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Remember Me (PC) artwork

Remember Me (PC) review

"It's not dull; it's too varied for that. What it's lacking, though, is anything that truly makes it stand out on the gameplay front. It would have only taken one thing to elevate this material, and the memory remix levels almost do that, but there are only four of them, in a campaign that'll run you nine or ten hours to complete."

Remember Me asset

I wanted this to be simple. What we've got here is an original IP that houses thought-provoking sci-fi concepts and a decidedly non-objectified female lead. It was released by a publisher not generally inclined to take massive, big-budget risks, and it shares its title with a Robert Pattinson romantic drama. The industry doesn't just need games like Remember Me; it needs them to be great, so that we can buy them without dilemma and communicate to companies like Capcom that we appreciate when they step out of their comfort zones. Because otherwise they'll just keep making Resident Street Fighter May Cry, right?

One of Remember Me's defining moments is when its heroine, Nilin, finds a ranged weapon called the Spammer. We're told that it can be used to attack enemies and open locked doors. Excellent. What we're left to discover for ourselves is that we cannot freely aim the device, but must instead rely on a targeting system. So if we can shoot at something, it's probably because we need to in some capacity. There's nothing explicitly wrong with the mechanic, but why impose unnecessary limitations like that?

You'll probably ask yourself that question quite a bit throughout Remember Me. You'll collect dozens of codex entries that underline the absurd attention to detail that developer Dontnod poured into the game's exquisite setting, and then you'll see all of this rich history be more or less swept under the rug. The game clearly wants to be less generic than it is, but its ambition mightily outweighs its scope. And yet Remember Me is still sufficient across the board and even downright cool in some areas. It's the sort of game in which you need to weigh your disappointment against the realization that, yeah, what you're playing here is still pretty good. In other words, it's the sort of game that's absolutely maddening to review.

Remember Me asset

The fascinating setting I referenced is Paris circa 2084 – "Neo-Paris," they're calling it now – in which memories have been commercialized. Some people willingly have their most painful memories erased and live in fantastical ecstasy for it, some have their memories harvested for mass distribution, and a few have been so over-exposed to the technology that they've devolved into crazed, sewer-dwelling mutants, their minds tampered with beyond repair. It's overseen by an all-powerful corporation called Memorize and opposed by a rebel faction called the Errorists, of which Nilin is one. She doesn't initially know that, though – when the game begins, she awakens in a pristine white Memorize facility with amnesia and is forced to place her trust in an unseen figure named Edge, who purports to be the leader of the Errorists.

Nilin learns rather quickly that she has the ability to "remix" (ugh) people's memories. The idea is that she can delve into a person's mind, kind a key event in his or her life and rearrange the circumstances in such a way that it changes the outcome and potentially warps the subject's way of thinking altogether. It leads to what are unquestionably the game's most potent moments, such as an early sequence in which she forces an assassin to switch sides by making her believe that her employer is responsible for her husband's death. The process of repeatedly winding through a memory and searching for the correct combination of tweaks needed is a genuinely unique mechanic, something Remember Me could have used more of.

Of the many cards that Remember Me draws from the ambiguous action game hat, the hand-to-hand combat is probably its most successful endeavor, thanks in large part to the combo lab. You can't customize the actual sequence of punches and kicks in each combo, but you can use unlockable gizmos called Pressens to determine the effect of each move, whether it reduces cooldown time, increases damage, amplifies the effect of the previous Pressen, or whatever. By and large, it's just for personalization, but then the game throws you into a situation where, say, an electrified enemy harms you every time you attack him and you need to use enough regenerative Pressens to counterbalance the damage you're dealt just for trying to kill the guy. I'm sorry, but that's clever.

Remember Me asset

Significantly less clever is the platforming, which is a shame, because there's an awful lot of it. I've seen Remember Me compared quite a bit to Enslaved, a game in which the main character literally would not attempt a jump that he couldn't land. Nilin can fall to her death, so we're good there, but the platforming here suffers from a tremendous amount of hand-holding. One of Dontnod's visual flourishes is augmented reality, the way little virtual labels and warning signs are frequently superimposed on the environments. It looks fantastic, and yet it comes with the downside that whenever Nilin takes to running, jumping and climbing, an enormous yellow arrow tells her exactly where to go. There's rarely any challenge or suspense to the platforming because of that; aside from a few instances in which timing is crucial, you generally just point Nilin towards the arrow, hit the space bar, and continue on.

I don't necessarily mind that the game is so linear. What I mind is that it feels linear, that so much of the game is spent quite literally following an arrow, and that even the non-platforming sequences often feel just as straightforward. It's the reason that the game's occasional forays into puzzle-solving tended to be my favorite bits, because those are the only instances in which players are left to figure things out for themselves.

The game has two major strengths. The first is that it looks and sounds so magnificent – boasting what I'm comfortable calling the potential soundtrack of the year, a dynamic mix of sweeping orchestra work and bouncy glitch-pop – that you frequently forget that what you're playing is so simplistic. The other is that it moves at such a rapid-fire pace that you'll never be doing any one thing for particularly long anyway. There's some combat here and some platforming there and a bit of stealth and puzzle-solving to fill the gaps, with a neat little scavenger hunt mechanic to keep you occupied every step of the way. Remember Me may be simple, but it's not dull; it's too varied for that. What it's lacking, though, is anything that truly makes it stand out on the gameplay front. It would have only taken one thing to elevate this material, and the memory remix levels almost do that, but there are only four of them, in a campaign that'll run you nine or ten hours to complete.

Remember Me asset

Where the game falls the most infuriatingly short of its potential, though, is its story. The reason I haven't said much about it is because, for all of the juicy nuggets that Remember Me's setting offers, there really isn't much to be said about the plot itself. Until a few late twists make things interesting, it's essentially just a succession of encounters against increasingly cartoonish sub-villains, with Edge blatantly explaining all of the must-know bullet points along the way. The world itself is fascinating, but for the most part, it feels as though the basic underdogs-versus-big-evil-corporation arc could be reworked to fit just about anything.

I do like Nilin quite a bit as a protagonist, though. She's a believable mix of strong and lighthearted that acts as a bridge between the game's goofier and more serious elements. Perhaps more importantly, the big twists all play into Nilin's backstory, giving her an actual reason to be there. And before the rather silly final boss (who looks like the offspring of a crash test dummy and the Reaper larva from Mass Effect 2), the twists themselves take Remember Me in some unexpected directions. Let's just say that for a game so lacking in subtlety where some of its characterization is concerned, you'd never expect it to produce legitimately sympathetic villains in the final stretch, but there are surprising shades of grey here.

Remember Me asset

Shame those shades of grey aren't more thoroughly explored, because the questions presented here are genuinely thought-provoking stuff. Is the act of tampering with a person's memories for a noble cause justified when it has horrific and unforeseen side effects? Is it healthy for society when people begin erasing negative thoughts and rewriting their own histories? And is the abuse of dangerous technology acceptable when the intentions are benevolent? This is true science fiction we're dealing with, yet too much of Remember Me's campaign is limited to bland arena battles and cheesy one-liner exchanges. The game has no idea what to do with its most intriguing ideas.

But the ideas are there, and they are intriguing.

I'd be lying if I said that a part of me hasn't actively been searching for excuses to recommend Remember Me, partly for being a big-budget underdog, and partly for all of the bubbles of creativity floating beneath its surface. Thankfully, its solid combat, rich setting and sharp aesthetic make it a game absolutely worth checking out, if not necessarily worth buying at full price. Its towering successes outweigh its shallow failures, and who knows? Maybe supporting Remember Me will encourage Dontnod to take things a step further with their next project. But next time, guys, I want to aim the damn Spammer.


Suskie's avatar
Freelance review by Mike Suskie (July 06, 2013)

Mike Suskie is a freelance writer who has contributed to GamesRadar and has a blog. He can usually be found on Twitter at @MikeSuskie.

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