A game that has ironically slipped under the radar for many, Remember Me is something of a risk for Capcom, a brand new IP that borrows gameplay elements from numerous popular titles, and weaves them together within a futuristic world that’s perhaps not too far from our own reality. It’s a linear title that does things mostly by the book – but its confident atmosphere and nuanced mechanics create an experience that is indeed memorable, if a little flawed.
You play as Nilin, a female revolutionist who fights against a corporation that's largely responsible for turning people’s memories into digital data, allowing them to be shared like files over the Internet. It’s a method of control – everyone in this relatively near-future glimpse of Paris makes use of a Sensen, a brain implant device that overlays the world around you with helpful bits of information and records your memories. It’s essentially Google Glass come to fruition, albeit with evil undertones, and it allows the aforementioned corporation, Memorize, to keep a steady surveillance over the population.
Of course, if mainstream media has taught us anything, it’s that every power-mad, tech-savvy group of oppressors needs to be embroiled in constant war with a resistance party, and Remember Me is no different. Filling this role are the Errorists, a rag-tag bunch of freedom fighters who are supposedly looking out for the people, despite their awful, cringe-inducing moniker. Thankfully, the conflict isn’t as black and white as it seems, and as Nilin, you’ll no doubt be questioning the actions of both sides as you progress.
These morally grey scenarios add depth to the narrative, but it’s ultimately stunted by disappointingly bland characters and a very linear plot that refuses to dig deeper, even though all of the finer details are present. There are numerous points in the game where the tale seems to be going somewhere genuinely captivating, only to find itself being yanked along by a cast that are never fleshed out to the degree that they should be. It’s an absolute shame too, as our likeable protagonist shows a lot of potential. Initially, she appears to be a vulnerable personality due to the loss of her memories, but she’s gradually reborn as a strong and independent female lead. However, this sense of development is marred by uninspired dialogue and out of place one-liners, while the majority of the supporting cast simply don’t get enough screen time, and thus they end up being little more than annoying stereotypes.
Overall, it’s a story that’s not afraid of reusing worn clichés, and its often pretentious tone clashes with writing that would be far better suited to a generic action movie. The mature feel that the game tries to convey is also hampered by ham-fisted plot twists and characters with names like ‘Edge’ and ‘Bad Request’, who sound like B-list rap artists, making it difficult to become emotionally attached to anything that transpires. To be fair, though, it’s still a story that strives for something more intelligent than most other releases dare to attempt, and regardless of its flaws, it’s just enough to keep your attention throughout the deceptively lengthy campaign.
Despite the clunky narrative, Dontnod Entertainment has at least crafted a title that features entertaining, if unoriginal, gameplay. The developer has clearly taken inspiration from blockbusters such as Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception and Batman: Arkham City, but it has integrated additional, subtle twists to keep the formula feeling somewhat unique.
The majority of your playtime will be spent running, jumping, and climbing around a variety of environments within Neo-Paris, and it’s here that the Uncharted comparisons become so obvious. Like Naughty Dog’s stellar series, there’s a never-ending supply of ledges, roofs, pipes, walls, and ladders to scamper across. The platforming controls feel responsive and fluid, although traversal is strictly linear, making it extremely hard to get lost. Your Sensen will also highlight which ledge you should be jumping to next, and while it’s a detail that’s quite clever given the universe’s technological advancement, it can seem like excessive hand-holding.
Stealth elements also play a part, but not to any large extent. You'll have to guide Nilin past her fair share of armed sentry drones during your time with the release, and if you wander into their line of sight, you'll be killed instantly. It's just about as basic as stealth gets, and it'll make you wonder why it wasn't expanded upon further.
There are plenty of scripted platforming events, too. They’re nothing that we haven’t seen before, but they pave the way for some of the more memorable moments in the game. Unfortunately, they can also prove to be frustrating scenarios, as you’ll have to sit through a loading screen every time that you take a tumble and return to the last checkpoint. This is especially true when gameplay inconsistencies start popping up. For example, one moment an aircraft’s bullets will pass straight through Nilin as you direct her up the side of a building during a scripted climb, but the same projectiles will kill her instantly if they so much as graze her ankle when the game decides that the proceedings are no longer on-rails.
Every now and then, leaping across rooftops and bounding your way through lovely French architecture will bring you to areas that essentially act as arenas in which combat takes place. The system is predominately melee based, and for that reason it plays a lot like the brawling found in Rocksteady’s Batman series, complete with the ability to cartwheel over the tops of antagonists' heads. You’ll soon find battles actually have a lot in common with rhythm games – stringing together combos with the square and triangle buttons, while pressing the X button to flip away from danger when an exclamation mark flashes above an adversary. What really solidifies this flow is the fact every input must be precise – start mashing the controller and you’ll quickly be beaten to a pulp.
The fighting therefore adopts a particular tempo that rewards caution, and is supplemented by the ability to create your own combos using a light RPG-inspired menu. Every time that you defeat an enemy, you’ll gain points that can be spent on unlocking new square and triangle attacks that can then be assigned to a specific chain of inputs. Things get even more interesting when each punch and kick has a designated ability – some break guards, while others restore your own health. As such, customising Nilin’s moves brings welcome tactical depth, giving you the option of crafting combinations that both heal your wounds and do large amounts of damage at the same time.
To complete the well balanced system, you’ll gradually unlock access to special moves over the course of the game, which are both flashy and satisfying. From brutally smashing opponents with enhanced blows to taking control of armed robots, the powers on offer are a joy to initiate, and manage to keep brawls feeling relatively fresh – at least when you’re able to make use of them. These abilities have a cool down meter, and although you can lessen the wait for them to recharge by employing certain combos, it can still take too long before you're able to issue any meaningful damage to some foes. Unfortunately, there are numerous fights that require a certain super move to progress, and if your Focus – Nilin’s special attack gauge – is low, or you’re in the middle of a cool down, proceedings can really start to drag. Compounding the problem further, the game has a bad habit of recycling enemy combinations and merely increasing their numbers later in the campaign, prompting the combat to lose a lot of its lustre.
That’s not to say that the slow action is out of place, though. Remember Me is a very cautiously paced title that all but forces you to adapt to the methodical flow of its gameplay, and for that reason it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. That said, those who do adjust and proceed with patience will find plenty to like, as both of the game’s core aspects are well implemented and somewhat polished – just expect to jump over a few unnecessary obstacles if you want to maximise your enjoyment.
Unexpectedly, the release introduces one final aspect of gameplay that’s far more unique than the elements that we’ve previously discussed. Nilin has the ability to remix people’s memories, diving into a person’s recollection of an important event in their life, and changing the course of the memory in order to manipulate the host. You’ll be shown a cut-scene where the incident takes place, and then be tasked with carefully altering bits and pieces when you happen across a distinct, adjustable glitch. It’s a process that sounds far more complex than it actually is, though it certainly takes some practice before you'll be able to wrap your head around it. Messing with people’s brains brings a nicely contemplative slice of gameplay to the table – it suits the rest of the product well, and its sparing use ensures that it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Fortunately, all of Remember Me’s flaws are, to an extent, glossed over by its delightfully creative art direction and sense of style. While the game is nothing special on a technical level – with some poor textures, stiff animations, and awkward camera angles detracting from the experience – Neo-Paris itself has been lovingly put together by a clearly passionate design team. The city portrays a brilliant mix of the world as we know it, enhanced with technology that seems realistically plausible. Robot helpers scrub shop windows as your Sensen overlay places little bits of information on top of anything that you come close to, pointing out restaurant menus, environmental hazards, and quirky holographic advertisements.
Similarly, the audio is emotive and unique. Cut-scenes are punctuated by the accompanying music, which ranges from harmonic pieces to tracks that indulge in electronic beats, and all of it clicks perfectly with the game’s setting. Our only gripe is that the battle themes stop and start based on your performance – and while this is a nice touch, it means getting hit restarts the loop, potentially robbing you of your sanity as you're berated with the same few notes on repeat. In terms of the voice work, the cast does a decent job in spite of the poor writing, although repeated lines during boss fights can really start to grate, given how drawn out the battles can be.
Remember Me introduces a number of intelligent concepts, but despite a promising premise, it fails to deliver a compelling cast of characters. Its combat is enjoyable, but it becomes tiresome in later battles, and while its platforming is fast and fluid, it never really strives to stand out. Fortunately, for all of the game's faults, its futuristic setting is rich and compelling, meaning that while the game won't linger in your memory forever, you definitely won't be forgetting it in a hurry.