As a generation ends, fresh new ideas are certainly not top of every publisher’s list and gamers have to be satisfied with the umpteenth version of the same tired old franchises. New IPs are what gamers crave, new ideas, new environments, new game mechanics and most importantly fresh creative storytelling in unique worlds. Remember Me comes to us from a new French studio Dontnod Entertainment and is published by Capcom. In recent times Capcom have taken risks with games produced outside of Japan, new IPs and arguably aimed at more western audiences. Commendable but often proven to be foolish if sales figures are to be believed.
Remember Me is an action adventure set in a ruined post apocalyptic future Paris where memories are key. Set in 2084 an evil corporation known as Memorize dominates industry, possessing the ability to implant, transfer and extract memories from and to anyone, thus allowing all elements of a persons memory to be manipulated. Such huge evil corporations will naturally have detractors and eventually the people will rise up and be heard. This is where the errorist (aka terrorist, roll with it) Nilin comes in.
Before we talk more about Nilin and the adventure which centres around her open conflict with the Memorize corporation it’s important we talk about the language used in Remember Me as a whole. It’s difficult to say whether it’s intentional laugh out loud funny as everything is so very serious but when you have errorists, remembranes, sensen, pressens and characters with names such as Bad Request it’s really tough to not laugh at Remember Me as you slog your way through the six to ten hour campaign. So insistent on being deadly serious and for want of a better word “cool” throughout, the writing comes off as completely lacking self awareness and downright silly. Characters deliver lines with the utmost sincerity which at times makes them cringeworthy and unfortunately whilst the game tries at every turn to try to get you invested in the characters, through memory rewriting and flash back remembranes it’s almost impossible to climb on board.
The dreadful, smug and borderline arrogant writing ripples throughout the entire experience and for the most part is best completely ignored, which is a crying shame as the world itself and the premise are both really interesting. Add to this that the game goes out of its way to show off, taking control away from the player at every opportunity and forcing you to sit through a cutscene, or pulling the camera to something which the game believes you will naturally think is totally awesome - often it’s just the same contrived arrogant nonsense endured throughout the entire campaign. Especially in the early stages it really is like an annoying child begging for your attention, there literally isn’t a ten minute gap in the first few hours where the game isn’t saying to the player “look at this, cool huh? how cool are we?”.
There are some positives to counter this lack of self awareness - the world is very much in the vein of The Fifth Element, the superb neon adventure from Luc Besson with its high gloss colours and eccentric art direction. Often gorgeous, vibrant in its presentation and technically solid for the most part. To enhance the world further there is some very apt techno sound design littered throughout, fused with various futuristic soundbites seen down the years in films like Blade Runner et al. The audio takes some speed and hits the floor with a luminous wristband and a rave whistle when the action starts to hot up. Banging techno beats accompany almost every encounter and your speakers (or headset) will be taxed during the few boss battles. It works to a degree but more often than not you notice that the combat which ties together the narrative can often be found missing the heavy techno beats. It almost seems like the hand to hand combat is meant to be played out to the beat at times, with the rhythmic combo system and annoyingly forced over use of the dodge mechanic.
Which leads us nicely to the game’s combat which is interesting yet completely flawed. In a valiant attempt to mimic the ballet like seamless fighting style made popular by the Arkham titles, Remember Me tries very hard to make you feel like a responsive, ass kicking badass chick. Sadly one of the most satisfying parts of the Arkham combat system is the ability to see an attack coming, block and counter it with devastating effect and without breaking the combo. In Remember Me there quite simply isn’t a block, parry or counter mechanic it’s all about evading - as a result you will find yourself dancing around like a ballerina, popping in the odd weak shot as you prance around. The hard hitting brutality is all but vacant from the experience, aside from some quite nice finishing moves, but still when faced with up to eight enemies to actually effectively execute these moves you would have to have been dancing around for some time. Boss fights are worse still and some are purely exercises of patience rather than fun free flowing ass kicking, which really is a crying shame. Sadly glitches littered our PS3 play through - each boss battle ends with a series of quick time events (sigh) but as usual fail a prompt and you are set back a little, completely normal quick time event practice...bit of a pain if one of the main prompts doesn’t actually appear though. Cue replaying the same section up to four times trying each button to see if it actually works. As if the boss battles were not annoying enough already, throw this in and the rage quitters out there won't last long.
As odd design choices go the combat mechanic comes across as an attempt at something different which simply just falls flat. You rank up through your actions and these can be used to unlock combo moves, you then use the combo lab to create your combos. These pressens (or powers if you are not a smug bastard) can be added to small or large combos (again size unlocks as you play) and add bonuses such as health regen and additional damage. At first this system is easily ignored but as you progress you will find yourself forced to mess about with it simply to progress against certain enemy types. The difficulty at times can feel a bit cheap, throwing multiple enemy types at you some ranged, some shielded and the most annoying of all, the enemy that does you damage when you hit it. Luckily Nilin does have some tricks up her sleeve to counter such actions. A focus meter fills through combat and as you level up a series of handy little specials unlock, these range from stun attacks to full on brute force strength and speed enhancement.
There is a lot in there and at times it does seem like quite fun but far too often the game throws cheap mixes of enemies at you, forcing you to spend time messing about with combos - you spend far too much time looking at the combo meter to see if you are hitting them right and the need to actually be rhythmic with your execution makes it feel more like PaRappa the Rapper than Arkham City. Add to this that you will find yourself doing more back flips than punches and the fun ebbs away - it all gets quite old, quite fast.
Mixed in amongst the story and the combat are some very simple platforming, Uncharted with massive training wheels on style terrain traversal and the highlight of the entire game, the memory reconstruction sequences (puzzles essentially). Re-writing memories is the standout element of the game, here you witness a memory event, usually between a handful of people and once the memory is complete are given the ability to rewind step by step and through doing so you are shown multiple opportunities to re-write the memory. Not only is this a rather flashy way of adding some weight to certain characters it also makes you, the player, feel god-like for a moment. You of course haven’t made the event itself change but within that individual’s mind you have actually completely re-written their memory of events. It’s a pretty cool plot device and you don’t get that feeling of empowerment from anything else found within Remember Me. It’s a crying shame that these events happen sparsely throughout the entire campaign, yet we are treated to monotonous cheap combat mechanics throughout.
Remember Me is ambitious, often gorgeous and for the most part intriguing but is a game badly let down by design decisions and lacklustre gameplay. What good intentions it has are spoilt with annoying glitches and frustrating gameplay scenarios. It’s not dreadful by any stretch but feels very disappointing as the potential was there for all to see. Hopefully if they sell enough copies to warrant another crack at this franchise they listen to fan feedback - there is a really good game here, maybe, one day.