“Remember to Live, Live to Remember”
Neo Paris in 2084 is a harsh dystopia. The privileged few live in gated communities, largely oblivious to the terrible poverty, broken humanity and scum-dwelling, addled mutations on the other side of the barricades.
Memories are now a commodity. Corporations are able to extract and store them, implant and alter them. For the right fee, you can remember whatever you want. Or forget it. Memorize is the largest of these corporations, founded by the inventors of the technology for managing your memories and fought hard by the Errorists – a revolutionary group who want to prevent any corporation holding a monopoly over our memories.
Nilin, the strong-willed female protagonist of Remember Me is introduced as she awakes on the floor of her cell. She’s coming around after a memory scrub that still needs a little more scrubbing. She’s dazed and confused. Her guard sends her onwards to Dr. Quaid (no doubt a tribute to Total Recall) for her treatment to be concluded. As she staggers onward, following a hovering drone and a coloured guideline, she is contacted by a mysterious stranger called Edge. He claims to be a part of her former life and assists her flight from this Cuckoo’s Nest.
As you take those first steps to freedom, you learn that Nilin was a Memory Hunter – the best of her kind. Most Memory Hunters could track down and extract the memories of their targets through their Sensen units – an implant in every citizen that allows access to their memories. Nilin could do more – she could replay and remix memories in her prey so that they remembered events differently. She could alter a person’s aspect on, and recollection of, their own personal history.
This talent, as seen in several of the pre-release demonstrations, comes in handy. It’s only used sparingly and it acts as a kind of storytelling method rather than a gameplay mechanic – essentially it’s a matter of trial and error, remixing glitches in a memory replay until you get the correct combination that will give you the outcome you need to progress the narrative. So there’s no grand sandbox in which to tweak people’s memories and observe the outcomes – you’re either successful or you’re not. But it’s a kind of interactive storytelling that’s interesting enough to forgive its strict, probably necessary, linearity and it certainly isn’t over-used.
A Guided Experience
That linearity is something that the rest of the game also adheres to. While that label – “linear” – might have been often used as a term of derision in relation to interactive entertainment, here it works wonderfully. You’re not expected to explore and there’s usually only one route to your objective, with minor deviations to find objects that allow you to level up your health and combat focus bars (more on these later) a little. But that narrow channeling allows for much more created atmosphere in the beautifully rendered and lit environments. It also allows the designers and developers to trigger background events and camera shifts that give you much greater attachment to the world you’re playing in.
Early impressions from trailers and screenshots had recalled an Assassin’s Creed-style open world traversal style of game. Later impressions, after some demonstrations, had brought to mind something more akin to the Uncharted style of traversal-and-combat-arena system of level design. Only in the most recent previews and hands-on impressions had much been made of the combat and that had indicated something perhaps similar to God of War’s combo-based brawling. Remember Me isn’t that, either.
Although it contains elements of all the games mentioned above, Remember Me manages to do something quite special – and rare – in big releases from major publishers: it innovates in a really meaningful way. The incredibly intuitive combo system takes a game that might be as frantically, impenetrably nuanced and complex as God of War or Devil May Cry and makes it as accessible as Batman: Arkham City. You only need two buttons and an understanding of how to build combos yourself as you unlock more complex chains. All the complex fighting combos are made using only these two buttons, in different sequences and alongside the handy dodge button that enables you avoid being struck and continue a combo.
Build Your Own Adventure
You’ll level up and unlock new abilities for your self-built combos, called “Pressens”, as you effectively chain existing combos and defeat enemies. These Pressens apply different characteristics to the press of one of the two combo buttons. Those sequences are set but the Pressens allow you to build in different effects to each sequence. You can unlock and use power, medicinal, cool-down-reducing and chain Pressens. The further into a combo sequence you place a Pressen, the more effective it is.
The power Pressens deliver a powerful strike and break the block of enemies that employ that tactic, the medicinal ones replace a portion of your own health as they make contact. The chain Pressen multiplies the effect of all preceding Pressens so placing a couple towards the end of a combo string can have great effects. The cool-down reducing pressens let you re-use your special moves – S-Pressens – sooner.
Those S-Pressens are special abilities that Nilin remembers over the course of the story missions. They allow for frantic chained strikes at the earliest occurrence but later you’ll be awarded invaluable abilities to take down certain enemy types, including one that is specifically useful against mechanical foes and one that makes Nilin temporarily invisible to her enemies. Each one uses up a block of the focus bar, which refills as you deal and take damage and each S-Pressen must be allowed time to cool down after its use.
While the Pressens you’ve unlocked can be carried over into a “new game plus” once you’ve finished the story, the S-Pressens would be damaging to the experience of that early narrative progression and are withheld until Nilin remembers them again.
You’ll also unlock new abilities for your glove that enables you to “Spam” projectiles into enemies, deliver a powerful blast or control certain environmental objects that often make up elements of the light puzzles involved in traversing the environment.
- Fantastic, intuitive and inclusive combo system.
- Well realised world, beautifully rendered, lit and scored.
- Decent length story that is believable and engaging.
- Repeating waves of enemies occasionally feel like they’re just increasing longevity.
- Memory remixes aren’t all they might have been.
The real intelligence of this innovative fighting system is in the enemies that act as its foil. Nilin is regularly assaulted by groups or waves of enemies, each with different abilities and tactics.
You’ll need to master the Combo Lab and all of your S-Pressens in order to effectively combat those enemies. At times, it serves you to take out a group of varied enemies in a particular order. At other times, you might need to do a particular combo you’ve built on regular enemies in a group so that you can cool down your S-Pressens enough to use on a specially-powered enemy type in the same group. Make a mess of the order in which you deal with enemies in a group and you might have to spend three minutes running in circles avoiding an attacking foe while you wait for the appropriate S-Pressen to cool down.
I’ve Seen Things You People Wouldn’t Believe
The world of Remember Me is believable, largely thanks to the very smart marriage between familiar Parisian architectural landmarks and futuristic, neon styling that is very much an echoing of design conventions borne out of Philip K. Dick’s work – books that led to the more widely known visual representations in Blade Runner and Total Recall, among others. The world’s characters are similarly rounded out with believable, if slightly fleeting motivational explanation, and the voice acting is solid enough without ever being exceptional. The soundtrack is worthy of special mention here, too, it’s a well textured orchestral score that’s been post-produced to sound digitally glitched and partially broken in places, perfectly complimenting the juxtaposition in architecture of the environment and mirroring Nilin’s own broken psyche.
Remember Me surprises in many pleasant ways as its fast-paced action beats play out. Although the narrative is perhaps a little predictable in places, it does have a few twists along the way that should be enough to keep you guessing right up to a final, titanic showdown inside a very alien environment.