Remember Me Review
For many, science is frightening. For all of the wonderful and amazing things it’s capable of, numerous people fear that in the wrong hands science can, and will, be used for evil. To be sure, this has happened before, and since humans are skeptical by nature, it’s no surprise a lot of us feel this way.
It’s these worries that are the reason why science fiction like Remember Me exists. The very thought that a morally ambiguous corporation (Memorize, in this case) would create a brain implant called the “Sensation Engine” (Sensen) that’s able to change our memories is frightening. Even worse is that they would do it under the guise of “advancing evolution”, and that many people, particularly the privileged, would buy into the concept.
Here We Go Again
French developer Dontnod examines this premise in Remember Me in a somewhat engaging, albeit trite, manner. The lead protagonist, Nilin, is a member of a rebel group known as the Errorists. Her memories have been stolen by Memorize, and naturally she wants them back and aims to take down these crazed scientists once and for all. It’s a plot we’ve seen before in numerous cyberpunk stories, and it works efficiently if executed properly. Unfortunately, this story is too caught up in the trappings of its genre to provide much depth, and the narrative plays out as one would expect.
This isn’t to say that story is all bad, though. There are moments when it can be fun and exciting, and it blends nicely with some of the gameplay elements that include stealing, watching and altering the memories of other characters. Nilin herself is a strong and resourceful character that’s an ace at combat, and her conflicted thoughts on working with the Errorists (a group that she barely remembers belonging to) and participating in their borderline hypocritical tactics makes her appealing.
Forgettable Yet Ambitious Gameplay
Other than toying with memories using her unique abilities, Nilin is capable of using Pressens (read: fighting moves) to customize the combos she unleashes on the Leapers (humans that are addicted to memories) and other enemies.
The Pressens come in various flavors, and can be mixed to create maneuvers that restore health, recharge super abilities (S-Pressens) and boost damage. Only four combos can be active at a time, but being able to shape them in the Combo Lab menu is a nice touch to the otherwise by-the-numbers combat, which lacks variety and isn’t as responsive as it should be.
There’s also the Spammer weapon she has at her disposal, which can harm enemies and reacts to certain parts of the environment, like doors, floodlights and control panels. It’s used in heavy doses and adds a little complexity to the gameplay by making the fighting sequences more than just punching and kicking.
One aspect that truly held my interest is the memory remixes. They add a puzzle element to Remember Me that I was completely fascinated by. The gist of it is that Nilin can enter someone’s mind, experience one of their memories and change what occurs. The memory can be rewound and sped up, and doing so allows Nilin to move things around in order to alter the outcome. There is plenty of trial-and-error, and it’s a pleasure seeing all the different ways Nilin can effect the memory. Of course, there’s only one way to solve each of these puzzles, but regardless it’s a clever piece of design that keeps the game from being too formulaic.
Each of these game mechanics are introduced periodically as the game progresses, and are sadly the victims of overbearing tutorials. Just as the action is about to begin, the game pauses and forces the player to go through a series of pop-ups that, for the most part, point out the obvious. This happens more than a few times, and I found them more than a little obnoxious.
A Treat for the Eyes and Ears
Despite these intrusive breaks in immersion, Remember Me remains an atmospheric game. The visuals look great on PC and, while not as polished as other late current-gen releases, are vibrant when traversing the streets of 2084 Neo-Paris, and dark and seedy in the slums and sewers. The lighting and shadow effects work well, and interact with the gameplay when faced with certain enemies.
Exploration is limited, though, and not many of these nicely rendered set pieces can be interacted with. Indeed, this is a very linear game, but with the cinematic qualities of the design, this is to be expected. However, it holds the game back in some regards, and makes the game in some ways feel run-of-the-mill instead of the original and clever title it wants to be.
On the other hand, the music is a wonderful mix of orchestral and electronic fare. It’s composed smoothly, and makes the gameplay more accessible by making the action seem more eventful and some of the plot more intriguing.
Remember Me is effective in certain areas, and lackluster in others. Dontnod’s ambitions aren’t fully realized, however, and the flaws stick out too far to make them forgivable. The hit-and-miss gameplay and rote storytelling keep the game from reaching its full potential, but there’s enough good craftsmanship here to make it worth checking out.