Remarkably, almost out of nowhere, Remember Me has ended up being hugely impressive, with a perfectly balanced, adaptive combat system that makes most other third person brawlers feel archaic. Why? Because, despite a resolutely linear story the main meat of the game – the brawling – ends up being exactly what you want it to be. It’s intelligent game design, sure, and it’s never quite as open ended as it first appears it might be, but it places just enough responsibility onto the player to ensure that they feel they’re guiding the kicks and punches even if they’re not in control of the storyline.
This isn’t a compromise of any sort, though – Remember Me doesn’t appear to compromise on much at all – it’s just the game opening up an aspect of the genre that generally ends up feeling so closed and prescribed in other games.
It works like this: combat is largely based around two buttons, and a series of combos that start off small and simple before expanding as the game progresses. What those combos are, though, is up to you. That means that you can – as the piecemeal unlocking of so-called ‘Pressens’ dictates – build up a combo that’s purely aggressive and thus as damaging as possible; or, you can drop in some healing pressens that’ll top up your own health rather than subtracting it from your opponent.
Other pressen types pop-up too, like ones that decrease a timer that in turn opens up devastating S-Pressens, super-powered short-term power-ups, and all these are mapped to simple button presses. You can move them around, creating lots of self-manufactured combinations that are ready to go at any time, just by starting one of them off. Little icons on the screen indicate a combo’s progress and effects, too, which is handy if you need to switch out of one combo into another.
Hopefully the value of such a system is immediately obvious. In case it’s not, consider an example: there are five opponents facing you, and after tackling one or two your health starts to suffer.
At this point you can start off a combo you’ve built that has healing elements in it, so as long as you still make contact and time your button presses your own health will bump up to compensate. Then you can switch back to the more offensive, damaging combos for the remainder of the bad guys.
And whilst a trivial, basic example serves to highlight the benefits of such a system, the implementation is rock solid. Button mashing will get you nowhere, you need to be exact with your timing and consider each button press, all the while watching out for attack cues from your enemies and performing a dodge move when needed, which you can use to continue your combo attacks if executed correctly.
Because of this system, this gradually evolving but always within your control mechanic, the players have a sense of ownership to a combo, no matter how long and complex, and they don’t feel like arbitrary sequences of meaningless button hits. They’re also easier to remember in the middle of battle, and even when you start to chop and change existing ones as you gather new abilities the visual heads-up at the foot of the screen means it’s never too tricky to adjust.
Thankfully, the rest of the game is as carefully developed as the combat. Things start off strongly, with your amnesiac character being led away from what would have been a sinister, immediate conclusion by a then-unknown source of assistance. Because the player character, Nilin, has had most of her memory erased, it’s a clean slate for both her and the player, hooking you in at what appears to be the very beginning of the plot by virtue of a shared ignorance.
Nilin’s lack of memory means that she’s forced to trust those who contact her, unaware of whether she’s met them before let alone whether they were ever on her side; and the notion that anyone and everyone could be an enemy is deliciously realised, even though the player doesn’t really have much of a choice on how the interactions pan out. Essentially you’re left guessing throughout, and although there’s always the chance that the plot could take a dramatic turn later in a wildly different direction, a few hours in and the various pieces of Nilin’s scattered memory are starting to fit back together in the ways you’d hope they would.
The plot is delivered via a combination of real-time character interactions and static overlays with voiceovers, the latter principally from your main source of help, a character called Edge. It continues to flow at a fair pace, no doubt enabled because the game’s singular linearity means that the player is forever channeled down a certain path but also as a by-product of some snappy writing which, whilst often a little cheesy (soaked as it is in techy, hacker speak) moves swiftly and never lingers.
Game elements continue to be introduced, too – notably the memory sequence meta-games which see the player attempting to ‘fix’ a character’s memory by introducing subtle changes to a fully scrubbable sequence. A character hell-bent on killing Nilin in one cut-scene could for example, with a few little adjustments, play out totally differently, and these sections are great fun the first time each is encountered. Repeated playthroughs spoil the element of surprise and make it more of a checklist of stuff to change, but it couldn’t really be any other way.
Away from these memory sequences and the combat and Remember Me plays out a little like a blend of Uncharted’s deft platforming and Assassin’s Creed’s spirited freerunning set in a Deux-Ex like near future setting. It’s a locale and situation that’s slowly delivered in terms of backstory, but Neo-Paris is a varied, exciting and vibrant place to explore, full of things to climb and jump over, if not to always stop and stare in. That’s not to say Remember Me isn’t a good looking game (it really is, but more on that just below) rather by pausing to walk and soak in the atmosphere it’s not hard to feel like you’re doing the pacing a disservice.
Visually, then, Remember Me is a pleasant surprise. For a multi-platform game from a relatively unknown developer (this is the French studio’s first game) the graphics are generally top notch, with a coherent art direction the main draw. It’s a mash of two styles: a realistic depiction of Paris with detailed textures and solid environments; and a futuristic, minimal overlay, all blacks, whites and oranges. It works brilliantly, happy to be a videogame but one that wants to show what the developers can do at every junction.
The animation is top notch, with Nilin’s swagger when walking shifting to a purposeful run, a confident leap and a set of platforming and climbing moves that measure up to anything Nathan Drake has done of late. Combat flows well visually too, and even when there’s loads going on the frame-rate remains locked at 30 frames per second. The game’s aesthetic style is carried over to the menu and UI well, with stark mono colours and a bold Helvetica typeface mirroring the principle elements of the game.
Special mention to the music here too, which builds throughout the game and always seems to provide the perfect backing no matter what you’re doing. Sequences segue into one another with grace and timing and the main score is a haunting echo of what Nilin is gradually starting to build up in her mind.
The voice acting is generally great too – slightly iffy script (and a couple of main boss characters) aside Kezia Burrows does a great job with Nilin. It’s all part of a hugely polished, technically excellent third person adventure.
For a game that was reportedly batted away by Sony (see: Sony’s missed opportunity, above) Remember Me does manage to tick all the boxes in terms of being a top flight title that would have been a great platform exclusive. It’s up there with the likes of Infamous in terms of scope (and it’s much better looking, although it’s not an open world title) and deserves to do well. Remember Me has a clever central premise, an inventive combat system and a likeable main character that has the player on their side from the first second.
I’m impressed – Remember Me took me by surprise and continues to do so. Capcom could, if they put some serious marketing behind the game, be onto a winner here. The unknown IP might put some people off but anyone who’s interested in the genre would do well to keep a close eye on this, if only because a game that does so many things right (like the wonderful combat system) really deserves a chance. We’ll hopefully have the full review before the game launches in June.
This preview was written from preview code supplied by Capcom.