its share of synth music to reflect the futuristic side of Neo-Paris. My favorite tune is the one during combat, which grows in volume when Nilin executes an attack combo and quiets down whenever she takes damage. That music evokes the "action girl" feeling, infusing the combat with energy and excitement. But on the other side, has its expressive orchestral scores that seem to echo the "old Paris" side of the city. While the music is a peg below material that you want to put in your iPod, the soundtrack is still incredibly well composed. Composer Olivier Deriviere should get a pat on the back for a job well done.
Like the situation with the character development, the voice acting has one bright spot and several pedestrian efforts. Kezia Burrows, who voices Nilin, is the highlight because she can express a large set of emotions. Her accent doesn't come off as a gimmick, a testament to Burrows' capabilities as a voice actress. Everyone else largely resembles one caricature or another. The villains sound like over the top psychopaths, and Nilin's supporting cast possess a more informal tongue to underline their overall kindness. Edge, meanwhile, sounds like a wannable leader of religious zealots [think a younger Command and Conquer's Kane], so he comes off to be a bit too cheezy. Again, all characters voice their respective parts, but most of those parts are one-note and boring.
Anyone living in the same Hong Kong flat as I am would hear me constantly yelling and raging for four days at due to its really up-and-down combat system and indistinguishable quick-time-event prompts. I admit that I did make my throat sore fro all the shouting and cursing, but I have to say that is a very good game. Its combat sequences have enough smooth moments that it does not detract the other parts of the game that shine, especially its wonderful graphics, art design and the parts where you remix memories. Throw in a top notch protagonist and you have yourself a game that is very recommendable to fans of action games and stories with futuristic settings.