The lights are on
Remember Me is a game most characterized by its contrasts. Monotonous one moment and captivating the next, Dontnod Entertainment’s cyberpunk action-adventure is a thrill-ride that proves exciting, baffling, and disappointing all at once.
While run-of-the-mill gameplay and muddled storytelling undercapitalizes on its bold vision, exploring its intriguing world is its own simple pleasure. Remember Me may be an experience as entertaining as it is regrettably short of its overwhelming potential, but not without enough memorable moments that should interest any sci-fi fan.
The year is 2084 in Neo-Paris, France. Personal memories are now digitized, bought, sold and traded in the city’s surveillance society led by its unscrupulous memory corporation, Memoreyes. You assume the role of Nilin, an amnesiac and former memory hunter able to penetrate minds and steal, even alter, memories. After her escape from prison, Nilin embarks on a mission to rediscover her past, aided by her only ally, Edge, leader of the antigovernment resistance group, the Errorists. This search for her past leads to her being hunted by the very people that make up her own identity.
Once you finally step foot in it following the game’s clumsy introduction, Neo-Paris holds nothing back in terms of visual spectacle for its visitors. Remember Me can pride itself on borrows from some of the best of its genre to create a city as beautiful as it is mysterious. Its glittering metropolitan hubs invoke memories of Total Recall while its dank, seedy underworld seem inspired by that of Blade Runner’s, all in tune to the game’s cool techno-soundtrack. In spite of its beauty, the allure of Neo-Paris’s aesthetics eventually falls flat thanks to the game’s linear pathways.
The main story’s most interesting environments are kept to a strict backdrop compared to drab industrial districts you’ll be running through like one big hallway rather than the city’s welcoming urban districts. Neo-Paris sadly feels empty because of them and it unfortunately restricts the game’s otherwise stellar animation to style over substance.
More important than the world are the people that inhabit it, who decidedly suffer from the same lack of focus. Nilin can be described as an important yet uninteresting protagonist used more to artificially progress the story at the expense of her own memorability. Despite her connections to the game’s genuinely engaging plot twists, she spends so much more time confused than investigative about the events going on around her that the game seems to write her off sooner than she might have deserved. Players might further take note of the game’s treatment of Nilin as a model more than a heroine, particularly regarding the camera’s seeming love affair with its shots of Nilin in more than a few compromising positions. Few, if any of the rest of the Errorist members feel like their stories get off the ground as they play more like plot devices than characters and the game’s villains are watered down to cheap, mustache-twirling antics for their own, often vague motivations.
There are nevertheless particularly intriguing dynamics between them and Nilin regarding the game’s finale, but with its flat characterization, players will most likely be more intellectually invested in them than emotionally. There are still some potentially worthwhile implications to a sequel, however, and I would look forward to Dontnod exploring them further.
Remember Me’s combat, meanwhile, is smartly designed and lethargically executed at the same time. Nilin’s acrobatic combat is most reminiscent of the freeflow combat from Batman: Arkham Asylum combined with just a hint of third-person shooting from Uncharted. Players can progressively unlock and string together combos for longer attack chains and can mix and match them to earn defensive or offensive attributes. It’s a smart system that works quite competently if not for the game’s frustrating enemy types.
Several of them, such as the game’s frequent use of shielded, electric enemies, require you to rely on specific long-ranged “memory” attacks to counter. These require constant recharging though, and without the helpful inclusion of a counter attack like Batman’s, you’re simply left with no other option but to wait for your meter to charge up again. Moments like these are tolerable at best, but they certainly make Remember Me’s otherwise enjoyable combat annoying.
Nilin’s romp across Neo-Paris further takes a few notes from Uncharted’s action-heavy platforming to traverse the city’s incredible heights to lesser degrees. Your breather in between battles will have you running and jumping over rooftops and inching your way across precarious ledges as robotic drones and hovering police cruisers pass you by. The occasional jump-scare of the pipe you’re holding onto giving way or a surprise explosion is a nice change of pace, but most of them are easy enough to get out of that you won’t be engaged in them for long.
Buried underneath the game’s ho-hum plot and inconsistent combat is its greatest and most unique of its strengths, that of its memory remixing sequences. Certain story sequences require Nilin to enter a person’s mind and shuffle a few key moments from their pasts, changing the way they feel and behave in the story. At one point you’ll have Nilin rewind a bounty hunter’s memory of her sick husband like a videotape so that she believes that he died on the operating table. Her husband may remain alive, but her new outlook gives her a hunger for revenge against the doctors she believes to be responsible and she offers to help Nilin.
These act much like puzzles that arguably benefits the game’s storytelling and diversifies its gameplay immensely. Players will rotate the control sticks around clock or counterclockwise to review and pick out specific objects and people to play around with in the environment to change an event. Learning the control scheme has a high learning curve, but they pay off tremendously in their results. See the safety lock on that gun on the table, or an unstrapped seat buckle on that child’s carseat? Changing any one of these elements can alter the story and give a quite revealing look into specific characters’ heads, but my only complaint would point to the story’s uncompromising lack of choice. Only one result will allow you to progress in the story and the others are only good for a secret achievement or too. In the end, these memory segments are what make Remember Me truly unique, but only go so far in their potential.
On paper, Remember Me envisions a blueprint bolder than the finished product. Though a lackluster story and only average sense gameplay restrains the game from its true glory, I still enjoyed the time I had exploring the Dontnod’s world of ideas from beginning to end. My memories of Neo-Paris might not have been the best in sci-fi thrillers, but they certainly weren’t without their simple enjoyments worthy of a pleasant weekend. If experience is the hardest teacher, then Dontnod’s hopeful return to a far better sequel lives up the promising universe they’ve created.
Overall Score: 7.5
(This review was written by Tim Gruver, as published by N00b Magazine using a retail copy of Remember Me for PS3)
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