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Cassandra Khaw

Jun 04, 2013

Remember Me

Set in a cyberpunk vision of Paris where memory is currency, Remember Me is a third-person action-adventure teenager. It badly wants to impress its peers – and you – with its sheer weight of selfconscious stuff. On top of all the conventional action-adventure jumping and running, it throws in stealth sequences, rooftop chases, platforming and a splash of something uniquely its own. Heck, there's even a heroine who isn't a walking pair of mammaries, just for good measure.

Much like a teenager, Remember Me is a little awkward, and prone to taking its cue from others. As its protagonist, Nilin, wobbles theatrically into the introductory sequence, the credits cutting in at intervals, it's hard not to feel a painful twinge of cyberpunk deja vu. It's the oldest story in the dystopian book: amnesiac ex-badass finds herself inexplicably embroiled in a revolution and also the quarry of a menacing mega-corporation.

"Almost every location feels like it should have been part of a big-budget animation."

Still, there's nothing necessarily wrong with being predictable. Remember Me succeeds when it's being familiar, a triumph that can be partially attributed to its spectacular looks and terrific musical score. France in 2084 is an absolute sight. From the neon-lit labyrinth of the slums to the beatific Saint-Michel district, almost every location feels like it should have been part of a big-budget animation somewhere, and the developers know it. You'll find no shortage of dramatic camera panning here. Walk into a new location and you can be certain it will be presented with the greatest fanfare possible.

Unfortunately, such cinematic moments are only possible because Remember Me is about as linear as they get. Paris 70 years in the future feels like it's been redesigned by city planners as a straight line. Unfettered by distractions, there is neither an open world nor side quests to pull you away from the narrative. NPCs will, at best, provide token acknowledgment of your presence – a few lines, a scream, a look. Because the game utilises neither a loot system nor equipment, you don't even have shopkeepers to shoot the breeze with. It's a jarring change from what we've come to expect from modern videogames. And in a way, it works: Remember Me just about convinces you that its revolution demands urgency.

Despite its predictability, the story builds with impressive momentum. Characters are smoothly introduced. You meet Tommy first, a jovial Memory Hunter who, unlike Nilin, had everything stripped from his mind before he was rescued. Next up is bounty hunter Olga and along with her, our first opportunity to dive into someone else's head and engage in our first Memory Remix.

This is easily both the best and the worst part of the game. Memory Remixes ask you to change a vignette from a character's past to suit your goals. In this instance, you have to convince Olga that her significant other is not, in fact, in good medical care but a victim of malpractice.

"Objects meld into the clip as it plays out on a floating platform in a white-washed space"

The whole procedure bristles with style. The camera will swoop through a melange of faces and snapshots before finally settling onto the scene. Objects will slowly materialise out of thin air, melding into the clip as it plays out on a floating platform in a white-washed space. Your job here is to play film editor: wind and re-wind through the memory, watch for glitch-like openings and then activate the right ones. But while the theory behind Memory Remixes is borderline genius, it's complete murder in practice. Learn to draw little circles with your cursor at exactly the right speed or you'll have to keep doing it all bloody night.

Once you're done converting Olga to your cause, you'll be herded on to your next errand and from there, well – you'll see. Remember Me starts building towards its climax around the third episode but where it should continue soaring higher, it ends up nosediving. Nilin's convictions become as malleable as other people's memories. If this had been a better game, the trope-punctuated storyline would have been more tolerable, but while Remember Me excels at being achingly beautiful, it stumbles at being an action-adventure-platform-thing.

Like the Memory Remixes, the combat is less impressive than I hoped. On paper, the promise sounds grand: a robust combo system that lets you customise moves on demand, a set of special moves (or S-Pressen, as they are known in the game) to provide both utility and pizzazz, and a heroine so nimble Olympic gymnasts would cry in envy if they saw her in action. And to the game's credit, it does deliver on these promises to a degree. The combat is at least accessible: you'll never need more than your navigational controls and a few other keys. The Combo Lab, which is a neatly laid out menu split between available Pressens and your combo list, can be called up at any moment, enabling you to adjust your attack combos to do such things as hurl bigger, harder punches, or regain health faster.

"Remember Me's combat may not be atrocious but it's certainly not fun."

That's assuming you have enough of the stupidly-named Pressens unlocked – hard not to, given the game's bountiful supply of enemies: kill enough of them and you'll be granted keys that you can then use to access new moves. Pressens are the vertebrae of the combo system and available in four different colours: red (which makes attacks hit harder), yellow (which gives health with every blow), purple (which lowers cooldown time each time you connect a hit) and blue (which intensifies the effect of whatever came before it). Unfortunately, you can't actually fine-tune the combos themselves. What you can do is assign a Pressen to each of the moves within a combo, thereafter changing its effect and hopefully optimising the results. In the end, however, you're still stuck with unsatisfying iterations of the whole kick-punch-kick-punch-punch theme.

Nilin eventually gets a long-range weapon as well, which is capable of firing powerful Junk Bolts (you can use these to get rid of environmental obstacles too) and less spectacular projectiles. Both are boring. The S-Pressens are the brightest sparks here. When you have sufficient Focus squirrelled away, they'll let you accomplish everything from forcibly converting mechanical enemies into allies to turning Nilin into an invisible menace.

Nonetheless, all the S-Pressens in the world can't make up for the stiffness in Nilin's movements or the floatiness of her blows. Remember Me's combat may not be atrocious but it's certainly not fun, especially when the game is fond of lobbing gimmicky fights at you. One stand-out moment for me was a two-layer encounter with Leapers – Neo Paris's resident mutants – which could only be hit when stunned or illuminated. With the first wave, there was a floodlight I had to keep turned on to ensure I could hit my opponents. With the second, I had to beat down regular Leapers to build up enough Focus, launch an area-wide stun to incapacitate my stealthed enemies, biff them about, then repeat the cycle again. Midway through the second encounter, I dialled down the difficulty of the game so that I could just power through that bit. It was tedious and I wanted nothing more than to be done with it.

The platforming sequences are slightly less aggravating – they're just glowing ledges that tiresomely point you in the direction you need to go without any real need for player agency or ingenuity. The same can be said for the puzzles. They're not close to taxing. In fact, they largely revolve around pushing (or shooting, as the case may be) the right buttons while ambulating on a predetermined path.

Of all the elements in Remember Me, the parts that involved stealth are the best. Granted, 'stealth' is a bit of a misnomer here. With a few exceptions, you'll mostly be in plain sight. Instead of evading human eyes, the game will call upon you to dodge the sensor radiuses of various security drones – it's a task that can involve trapping patrolling machines behind closed doors, inching behind potted plants, dodging into open doors and mindfully meandering around a corridor. These sections are not particularly novel, but they are fun because they involve the player in a way that most of the game doesn't: they invite you to play along, rather than standing apart and showing off.

Remember Me is a third-person action-adventure teenager. It tries to act insouciant, and tells its story with the breathless zeal of a youngster flushed with first love. But ironically for a game that requires you to build 'Focus' in order to achieve great things, it feels greatly lacking in that department.

And, like a teenager, Remember Me can be stylish in the right light, but it's too underdeveloped – and a touch self-indulgent – to love.

  • Expect to pay: $50/£30

  • Release: Out now

  • Developer: Dontnod Entertainment

  • Publisher: Capcom

  • Multiplayer: Nope

  • Link: www.remembermegame.com

Remember Me

An action-adventure game that tries too hard to be too many things, Remember Me falls short of its own potential.

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