Remember Me - Review

A fascinating story that stumbles in the parts where you have to actually play it

Memory can be a tricky thing.  As the primary way by which we interface with our past, it’s critical to determining who we are in the present, and to ensuring that we are capable of progress, of learning from our successes and mistakes.  But memories can also be painful, sometimes brutally so, to the point that we’d want to cut them out of our minds completely.  Remember Me asks, what if we could?  What if we could remove unpleasant memories, alter them to our liking, or replace them with newer, more pleasant experiences?  Or, more importantly, what if someone else could?

It is the year 2083.  Remember Me’s protragonist, Nilin, is a Memory Hunter, prowling the streets, alleyways, and high-rises of Neo Paris corrupting or altering other people’s memories at the whim of her employer the Memorize corporation.  Memorize is responsible for a breakthrough in cybernetic technology called the Sensen, an implant that renders living memory fluid and changeable and allows it to be shared or replicated. 

 

Thoughtcrime

The result is a world where Memorize effectively owns and controls almost all human memory, a situation the dubiously motivated corporation is not averse to taking advantage of.  The majority of people are happy enough with this arrangement given the exquisite pleasures of memory sharing, but the real victims dwell in the slums and dank underground below the city, creatures called Leapers whose memories have been so corrupted that their Sensen have mutated them into monstrous abominations.   

As the game opens, Nilin’s former masters have turned on her, and decided that a complete wipe of her memory is necessary.  She manages to escape their holding facility with the aid of an underground resistance that has dedicated itself to bringing Memorize low, and spends the bulk of the rest of the game recovering her memory, unraveling why her employer finds her so threatening, and in the midst of an escalating civil war.

 

Remember Me’s story is novel and interesting, and reminds us of some of the best dystopian science fiction of the 20th century; the game could believably be based on the work of Isaac Asimov or Philip K. Dick.  It’s a strong premise that boasts some interesting, well-developed characters, and it’s all set against the striking skylines and urban squalor of a beautifully rendered future Paris. 

 

“Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders.”

Where Remember Me falters, then, is in its mechanics.  These days, submitting and entry in the 3rd person brawler genre means stepping out onto a pretty crowded dance floor, and while Remember Me seems eager to ape the combo-based combat of Rocksteady’s Batman games, it never achieves that level of polish or fluidity.  Combat animations aren’t as smooth, enemies don’t react as organically, and most importantly, chaining your attacks between enemies is never as crisp. 

The game asks players to design combos from attacks with various properties, like health regeneration or filling a special meter that allows Nilin to unleash special attacks.  While some of these powerful abilities, called S-Pressens, look really spectacular and are highly effective against groups of enemies, they do little to break up the combat, which inevitably becomes fairly rote.  The problem is that executing one of the combos you’ve programmed doesn’t allow you to shift seamlessly from one attacker to another, so you have to work hard to separate opponents from the pack and take them down one-on-one.

 

Hacking the human mind

One of the high points of the gameplay sadly requires very limited interaction on the players end.  There are several moments (though not enough) where Lilin enters the memory of another key character to review and alter their memories, and these sequences are uniformly some of the best in the game.  The presentation inside these memories is superb and the dramatic, immediate consequences of their alteration makes them immensely satisfying (even if all that’s required is a few button pushes). 

Remember Me develops exceptional atmosphere and tells a remarkable story (complete with some late twists and revelations) but ultimately falls prey to chunky, repetitive combat that makes it a test of your patience to get to the next big reveal.  It’s a solid first effort, however, and it’s easy to see a path by which rookie developer DONTNOD could take these rich concepts and flesh them out into a truly exceptional product their next time up at the plate.  An out of the park sophomore effort would help render Remember Me even more forgettable, which might sadly be for the best. 

Our Rating
6
A fascinating story that stumbles in the parts where you have to actually play it
Published Jun. 4th 2013

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