In the futuristic world of Neo-Paris things are pretty bleak. The immoral business of the Sensen Corporation control and commoditize human memories, while a large chunk of the population have been driven insane by their tampering and turned into monstrous ‘Leapers’.
Taking the center piece of Remember Me is pro memory hunter Nilin – a slender red head with a penchant for acrobatic arse-kicking. The game begins with her imprisoned by Sensen for (at this point) unknown crimes relating to her involvement with a rebel movement known as the Errorists. They’ve wiped her memory clean and so quite meta-narratively, as we learn her character and abilities as a gamer, so does Nilin begin to understand herself. Thus begins a story of activist shenanigans, unsolved mysteries and memory manipulation.
This all unfolds through what is essentially a beat-em-up with an emphasis on inventive combat and strategy. Nilin has a range of fixed combos that are gradually unlocked as you progress, but through the combo lab the player can use ‘Pressens’ to alter Nilin’s combos and add healing, extra-damage, chain effects or focus boost properties to her attacks. Special ‘S-Pressen’ abilities that are gained through focus energy also offer super-fast rage attacks, explosive bombs and robot enemy possession. In addition, Nilin has a kind of gun arm for taking down aerial enemies and distant targets and if an enemy sustains enough damage then a special ‘memory overload’ finisher can be used to take down an opponent in fancy flamboyant style.
The result of all these different aspects is a sophisticated combat system that challenges you to consider the kind of opponent you are facing and what the best setup strategy will be for taking them down. For example, certain invisible opponents can only be attacked after using an S-Pressen move that turns them visible. Since the regeneration time on focus moves can take a while, a combo set up using Pressens that reduce the wait time ensure you keep them available to attack, and thus don’t end up being a big pile of dead. It’s very satisfying when a switch up of Pressens results in an effective way to dispatch opponents and the game forces you to regularly consider your attacks.
Combat is not the only aspect in which Remember Me tries to be different though. Perhaps its most unique feature is the remixing of memories. As a professional memory hunter, Nilin’s special glove allows her to alter the past memories of threatening individuals and thus change their attitude towards her. An encounter with a particularly draconian character results in Nillin remixing the memory of a car accident that took all the love out the person’s life. By rewinding and scrolling through the memory like a video, the player identifies glitches where a specific detail of a memory is not remembered clearly. These can then be changed to effect the whole situation around it. There’s only one result that can progress the game, but it is great fun (albeit perhaps a little morbid) trying out different actions and seeing the results – such as making the person think they’re dead. There’s no option for significantly different endings, but the experience is interesting and the narrative impact of showing the importance of memories on an individual’s outlook and attitude in life plays out as Remember Me’s most thought-provoking statement.
The city of Neo-Paris is also an absolute beauty. The imaginative shimmers of the iridescent buildings and the creativity found in the many facets of the distinctive architecture present a plausible vision of the future. It’s as impressive as The Citadel in Mass Effect, but rather than emphasising the progress of humanity, the narrow streets and constant barrage of advertisements and information creates an apparent feeling of claustrophobia and ‘who is watching me?’ paranoia. It also proves an interesting world to navigate: with a variation of environment from slums to riches that nicely match our own contemporary Paris. Nilin’s apparent interest in parkour means that most exploration of Neo-Paris involves leaping, climbing and rolling across the various landscapes in an altogether impressive manner. Likewise, the soundtrack of Remember Me often compliments the actions of our heroine. In combat, a sudden use of the fury S-Pressen is accompanied by a fast, techno flurry that gets the player going, but the more touching moments of the game feature a traditional string based score. It’s not all cyber-punk, you know.
To add a grim icing to the Orwellian cake though, everyone seems to talk like they’re in a porno knock-off of an early Stallone movie. Phrases such as ‘my what blunt teeth you have’ do nothing but confuse the player and force you to seriously consider what on earth the script writer is doing with their life. It might seem trivial, but this deep opposition between plot and delivery highlights some of the fundamental and defining problems with Remember Me. In terms of narrative, on the one hand we have a bold, unique setting that genuinely touches on something Huxley might have written, but it is consistently undermined at every turn by the shoddiest dialogue seen in a game this side of Dynasty Warriors 2. Similarly, the more forward thinking aspects of the game found in the combat and memory remixing are made less impressive by their formulaic and thus repetitive approach. Finally, the engaging city backdrop of Neo-Paris is inevitably made redundant by its overly-linear design. Not every game has to be open world, but certain areas force you to rush through when you should be stopping to admire the craftsmanship; and a cheap puzzle that involves you finding health and focus upgrades throughout the game is simply not enough to make up for this.
To Sum Up
Remember Me is one of those rare and quite frustrating games that lack a certain consistency. It is very flawed, mostly because there is an obvious sense of laziness in many aspects throughout – especially towards the end. However, it is at the same time a very memorable experience that genuinely impresses with its strong aim to try and be different. There are very clear ways to fix the less impressive parts of the game and so perhaps when it comes to a sequel it will be given the opportunity to right the wrongs of this first entry. I certainly hope it is given that chance, as for all its flaws, Remember Me is still a refreshing and wholly distinctive new IP that should be both applauded for its gusto and condemned for its crimes against dialogue and good sense. Lovingly condemned though, like a naughty child with a bad habit that just needs a little guidance.
Format reviewed: Playstation 3