What is your earliest memory? Oddly enough, mine is the speaking of my very first word. I remember being very small, laying on my parents bed and looking up at the ceiling. The casing around the light in that room was an antique from an old barber shop, its logo painted across the face of it. I thought it was pretty cool, and so I managed to push my limited mental faculties to point up at it and identify it as “light”.
But what if this early childhood memory was not true? What if my real first memory had been something entirely different, like of some scarring abuse that, as far as I know now, never took place? Or what if my memory was of my first word, but it was something completely different? Something that, in some seemingly imperceptible way, would change the path of my life. What if somebody changed my memory to change my future decisions? My entire history would have been altered, with myself none the wiser. This is the way the world works in Remember Me.
Remember Me takes place in the year 2084, in the futuristic city of Neo Paris. The world has seen technological advancements through the strides of the Memorize corporation, father of a device called the Sensen. The Sensen is a little thing implanted in the back of a person’s neck that allows full access and sharing of people’s memories. Think the hardware from The Matrix, but working more like an iphone. We’re dealing with some cool science fiction, which is a bit of a personal sweet spot. In this world, memories are shared and exchanged just like how we use social media like Twitter and Tumblr now. This concept is detailed and supported by numerous logs of Neo Paris’ history, to be found throughout the game. The backstory of Sensen and the world as of 2084 is surprisingly well-written, as unlockable backstories in games are so often half-assed. This story is just as intriguing as the game’s main plot.
Remember Me puts you in the shoes of Nilin, a memory hunter who now finds herself hunting for her own memories. The game starts out with her imprisoned in a futuristic re-imagining of Paris’ Bastille, with as little idea of whats going on as we have. Nilin is contacted by Edge, a mysterious revolutionary, and guided out of the prison with his help. After escaping, you begin to learn the context of who you are, and what it means to be a memory hunter. Edge is the leader of the Errorists, a large group trying to end the corruption and class warfare the Memorize corporation is causing in the world. You see plenty of this firsthand, as you move through the decrepit slums of Neo Paris’ lower levels. This city is in need of healing, and Edge seems to think Nilin is just the girl for the job. After all, Nilin possesses a special talent – she can remix people’s memories, planting the inception of new thoughts and ideas in their heads.
Neo Paris is big. At least, that’s what we’re told. The game provides a myriad of different environments ranging from the lower slums to the living places of the content and lazy one percent. Each chapter of the game sets you off on a new mission, and by the game’s end you will have seen a lot of the city. It’s clear that a lot of work went into the world design, which is a shame considering how linear the game is. You will revisit a couple places in different chapters, but overall the game runs in a fairly straight line. A lot of the gameplay involves what can only be described as one-way parkour. Assassin’s Creed-style wall climbing and arena-to-arena beat-em-up gameplay simply don’t mix, and it shows. If the game’s world were more open, allowing freerunning exploration, everything would fall into place so much better, but this aspect makes the very presence of platforming feel frankly pointless.
Luckily, this gripe is only one aspect of the gameplay. One of the game’s main draws was the ability to customize your combos. The player is given set combo strings, and allowed to pick what moves in the combo do what. You get four different families of moves, or “pressens”, to choose from, with varying effects such as extra damage, health regeneration, or sped-up cooldown for your special moves. There are also chain pressens, best used near the end of a chain, which will double the effect of the previous pressen used. All of this gives the ability to get creative with which chains do what, depending on how you prioritize your attacks. I found it best to use the shorter chains for healing and the longer ones for complex combinations of different things, but someone else could put more emphasis on cooldown pressens, allowing for frequent access to Nilin’s powerful S-pressens. It’s a shame that there are only four chains total, but what we’re given is still enough that I found myself toying around with a few new combinations whenever I unlocked new pressens.
The actual combat reflects both the good and bad of the pressen system, but is not limited to them. Using the same chains throughout the game can start to feel repetitive even if you do change what your different attacks do, but is kept from feeling too stale. You will unlock more S-pressens, super-powered attacks with varying effects on different enemies. These include a stun grenade, a lightning-speed button-masher attack mode, and my personal favorite, the power to turn any mechanical enemy into a magnetic time bomb, dragging other enemies towards it before exploding. These powers are introduced bit by bit throughout the game, and help keep things interesting. You have to work for them, though, using the game’s dodging system. Remeniscent of Bayonetta, you must dodge attacks in the exact nick of time to build up a gauge that, when filled, will allow access to your S-pressens. Timing is key, and maneuvering around your enemies’ assaults can be very tricky, but rarely feels unfairly difficult. Another introduction is the Spammer, a wrist gun with multiple modes. This is especially effective against mechanical enemies, the presence of whom adds another aspect to the game’s combat. Remember Me’s gameplay does occasionally feel repetitive, especially during a couple boss fights that are far too lengthy, but the amount of variety is just enough to keep it from utter monotony.
Outside of the combat, the other aspect of exploring Neo Paris is puzzle-based gameplay. The aforementioned Spammer is more than just a wrist gun. It is a tool with various effects outside of battle, such as moving objects and conducting and repelling units of electrical energy to open different doors and activate or deactivate machinery. Sadly, these mechanics, though interesting, are not used nearly thoroughly enough to give them more than a passing mention. Players are also prompted to find hidden objects throughout the world that could have been hidden using these puzzle-solving skills, but more often than not the items are simply hidden a linear parkour jump away instead.
We’ve already touched on Remember Me’s premise, but how does the story hold up throughout? Nilin finds herself fallen in with Edge before she even fully understands his plan, and her relationship with him intensifies in a very well-done fashion through the game. He never reveals himself, only acting as Nilin’s puppetmaster from the shadows, and Nilin is no fool. In fact, her character is the game’s biggest driving force. Her dialogue and voice actor do a marvelous job of bringing life to the character, and cutscenes in-between chapters take place inside her own mind, creating visually stunning looks into her psyche. Unfortunately, outside of Nilin herself, none of the characters are particularly well-written. Dialogue often sounds forced and sometimes just silly, to the point of giant robotic police robots yelling b-movie rank threats at you. “My veins pump oil while you bleed” may sound pretty cool in theory, but it’s hard to take seriously. Some things just feel threatening for the sake of being threatening, which seriously hurts the tone of the game. The overarching plot, though interesting and worth investment, makes a few dips into trope territory. There were a couple points where I found myself saying “Oh no…they wouldn’t…” And then, as you might expect, they would. The tropes are few and far between enough that the story still holds up, but it isn’t above some amount of predictability.
A part of the game’s story worth noting comes from the way Nilin is treated throughout. Remember a few months ago, when the new Tomb Raider was released? That game tried very hard to make Lara Croft a strong female protagonist. It seems to be pretty much universally agreed, however, that the game simply tried too hard to do this, and the amount of trial Lara underwent simply felt over-the-top. It is very interesting, therefore, to see how Remember Me not only handles its female protagonist much better, but does so with very little effort. Nilin is already a respected and feared character within her world, but is still human. Where in a game like Tomb Raider Lara Croft would constantly motivate herself with “you can do this, you can do this, stay strong”, Nilin simply gets it done. She’ll pause for a moment if faced with a great danger, sure. If she finds herself having to leap a 30-foot gap, she’ll utter a quiet “suck it up, Nilin” before launching herself across, but the game presents her in a very human light. When I said earlier that Nilin is one of the game’s biggest driving forces, it’s because I didn’t identify her as a strong female lead. I simply saw her as a well-written protagonist. And that is how it should be.
One of the most interesting contributors to the game’s story comes from Nilin’s aforementioned ability to remix people’s memories. Let’s say a character is driven to kill another person because that person slept with their wife. Well, along Nilin might come, saying “No, you already killed this man, and your wife”, driving the character to take his own life instead that of the other man. This concept is fascinating, and the memory remix segments are undoubtedly the coolest parts of the game. It is your job to watch as a pivotal memory plays out, and then go back through it, changing little details that will alter the course of the event. Unfortunately, only four memory remixes occur throughout the game, leaving the player begging for more. A lot more could have been done with this idea, such as persuading guards to open locked doors and allowing access to other areas. But, much like the world of Neo Paris itself, this spark of creativity is sadly squandered.
Remember Me is a very frustrating case. Its presentation is beautiful, the contrast of Neo paris’ neon-glowing upper levels striking beautifully against the gritty slums. Even the saddest, poorest, grimiest parts of the city have a great deal of life to show off. The soundtrack bubbles and pops with a fantastic electronic score. The story, though certainly not without its faults, is ultimately very satisfying, and Nilin is arguably one of the best protagonists in a game this year. The gameplay, although sometimes repetitive, is ultimately fun. The combat doesn’t build on the combo systems as much as I would have liked, but there is still enough depth to keep it fresh. Unfortunately the platforming feels like a completely needless feature, and the memory remixes could have become a much bigger driving force in the game. It’s honestly hard to put a numbered score on this game, and if you’re one of those people who has just scrolled down here to see that then I would strongly urge you otherwise, as despite being objective, there’s a lot here that I can see others finding a lot less or a lot more enjoyable than I. Remember Me is one of the most obnoxiously subjective games I have played in a while, but for what it’s worth, it’s not half bad.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PlayStation 3 (Reviewed), Xbox 360 ; Publisher: Capcom ; Developer: Dontnod ; Players: 1; Released: June 3, 2013; Genre: Action ; MSRP: $59.99