It’s ironic that I am covering a game about memories when I had completely forgotten about the first reveal of Remember Me. It first surfaced back in 2011 at Germany’s GamesCom show, where it was teased as “Adrift” and targeted as a PS3 exclusive until Sony let go of the game, due to the newly-formed French studio, Dontnod, having creative disagreements with the Japanese corporation. It wasn’t till GamesCom 2012 that the title resurfaced with a new name and a new publisher – Capcom came in to fund the remaining development of the project for a multiplatform release on 360, PS3 and PC. There’s no doubt that Remember Me has the attention of people, for a multitude of reasons: It’s a new IP, it features a mixed-race female lead, and the protagonist doesn’t get to use guns. It’s far away from the safety net of “dudebro” action that publishers and developers use as an excuse for their choice of game and lead characters, and that’s fantastic. So then, will Remember Me be remembered for being a good game and not for the studio’s design decisions that brought the attention of gaming fans tired of the same typical action games?
The year is 2084 and the setting is the futuristic city of Neo-Paris, where civilians have become addicted to Memorize Corporation’s brain implant (Sensen). This device allows anyone to share their memories with other people or even forget about upsetting or unpleasant situations that have happened in the past. One of the demonstrations of this concept is shown during the adverts that are plastered around the city. “I relive the first day of my love for my partner everyday” is what one woman states, forever locked into that feeling of fresh affection. Access to new memories is as easy as going to one of the many machines that act like ATM cash points, in which people can trade gold for a new memory and ask for what you want. Memorize has such a grip over its civilians that a group of rebels known as Errorists are trying to bring it down and free people from their obsession of throwing away bad memories instead of learning from them.
Players take on the role of Nilin, a memory hunter turned Errorist with a gifted ability to remix memories. She begins the game waking up in the process of having her memory wiped. On the way to the final memory removal stage, a call comes in from a stranger known as Edge, who introduces himself as the leader of the Errorists and tells Nilin her history to encourage an escape. From there, players must help Nilin return back to the Errorist hideout and carry out their plan to remove the presence of Memorize for good – while having her own agenda of recovering the memories stolen from her. Nilin, as a protagonist, is a very likeable character who can handle her own. She’s fleshed-out enough to give a good representation of a strong female lead. The rest of the characters introduced are all over the spectrum – some bad, some respectable, along with a constant supply of British voice acting that follows the same quality as the game’s characters.
After the opening scenes, it’s not long until you see Remember Me’s setting as a thing of intriguing, visual beauty. It’s striking to see the contrast of the dark, gloomy slums, lit only by sun rays skipping over the breaches in the ceiling. Hostility is found thanks to the hosts of humans who have abused the use of memories, twisting into deformed human beings known as Leapers. Then you have the carefree, “refined” citizens of Neo-Paris, and gorgeous architecture that blends with Blade Runner-esque electronic billboards, advertising all the wonderful benefits of getting memory replacement. This stylish world is one that deserves your attention and in all honesty is the game’s main attraction to pull you in. A shame, then, that the game is linear, to the point you can tell which areas are going to be the battle zones; you’re never given the room to fully explore such beauty.
While it excels with its art direction, it isn’t quite as strong in regards to the gameplay. One of its key features, the Combo Lab, gives the ability to fully customise Nilin’s combos through a menu, offering options to adjust combos to suit the desired situation. Players are given pre-set combos – up to four in total – which can be slotted with Pressens (using X or Y) to activate positive features during the combo the Pressen is assigned to. Pressens come in four varieties: Power (heavy damage), Regen (heals a little bit of health, deals less damage), Cooldown (reduces cool down by a certain amount on special moves), or Chain (doubles the effect of the previous Pressen hit).
This sounds fantastic on paper, but in reality, it’s far from the amazing concept it advertises to be. You’ll be doing a lot of fighting in Remember Me, and so having a well-built combat engine goes a long way to fight off boredom from doing the same thing over and over again. The combo lab doesn’t resolve this, because the fact is you are only given up to four combinations to work with. The first one is a simple three-button combination, while the last is around nine hits. You never change these button presses, so throughout the game you’re doing the same four combinations. Even if you are seeing different animations due to the various Pressens in effect, it doesn’t stop it from becoming repetitive towards the last third of this seven-to-eight-hour adventure. The fight system isn’t for button mashers, as you need to time the next press accordingly, making the combat have a rhythm; but even then, I noticed that you could get away with bashing the next button in the combo sequence until it highlighted, throwing the need for rhythm out the window if you can memorise the correct button order.
Nilin also has the ability to use S-Pressens that will help her overcome tough battles. There are five in total and their use covers areas such as the ability to spam X or Y for continuous combos; invisibility, to sneak up to someone for a one-hit kill; and using machines as a bomb that sucks in all opponents and blows everything up together. S-Pressens require the use of one block of focus, which is a metre that grows every time Nilin hits an opponent or takes damage and will require a cooldown before it can be used again. If you save up enough focus, you can deal some destruction by using multiple S-Pressens at once. On the side of defence, the game incorporates the extremely popular Batman: Arkham mechanics of being able to dodge an incoming attack by pressing a button at the correct time (there is no parry, counter or blocking featured), signalled by a red exclamation mark above an enemy’s head. Combos can still be sustained after a dodge if continued within the limited time frame.
Remember Me is full of ideas that could potentially lead to something great but just fall short of hitting that mark. The memory remix is one such mechanic that happens only four times in the game. Nilin jumps into the assignment’s memory and watches a scene play out from a scripted perspective. Once over, the player is asked to rewind and look through footage for glaring glitches that can be altered to plant an alternative outcome to what the target originally had lived with. Not all glitches that are activated will bring the desired outcome, so there is some trial and error involved, but either way, the memory plays out differently and it’s nice to see the developers go into that much detail. I would have liked these to have been fleshed-out more, offering a more analytical approach to the situation and the surroundings, and being able to interact with more objects, but I understand that the focus of the game is on action. Memory remixing is also the game’s best way of making the player feel uneasy. You’re entering minds and readjusting their memories like rearranging food in a fridge, and one specific memory in the game will stick with me for a long time. I was left in disbelief that, even though it was a memory, the game let me do that.
The rest of the game revolves around Uncharted-inspired climbing dilemmas and actions that offer minimal freedom slotted between each combat arena. What’s even more bizarre is the game is constantly pointing out to you where to go with these little yellow waypoints. These aren’t even optional (I wouldn’t mind it assigned to a button to show this information), as waypoints hover on-screen at all times, be it the next ledge on a climbing sequence or a drop you need to fall down from. It has no trust in the player to let them just play, as if the Memorize cooperation doesn’t just have a grip on the population of Neo-Paris, but also on the playertaking on the role of Nilin. Have more trust in your audience, developers, because Neo-Paris deserves such freedom of exploration.
There are parts of Remember Me that are likeable – smart, even – and sit teetering on the brink of potential greatness. It helps that it’s backed up with an attractive location and strong atmosphere, which saddens me more that one of its core features – the combat – is not engaging enough to transfer the game into greatness. Mix that up with linearity and its simple climbing sections, and Remember Me is prevented from being anything more than a decent title that will most likely be forgotten by most and remembered by so few.