When new IP rolls onto the market, it can be exciting and terrifying. The trailers all look fantastic and everyone gets excited, but it's not the kind of safe bet we're used to making on established franchises. Remember Me is one such game, hotly anticipated with very little to base said anticipation on. I was certainly on board regardless.
But how does it hold up?
Platform: PS3*/Xbox 360/PC
ESRB: Mature (Blood, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Violence)
Remember Me puts players in the role of Nilin, a memory hunter operating in Neo-Paris in the year 2084. Climate change, memory-based technology, and global conflicts have dramatically altered social class, geopolitics, and culture. Nilin wakes up in the reconstructed Bastille Prison in the heart of Paris with her memory wiped. After a quick jail-break, she has to figure out who she is.
Nilin is applaudably regular. She's certainly attractive, but not the bombshell that the new Lara Croft remains. She feels in no way sexualized and is from a multi-ethnic background. Not only is this fitting for the time period, but says a lot about the maturity of the developer. It's no secret she was a tough sell, so props to Dontnod for sticking to their guns.
The premise of the game is fantastic. Nilin's story is engrossing, as are those of the entire world. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the game alone does a very good job of establishing the latter. The developer, Dontnod, put together an interactive online journal chronicling the life of Antoine Cartier-Wells, the founder of Memorize, the company at the forefront of memory technology. Additionally, they produced an intriguing mock speech given by Cartier-Wells.
The story of the Cartier-Wells family and the dystopia they have fueled in 2084 is compelling all on its own, but if the player didn't embrace what has been, in my opinion, the single greatest PR campaign we've seen this generation, most of this would be missed. The 7-8 hour game simply can't encompass all of these characters effectively while still telling Nilin's story. Whether or not you plan on playing the game, I strongly recommend exploring both of these items.
In fact, it can feel like the game intentionally steered you away from really exploring the ramifications of Memorize's technology, the Sensen, and what it's done to the world. Despite being ripe for exploration, Dontnod keeps you on the straight and narrow while moving through Neo-Paris, and very few events are scripted bringing to light these issues, and most conversation is directed at "Get Nilin's memory back".
That being said, the game doesn't miss the mark entirely. Nilin does take a genuine interest in the Leapers, semi-human monsters corrupted by memory addiction, and Scylla Cartier-Wells's reconversion project highlights many ethical dilemmas that give the player something to walk away with.
At one point, should the player notice, a preacher stands in front of a group of people speaking about religion and God, but it's fascinating to see that Dontnod considered how memory technology would shape religion in 2084 and explored the idea of religion adapting to culture, and not the other way around. The whole event may last only a few seconds, but was one of my favorite parts of the game.
For every compelling story, however, there's a not-so-compelling one. The game ends flatly and awkwardly with an antagonist who's story feels out of place and generic next to those that shined so brightly in Neo-Paris. Additionally, many of Nilin's allies make very brief appearances, practically disappearing a short cutscene after their introduction.
This occasional spottiness from the wet-behind-the-ears developer is much more apparent in the actual gameplay. The combat system as a whole is a really cool idea. While button combinations for the player's four combos are set in stone, the effects of each button press are fully customizable with tokens called "Pressens". These pressens can be used to design combos that recover health, cut buffer times on special moves or deal massive amounts of damage. Enemies and encounters are well-tailored to draw the player to the combo lab where these are customized and to decide how best to approach each situation, and it all works together very well.
Unfortunately, executing on these can be a hassle. Despite looking and feeling a bit like the combat we've all come to love from the Arkham series, kicking enemies around in Remember Me does not play off nearly as smoothly. Despite the heavy focus on combos, large groups of enemies prevent the player from stringing them together, as chaining from enemy to enemy is a tough task. The combos in general are intermittently effective. Players may find themselves resetting combos for a few seconds when they thought they were in the midst of one, and other times may not pull it off despite it feeling like all the buttons were there. The building blocks are here, with Pressens and special moves called "S-Pressens" giving combat a distinct flavor and variety, but it just doesn't play well off the fingers, and is the biggest problem with the game.
That being said, perhaps the best gameplay aspect is the memory remixes. Nilin physically manipulates people's memories, scrubbing through them to trigger bugs that alter the way the memory plays out and convince the victim that events transpired differently than they actually did. This process is fun enough in itself, but its results are much more rewarding. In one instance, the process is used to turn an impending enemy into an ally, and it works like a charm. The first feeling is accomplishment as the new ally offers a hand in the quest to upheave Memorize, but is quickly followed by hollowness in realizing that the entire partnership is manufactured on lies.
While these remixes offer quite a bit of independence and can result in multiple scenarios, the game can otherwise be quite forward. Hints lead you to every stat upgrade, intrusive combat tips intrude upon most encounters and bright orange arrows point you in the right direction. The arrows are forgivable, as most platformers do this in one way or another, but I would prefer to find my own collectibles and fight enemies in peace. Journal entries about people and places in Neo-Paris are littered around and not so blatantly pointed to, and these are perhaps the most valuable collectibles. Taking the time to read them expands even more on this fantastic world.
Remember Me is an ambitious game. It's just as much not about Nilin as it is, and is best at painting a brand new sci-fi dystopian society for us to enjoy. I feel a sequel could more effectively capitalize on the themes laid out both within and outside of the game, and film or book entries could be fantastic additions to round out the world and, in ways, better dissect its many facets. For now, we have a perfectly adequate game that could be a jumping off point for a magnificent new multimedia franchise.