“Remember Me” is a game about loss and redemption in a society that has opted out of privacy in favor of blissful ignorance thanks to a revolutionary device that can digitize memories which can be shared and wiped. In this brave new world, these memories act as commodities to be bought, bargained, and sold for all your wants and needs. Nothing is secret and no memory is painful anymore — the ideal of a Utopian society that shares all its thoughts while simply erasing the bad ones. However, an underground movement, started by a group calling itself “Errorists,” believe that humanity is heading in the wrong direction and the privileged few aren’t seeing the full picture. There’s a dark side, you’ll see, to messing around in people’s noggins and it’s not very pretty. This is all set up for our amnesiac protagonist, Nilin, to dole out justice against the evil Memorize corporation, save the forgotten populace of Neo-Paris, and win back her memories.
Dontnod Entertainment taps popular sci-fi themes and setting spanning everything from Total Recall to Blade Runner to Fifth Element with gameplay infusing “Batman: Arkham City” with “Uncharted.” It’s a lofty set of ideas that mostly fits together as a young studio attempts to embed itself into the minds of gamers.
The world that Dontnod builds invokes feelings of despair with hints of hope. The misery of the slums is in stark contrast to the rich, spotless surface of Neo-Paris. Huge, gleaming towers show that progress has passed over humanity as surface dwellers go about their business shopping and laughing. Slum dwellers barely have anything to live for, eating the refuse of the privileged. Deeper down is the realm of the Leapers — mutants bent by Memorize’s bizarre experiments. Dontnod teases the player with a world that you want to explore and you’ll want to see more of what “Remember Me” promises.
Unfortunately, the game narrative is very much directed limiting the ammount of wondering around you can do. The world above is ripe for new experiences. Delving into the minds of the city would be an awesome way to learn more about Neo-Paris. This isn’t what “Remember Me” is about. Instead, the story plays straightforward, more or less, as Nilin learns about her past and moves forward on her mission to dismantle Memorize. This doesn’t cheapen the narrative — it focuses it if anything — but Dontnod teases us with a “what if” world of espionage and delivers a mystery/revenge story. Perhaps this game would make a test of sorts for a larger open-world game, and would very much like to see that happen. On the other hand, the plot twists and turns at every new reveal and ends on a satisfactory note.
Nilin is a blank slate — having had her memory wiped — and must rediscover her motives for fighting the evil corporate empire. In what is otherwise a fairly banal video game trope — the amnesiac hero — “Remember Me” meshes this seamlessly with Nilin recalling her acrobatic combatant powers. You gain experience by battling enemies utilizing new moves as she “remembers” them. The interesting part is how you create combos in the combo lab.
I went over this in an earlier preview, but here’s a quick recap — as you level up, new combos and combo abilities can be unlocked. There are four combo preset each increasing in difficulty from 3 simple presses up to a powerful 8 button combo. You’ll have a few modifiers that correlate to the X and Y buttons. These are called Pressens and they do anything from increasing damage, regenerating health, reducing cooldown for super attacks, and multiplying the previous linked ability’s effect.
It sounds complicated but easy to pick up once you unlock the basic combos.
Additionally, there is a bit of forgiveness with combos such that you can create 4 simple chains to rely on if you’re not able to pull of the longer attacks. I ended up using a short 3 hit combo focusing on power and a 6 hit combo that would both heal and allow for more super attacks.
Combat in general is very satisfying, often pushing you towards the edge as you jab in combos. The “Batman: AC” comparison is accurate as you’ll need to manage several foes at once. Thankfully, you have dodge that’s mapped to a single button and it works more often than not and enemies will project their attacks with a red exclamation mark over their head. Another effect of combat is how the game glitches with artifacting effects as you take damage — like corrupted YouTube video. However, as effortlessly knock out combos, you’ll be treated to cool synthesized music that’ll pump you up and keep you kicking ass.
It’s also essential that you mix up you combos as you progress because there’s quite a variety of enemies — mutants, SWAT soldiers, and robots all make it their mission to give you a beating. One baddie in particular reflects a portion of any damage inflicted so you’ll need a combo that can heal you as you pummel him. Bosses present quit the challenge, as they relentlessly summon minions to attack you and their weaknesses aren’t always quite apparent. Expect a lot of trial and error before besting them.
Gameplay consists mostly of combat and traversal puzzles, however, the true highlights emerge though the few memory remixing riddles. These act mostly as transitional set pieces to advance the narrative but play out similarly to point-and-click adventures. As Nilin, you must remix the mind of certain characters to achieve set outcome. Essentially, you have a single timeline to experiment with as you use the gamepad to activate glitches in the person’s mind. Imagine that our thoughts act like a VCR (hey remember those?!), you can jog forwards and backwards editing what you need to make it a completely different memory. What’s really neat is that you can watch several different possible remixes — even though a specific chain of events will progress the story. It’s a fantastic and unique melding of narrative and gameplay.
What’s disappointing is that there are only four of these remix scenarios that I’m sure that Dontnod intended to implement more. In what could have fleshed out the 9 to 12 hour campaign, these remixes are far enough apart to make a significant impact on the intriguing story but are ultimately underused. Perhaps we’ll get some DLC focusing on memory remixes or, even better, a whole new game with this mechanic.
“Remember Me” is a unique game and competently creates some neat narrative mechanics with its memory remixes. Though Dontnod leans a bit too much on past sci-fi stories and can be slightly frustrating with relentless boss fights, they weave a tight experience couple with satisfying combat and puzzles. As we wind down before E3, “Remember Me” is in a great position to capture a fresh audience and you should defintely make room on your list for summer playing.
“Remember Me” is available tomorrow, June 4th for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. Review copy provided by Capcom.