For ten monotonous hours, Remember Me remains inconsistent, dancing carelessly between middling and avant-garde. The soulless fighting sapped my will to play more than two missions per sitting, yet I savored every dingy skyline of Neo-Paris, 2084. An inviting story regarding the vulnerability of memories lies beneath the insipid voice acting as well, even though amnesia ranks among gaming's most overused plot devices. And when forgetful protagonist Nilin is not wrestling with her identity or the game’s feeble execution, developer Dontnod Entertainment dispenses several novel ideas, like memory altering puzzles and combo tweaking.
To be fair, Nilin’s mental blackout was not self-imposed. In the future, memories have become digital commodities, where customers buy and relive the thoughts and feelings of others as clear as the day they occurred. Meanwhile, Memorize owns a monopoly on the technology, and few citizens are happy with how the 1% treats the impoverished. That's where Nilin's role comes in. She's a memory hunter able to delve into people's minds, modify their perception of any event without permission, and induce changes in personality and beliefs. Such rebellious gifts make Nilin an enemy of Memorize, which explains why she begins the campaign captured and waiting to have the last traces of her individuality erased when Edge, leader of the city’s cyber terrorist cause, recruits Nilin and secures her escape.
The following events would serve the silver screen better than home consoles. While Remember Me's initial setup breaches familiar amnesiac territory – what with Nilin’s quest to reclaim her identity and integrity – Neo-Paris instantly becomes the story's strongest character. Holograms advertise pay-per-view brawls, children’s toy commercials, scientific advances, and the locations of collectibles. Obedient robots wait on impatient, pompous masters, and the cheese-eating, wine-drinking upper class woefully ignores evidence of a utopian society built upon the backs of the poor – apparent as memory junkies (Leapers) slink around sewer tunnels. The memory tampering concepts also invoke comparisons to the stellar Total Recall films.
The virtual overlays are the most exciting part of the presentation.
Remember Me only disappoints when the player interacts with the world or its inhabitants. The level design does not discourage sightseeing so much as it slaps an invisible barrier between Nilin, shops, apartments, or anything remotely appealing. The traversal, likewise, shackles freedom. Orange chevrons highlight every ledge players must grab and each jump they must make, but the game prohibits any deviation from the main path outside collecting health and energy upgrades. The point? The chevrons differentiate platforms from the static, grainy environments, taunting you with an open world squeezed into a linear experience.
Remember Me succumbs to modern console constraints, too. Aside from brief ganders of the Eiffel Tower, ivory skyscrapers, and futuristic hover cars illuminating horizons, the settings gravely demand anti-aliasing, and character animations appear awkward, rigid, and exaggerated. The combat brings out these flaws. The developers try to adopt Rocksteady’s Batman-style fisticuffs without understanding what made the Caped Crusader formidable. Batman is agile, controlled, hard-hitting. Nilin flails about like she earned a kickboxing black belt watching YouTube videos. Her sluggish movements means her combos rarely eclipse three hits, and Nilin cannot knock enemies unconscious in less than a dozen.
Nilin cannot counter opponents, either. She merely evades, which frequently resets combos. The brawls were not designed for encounters with half a dozen guards, droids, and Leapers, since rolling away from one aggressor puts you in striking distance of another, or forces the camera to spin erratically or faze straight through Nilin. But Dontnod shows some signs of creativity once you engage Memorize and Leaper forces. Players customize their combos with Pressens – attack modifiers that deal more damage, siphon health, decrease S-Pressen cooldowns, or bolster the effects of the previous ability. The Pressens tailor the combat to your liking, be your style offensive or conservative, and the later you place Pressens in a chain, the greater effects they have. (A Regen Pressen placed near the end of a combo recovers more health, for example.)
Still, I mainly relied on Nilin’s S-Pressens, which enhance Nilin’s attack strength, reprogram hostile droids, detonate "logic bombs," stun and reveal invisible Leapers, or disguise Nilin so she may overload one attacker’s memory instantly. However, the S-Pressens generally exist for defeating specific enemy types, and operate on timers that (unless you equip multiple cooldown Pressens) prolong boss fights while you helplessly sprint around the arena waiting for your abilities to recharge. It's miserable busywork.
Time to wait two to three minutes before the logic bomb recharges.
Remember Me’s most enjoyable parts abstain from fighting entirely. At several narrative stalemates, players must remix character memories, scrubbing forward and backward through a life-changing event and altering that person’s knowledge of key details. These puzzle sequences exhibit the most promise. Nilin receives a clear objective – usually killing someone, which doesn't really happen (your victim just thinks it did) – but how you achieve that outcome is seldom black and white.
The earliest example requires Nilin to reshape a woman’s memory so she thinks her husband died during surgery. In the operating room within the lady's psyche, many objects (called glitches) can be manipulated – few are meaningless, but others will backfire, killing the woman in the process. It’s thrilling working out how different glitches influence each other as you watch the people react to your tampering. Do you switch the injections the doctor gives the husband? Do you undo the oxygen mask and wrist strap keeping the man stabilized and immobile? As unique and refreshing as these moments are, Dontnod doesn't exploit them or the logic puzzles that dissect nursery rhymes nearly enough. There are simply four memory remix chances total, and I would hate to spoil more.
Although Remember Me wants to be remembered (no wordplay intended), Dontnod underestimates what intrigued viewers during the game’s first video demonstrations. With four memory altering sequences parsed throughout ten hours of middling combat and platforming, on-the-fence buyers are better off watching the solutions online than battling through the mundane campaign. The gameplay flaunts too much unpolished chaff, and even now, I have trouble recalling Remember Me’s few good moments amid all the bad.
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign)
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, PC
Like the review? Follow me on Twitter.