Remember Me came out with little fanfare, and was forgotten by the end of the week. In this respect it might have one of the most depressingly funny titles ever. I’ve been curious about it for a while, if only because Capcom of today intrigues me. While they cop a lot of flak, Capcom is at least trying. Sometimes they fail because they try too much and miss what made a game entertaining in the first place (they tried to please everybody with Resident Evil 6 and largely failed). Sometimes they fall flat because they try and do things differently, or hand their ips over to others (DMC reboot under Ninja Theory was a surprising move by Capcom). But the more interesting success story was Dragon’s Dogma, which came out of nowhere and kicked ass. It was my game of the year for last year, and I eagerly pounced on Dark Arisen when it was released. It was an interesting move from a company known for constant rehashes and dead horse beating; a new ip with a western slant.
And that’s what got me interested in Remember Me. A new action game, with a female protagonist to boot, set in future Paris where people steal eachother’s memories. Curiosity grew into a strong desire to play it, so once the price hit a low enough threshold I picked it up. Now I’ve played through it. So the question is simple; is it worth remembering Remember Me?
The answer, sadly, is no. Not really. Remember Me brings a lot of interesting ideas to the table, but their execution is off. It has an interesting world, but never capitalises on it. It brings up interesting themes, but sidelines them to focus on a fairly basic story, It has a dull combat system that had potential if they’d just tweaked it. And, most harming of all, it has some great ideas that are underused, leading to missed opportunities.
Set in Neo-Paris, year 2084, the powerful Memorize corporation has created a monopoly on memories through Sensen, a digital implant everybody has that allows people to interact with their memories. People can share memories with loved ones, and erase bad ones. Memorize exploits this by monitoring and collecting people’s memories. Sensen also has the unfortunate side effect of mutating some people into insane sewer-dwelling subhumanoids called Leapers. An underground resistance group known as Errorists are also running amok, trying to bring Memorize down.
For a story and world concerned with treating memories as commodities, it’s somewhat fitting that Nilin, the protagonist, begins the game with amnesia. At the game’s onset she escapes from a research facility, with the assistance of an Errorist named Edge, then embarks on a quest to find her memory and put a stop to Memorize’s experiments. It’s a fairly basic story, helped along with an interesting world.
There are a few interesting themes the game briefly touches on, but disappointingly never delves into. The division between rich and poor (the slums are prone to Leaper attacks, while the rich are none-the-wiser) makes up social commentary for the first few levels (where the vastly differing settings could have been used to make a point). The actions of the Errorists also bring up some concerns, which are briefly mentioned, but then never get mentioned again (Nilin spends most of the game just doing as she’s told, only briefly pondering on the consequences).
The biggest theme the game could have delved into is the ethics regarding sharing and stealing memories. Nilin, at times, steals and remixes character’s memories, often having a profound effect on them. This opens up all sorts of ethical issues but, disappointingly, the game never bothers to follow that thread. Any concerns about philosophy and ethics are thrown out so the game can focus on killer mutants rising up from the sewer.
The story, likewise, is mostly a straightforward affair, with Nilin learning a little about the world, herself and other characters as she takes steps to bring down Memorize and regain her own memories. There are a few end-game revelations that have varying effectiveness. Some come as genuine surprises, while others are plainly silly (the final revelation is profoundly stupid, leading in to a big dumb final boss).
The visual design is quite fantastic. The slums and sewers are suitably dirty, filled with trash and graffiti. Conversely, the upper-class neighbourhoods are exquisite and affluent, with a pleasingly feasible Europe-but-in-the-future aesthetic. Character models are quite good, with nice details (though the creepy voluptuous robot bodies are odd). The Leapers are a freaky bunch as well (the Johnny Greenteeth encounter is all sorts of creepy).
The sound design is alright, with futuristic tunes that often compliment the design. The voice acting however is often embarrassingly bad. While Nilin and a few of her colleagues perform quite well, just about every villainous and ancillary character is a hammy, overacting mess. It’s amplified with some asinine writing (one recurring villain, a corrupt security guard, talks like a dude-bro, while Leapers sound silly when they talk).
The actual gameplay, sadly, is lacking. There are ideas here, but their execution is wanting, leaving some missed opportunities. Combat is a combo-based affair that doesn’t quite work. As you play, you earn experience you can use to learn ‘Pressens’, which are basic strikes performed with either the square or triangle button. Pressens come in four varieties; power deals damage, regen heals you, cooldown reduces the cooldown for special attacks (more on this later) and amplify simply makes the preceding strike stronger.
You fill combo templates with strikes you unlock, but it’s a limited system. There are only four templates (for a 3-hit, 5-hit, 6-hit and 8-hit combo) and you spend most of the game without enough strikes to fill them. It’s a messy, restrictive system that could have been made much better by simply allowing players to create their own combos outside of the templates. The timing for combos is often unclear, leading you to fail a basic combo because the game thought you were trying to do another one. It doesn’t help that enemies constantly attack you, meaning you rarely get to finish a combo. There is a dodge button, and something of a dodge-offset combo feature, but they don’t help too much. Combos only continue if you hit an enemy with every strike, causing you to flail around at times.
S-Pressens are special attacks. After dealing a certain amount of damage, you fill a focus gauge that lets you perform a special move. These are quite varied, ranging from simply making your hits vastly stronger for a short time, turning invisible for an insta-kill and hacking robot enemies to fight for you. After using a special attack, it will have a cool down period of a minute or two. And this is what slows down a lot of combat.
The most used one, and the one that essentially breaks the combat at times, is the DOS Attack, which stuns enemies. DOS Attack is required to fight every single boss and many recurring mini-boss enemies. Boss enemies tend to turn invisible, grow shields or teleport, and the only way to opent hem up for attacks is with DOS Attack. The cooldown for it is a whopping two minutes. You’re meant to use cooldown pressens to lower the time, but doing so means you deal minimal damage to bosses. This essentially limits your combos, turning most boss battles into endurance contests. If the cooldown time was halved combat would have a much better pace. You also have access to a projectile weapon, but it’s quite weak with a huge cooldown and is mostly just used for puzzles.
The game funnels you from one battle to the next, interspersed with basic Uncharted-style climbing traversal. There are limited opportunities to search for some of the numerous collectibles (many of which tend to be in plain sight), so you’re mostly following a fairly straight path. There are some puzzles, often involving pressing switches, so they’re mostly busywork. There are to late-game puzzles that break the pattern, but they’re almost bizarrely obtuse leading to confusion.
The biggest missed opportunity and the game’s most interesting – but underused – mechanic is memory remixing. At certain points in the story, Nilin has to change a person’s personality by delving into their head, finding an important memory and changing it. These segments act almost like limited editing software – you view the memory first, then rewind it and change certain details. You might switch the safety of a gun off, or cause a computer to malfunction, or unfasten a seatbelt. Each change alters the memory, and you have to puzzle it out to reach the desired outcome. It’s the game’s most interesting aspect, yet there’s not enough of it. You only remix memories four times throughout the game. These segments also bring up massive ethical implications that, as stated before, simply never get addressed.
Remember Me has a lot of good ideas, but most haven’t successfully bridged the gap between concept and execution. It’s a game of small disappointments, missed opportunities and brief, underused moments of greatness. With tweaking and improvement it could have been something special, but as it stands Remember Me ends up being mostly forgettable. If found it at a bargain price though, I’d recommend trying it out, if only to just see the missed potential.