Quick Take: Remember Me tips the scale in presentation but comes up short where success matters most.
Unfettered ambition to break the generic third-person shooter mold is laced throughout Remember Me. In developing the new IP, newly formed studio Dontnod Entertainment takes an abrupt left turn where most games would take a right. But for every grandiose idea that presents as polished or innovative is another that fails to properly mature and catch wind of its peak potential.
Detouring off the beaten path begins with a female heroine, Nilin. She’s an elite memory hunter in the year 2084 who steals memories from people that are digitized, bought and sold like prescription drugs. Her employer, the large corporation Memorize, has begun using the memories to control civilization and Nilin more of a threat than asset for reasons unknown. With the help of a temporarily mysterious ally, Nilin escapes certain death and enters the Neo-Paris underworld to both remember her past and determine exactly why Memorize wanted to kill her in the first place.
Nilin is controlled in the third-person perspective as she navigates her way through Neo-Paris, both high above and below ground, by running, jumping, climbing and hanging off ledges. The city of Neo-Paris has been painstakingly designed and oozes with detail, ambiance and character. Yet much of it is off limits as Nilin is forced through a strict predetermined path as if on a conveyor belt in an assembly line. Even the climbing path is highlighted as if it were designed “for dummies” in mind.
The tease of Neo-Paris’ greatness hits its pinnacle each time Nilin emerges from a cramped sewer or underground space to discover a new sprawling section of the city’s skyline before her. An orchestral cue even captures the moment as if a pool party had been discovered in the middle of the Sahara desert. The beauty of the big city’s architecture begs to be explored, yet that potential deflates as soon as the next narrow path is stepped upon. An open world design would have made Remember Me a must-own game on that merit alone.
On a few occasions during the game, Nilin is able to tap someone’s memory and must follow the path they once traversed in order to find something necessary for her mission. These sequences are moderately entertaining and partially – though not fully – drown out the fact that Nilin is still stuck following a frustratingly narrow path.
When it comes to combat, and there’s a lot of it, Nilin relies upon her melee fighting abilities that improve over the course of the game and evolve in the Combo Lab. Here newly learned kicks and punches, given the phonetically challenged name of “Pressens,” are strung together to create complex combos. The combos aren’t the easiest to “remember” and execute in the heat of battle, and the Combo Lab isn’t the most intuitive tool to figure out and use properly. Combos are useful and crucial to latter levels of the game, especially when five “S-Pressens,” or super Pressens, are unlocked providing skills like hacking enemy robots and turning invisible when simple melee combat simply won’t cut it.
Knowledge of the Combo Lab and Pressens can’t overcome the desire to button smash only moderately intelligent enemies during combat. Nilin fights a martial artist and gymnast at the same time, flowing smoothly from one target to another. Because many of the stronger enemies take far too many hits to kill, a melee-combat sequence can drag on for what feels like a slice of eternity. Stumbling through Pressens and failing to perform them correctly will end up in taking unnecessary damage.
Dontnod lets their creative juices loose during Memory Remix sequences. In these welcome pauses from all the fighting and simplistic platforming, Nilin is able to rewind and fast-forward someone’s memory, identify certain objects, and alter them in hopes of changing the memory’s outcome. This is performed until playing through the scene yields the desired result. The only downside to these Memory Remix puzzle solving excursions is they are so few and far between that they feel more like Easter Eggs waiting to be discovered than a properly integrated and crucial aspect of the game. One cleverly designed and narratively fulfilling Memory Remix per level would have been satisfactory. Three for the entire game is shameful.
Remember Me is a beautifully designed game with impressive visuals, strong voice acting and music, and a story that doesn’t feel like a straight rehash of something else. It tries so hard to be different, yet when you cut away what makes it great, all that’s left is a run-of-the-mill third-person melee fighter that could have appeared in any number of other games.
The one feature that makes Remember Me the most memorable, Memory Remixes, is the one used least frequently. For that and Dontnod’s focused attention to aesthetic detail, Remember Me is still worth exploring and forging a new memory.
– Dan Bradley
Remember Me for Xbox 360 was provided by Capcom for this review. It was released on June 4, 2013 and is also available for PlayStation 3.
Shop for Remember Me at a discounted price at Amazon.com.