Summer has typically been a slower season for game releases, a time where publishers can experiment by introducing new properties that might not otherwise get attention when placed up against the annual AAA heavyweight releases in the fall. With that in mind, Capcom and developer Dontnod Entertainment has seen fit to introduce us to Remember Me, a game that aims to remix a few standard gaming conventions while creating an ambitious story and overarching universe. What they left us with was a refreshing experience that while flawed in some predictable ways, still creates a lasting impression on players willing to look past them.
Watch the Remember Me Video Review:
Remember Me takes place in Neo-Paris during the year 2084, several years after a civil war devastating the region had ended, leaving the city to be gradually rebuilt. Despite the hardship, the march of technology continues on, culminating in the invention of a new brain implant, the Sensation Engine or Sensen for short. Sensen technology is able to digitize people’s memories and transfer them for archiving and retrieval on demand, as well as manipulate them to remove unhappy or unpleasant events if one so desires (or if perhaps someone else does for you). This of course opens up all sorts of possibilities, both good and bad, and the fact that the technology is monopolized by a nefarious corporation aptly named Memorize is no comforting thought either, and soon fears are realized as they dutifully create an oppressive surveillance state. Standing up to this is a small group known as the Errorists, of which our female protagonist, Nilin, is a part of as their most talented Memory Hunter. You start the game after her capture, with most of her memory wiped, trapped inside Memorize’s Bastille fortress. She contacted by the mysterious Errorist leader, Edge, who hacks the facility to assist your escape. Once outside you have to face the terror of the Leapers, memory-addicted people who have absorbed so many memories into their Sensens that they have degraded into a subhuman form. From then on Nilin struggles to piece her memories back together as she fights back against Memorize and their security forces for a cause she’s not even sure she should believe in given the consequences of her actions and the fact that her orders come from Edge with very little context. It all unfolds in rather movie-like fashion, with Nilin’s monologues peppered between each episode helping to reveal her true character. More details about the technology, history, and the characters in the universe can be found in Mnesist memories which you can pick up throughout the levels. I personally enjoyed the story quite a bit. While it is not a hard sci fi and falls into some tropes, its deep and visionary enough that I found myself immersed in it and wanting to see what happened next.
Now let’s talk about what you have to do in order to progress the story. First, you have the platforming elements a la Uncharted or maybe even Enslaved for those who remember that game. This is nothing particularly special and has been done to death. In this case the desired path from handhold to handhold is even highlighted through the game’s augmented reality system. The only challenge to be found in these portions of the game is finding some of the hidden powerups, which are revealed through a floating screenshot of a location near you, only from a different angle. Other than that it’s pretty typical linear fare.
The real meat of Remember Me’s gameplay can be found in the hand to hand combat, which resembles Arkham Asylum’s to a certain extent, focusing on executing combos with the X and Y button and hitting to A button to dodge incoming attacks, which are represented by a red exclamation point appearing over the baddie who’s about to hit you. Now much has been made of the Combo Lab feature in the prerelease press, but it’s not as crazy as it sounds. You don’t actually create your own combos, but rather, you configure the effects of each hit in the chain. There’s four preset combos of increasing lengths, and four different “Pressens” or effects you can apply to them: Regen (health), Power (damage), Cooldown (for specials), and Chain (increases the effect of the previous Pressen). As you play the game you unlock the combos through story progression, and the Pressens unlock as you earn PMP (Remember Me’s form of XP), of which type and button (X or Y) you get to decide. The longer the combo and the further down the chain a Pressen is, the greater of an effect it has. So while it’s not as cool as inventing button combinations all by yourself, the idea is neat in that allows you to strategize your combat effects. I tended to group different effects into different combos, so that I had an attack combo, a healing combo, and a cooldown combo for instance. You can change these on the fly however to fit the situation and I highly suggest you do so, as different enemies require different approaches. There’s an indicator on the bottom to let you know if you’re pulling off each combo effectively, and it takes a while to get the timing down, but once you become proficient it can be immensely satisfying.
Once you build up enough focus through chaining combos together, you can also unleash S-Pressens with the left trigger. These are special abilities that allow you to overwhelm opponents with speed, stun them, stealth and one shot enemies, as well as hack any attacking robot into an ally. Some of these abilities are actually required to get past certain enemies, which is where having combos with Cooldown Pressens is critical so you don’t have to wait 2 minutes before using an S-Pressen again. As the game progresses the combat becomes more entertaining as you combine all these elements. My only problem is by the end, areas become so flooded with enemies that you end up having to spend more time dodging than connecting combos, and that’s where things fall apart and begin to feel repetitive. The exciting parts of the fighting come more from the grouping of enemies with different weaknesses and the drawn out boss sequences rather than the sheer number of leapers swarming around you.
Another fun and unique but ultimately disappointing part of the gameplay is the Memory Remixes. These are puzzle type, trial and error sequences in the game where Nilin makes use of her Memory Hunter powers to tap into another character’s Sensen, hacking their recollection of a pivotal event in order to change their minds. The way these work is you play through the recorded memory, then rewind slowly searching for glitches, or little details about their memory you can change, such as the placement of a table, whether a seatbelt was fastened or a screen turned on, etc. Manipulating these will then alter the chain of events as the memory replays. Each of these sequences has a predetermined goal, like killing someone or altering the perception of who was at fault for something, but each interaction you have can have a different ending, and sometimes it’s fun to screw up on purpose just to see what happens. Yes ultimately it is just trial and error as I said earlier, but it was a nice break from the action and a great storytelling device that tied perfectly into how the Remember Me universe works. Unfortunately, you only get to do these remix segments less than a handful of times. I would have liked to see a little more depth to it as well instead of just guessing one way or another on each detail. Still, a great new concept that was executed well for its limited role in the game.
I found Remember Me’s art design quite visually compelling, using a broad range of colors and bright settings while still holding on to that dark cyberpunk tradition it’s drawing from. I loved the little touches of augmented reality overlaying various things around you, really making you feel the Sensent technology’s prevalence. Nilin makes for an attractive lead yet is pragmatically dressed for the most part. The enemies are almost as slick looking and I liked the robot designs, in particular the way they would project the image of a fierce dog as a warning. Cutscenes suffered from the occasional bug in my play through, but otherwise look great. It’s no Halo 4 graphically, but it’s perfectly good enough. The soundtrack is surprisingly spectacular, combining a cinematic score with electronic edits that give it a very appropriate remix vibe. Voice acting is spotty at moments, but not enough to detract from the story, which is what really carries the game.
I really enjoyed this game, mostly for everything surrounding it rather than the gameplay itself. It introduces a lot of concepts that feel fresh, and there’s some peaks in the combat where everything just kind of clicks into place, and you pull off just the right combos in time to unleash an S-Pressen that makes light work of a horde of enemies. But at the same time I would be remiss to gloss over some of the shortcomings like the weak platforming and the limited memory remixing. The foundation is there to build another franchise on the level of Assassin’s Creed with this universe, but it remains to be seen if a sequel is coming to deliver on that promise. If you enjoy linear, story-centric 3rd person action titles much like I do however, this is not one to miss.