Remember Me

Forgive and Forget…

Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 3/ RRP: £34.99 / Time Played: 12+ hours

It’s almost a shame to start off by talking down the first game from French studio Dontnod, but that having been said, when you entitle your first project “Remember Me”,  you are kind of setting yourself up on a higher plane than others would. Fuse, for example, sounds generic enough that it being a generic shooter isn’t much of a shock. Dark Souls delivers darkness and souls, so it works. Remember Me alludes somewhat to a game which wants to be remembered for something, anything, but ultimately I fear isn’t quite ready for prime-time.

It’s not the fault of the story – a late 21st Century Neo-Paris, a bustling metropolis built after some massive European war which France appeared to have won (A lesser man may make a cheese eating surrender monkey joke here, but I am not one of them, no sir…). A place where the rich and powerful have Sensen devices built into the back of their necks, devices which allow for memories to be implanted, changed and deleted so as to ensure they are somewhat perfect in every way, and all crimes can be forgiven and forgotten. Poorer people in the outer slums don’t get this, and are looked down upon as imperfect creatures.

Enter Nilin, a memory hunter who has just had the last of her memories deleted. She does not know why, she does not know how, all she knows is that the mysterious political forces that govern this sprawling futuristic epic aren’t about to let her run around alive. Throughout the course of your first few hours, Nilin discovers her expertise, and with the aid of a companion known as Edge (bet that hurts Mr. Langdell…) she sets about bringing some justice to the burgeoning upper classes who through tampering of their memories assuage their guilt and remorse over the squalor that exists below them, and finding out who really wants her so utterly dead that they would risk everything by giving her nothing to live for…

It’s a fantastic concept. It’s just a shame the game isn’t quite up there with it.

Actually, that feels unfair. You know what Remember Me puts me in mind of? The first Assassin’s Creed game. A title that technically was pretty all over the place, but had real potential to go somewhere – a potential realised in the sequel, oddly enough. Remember Me is a technical marvel – crisp and clean and achingly beautiful. The game knows its strengths on this front and as Nilin runs, jumps and climbs through the vast sprawl of Neo-Paris, the camera often lingers longingly and lovingly on the landscape and the backdrop, reminding you that this is a huge place. A huge place you don’t get to see all of, but a huge place nonetheless and it gives a sense of scale to the proceedings in much the same way the towers in Assassin’s Creed allowed for a more ambitious feel of space and scale. The adventure side of things isn’t always perfect, but it is handled competently enough without too much fluff in the way.

Combat is necessary at times though, and with no cover-based mechanic, Dontnod opts for a chain-combo system that very much feels like the aged remains drawn from the tombs of a certain Persian royal, so to speak. The ability to unlock new chain commands is admirable but as is the case with so many games of this kind, once you’ve become comfortable with a certain combo chain, there’s rarely little reason to change from it whether you’re tackling citizens who have overdosed on memory implants, or poor soulless individuals that comprise the security forces that make your life somewhat difficult.

But there is a pleasing rhythm to connecting the blows, getting the timing right. It lacks any depth and any real sophistication, and isn’t going to win any applause from people who have this year been spoilt with the likes of Revengeance and Anarchy Reigns, but it’s not so awful that you’d stand there and complain about it. It’s nice, but never really goes anywhere.

Outside of both of these are missions where Nilin is guided to an objective and, if you are lucky, this will involve a Memory Remix.

These brief interludes are small puzzles that you fast forward and rewind through, changing variables in order to instigate the end result you desire, such as changing a syringe used by a doctor. The trick is not to end up creating something paradoxical, but rather instead something plausible. A fictional alternative reality that can instigate the reaction from the individual that you so desire. Getting to toy with the scenes is remarkably affecting and incredibly good fun, so it’s perhaps a real shame that throughout the game, the mechanic is rather underutilised. But when you get to those moments, much like the assassination missions in the first Assassin’s Creed, you suddenly hit the point of “EUREKA!”. It’s the thing that just excuses everything else and was probably the first thing they came up with.

Of course, I don’t idly use the Assassin’s Creed comparison. The memory remix moments have a very Animus-like feel to them, and despite the games jump into the future, it handles somewhat similarly as well to me.  But much like Assassin’s Creed, the quality of it is choppy at best. It begins well, dips somewhat in the middle and recovers by the end. Nilin is herself a surprisingly rounded heroine and one for which I am thankful Dontnod fought their corner for, as she represents an interesting blend of emotions to become a very complex individual, perhaps moreso than a male lead could ever have hoped to have been. The settings are gloriously coated in base science-fiction novelty, like holograms activating as you walk past them with an advertisement aimed at you, but the game still retreats to a grey corridor-based linearity more than I’d feel comfortable with.

The thing that bugs me is not that Remember Me is linear with a set message to impart, but rather that it seems to have ideas above and beyond its own station. What we have is a game which has concepts and ideas and is full of potential, brimming with an effervescent excitement and a taught story, but there’s no explosion from underneath, nothing that forces the eruption. The story, Nilin, the backdrop, the memory remixes and plenty of other features and ideas would ordinarily dress a particularly brilliantly designed game, but in Remember Me they are effectively being pushed as the main selling points and it’s that which ultimately does the most damage, because once you get through that shell the game behind it is actually rather timid, safe and treads familiar ground in a familiar way. Remember Me tries the memory remix on you, but a little pause to consider the reality of the situation and the illusion presented simply doesn’t quite hold up to scrutiny.

However, with this said, it’s also worth remembering that there’s nothing inherently WRONG with Remember Me, and is actually rather pleasant as a distraction piece. Not only that, but like the game it shares so much in common with, Assassin’s Creed went on to bigger and bolder things, with a more coherent and solid foundation on the second lap than we ever got on the first. Remember Me feels like the sort of game where this should also follow the same suit. The foundations need some reinforcing, the screws need tightening to add more structural rigidity and they need to landscape the garden a bit more as well, but the basic technical integrity of Remember Me is rather sound and rather nice.

But the game never quite escalates from “nice”. It’s a brave concept, a good yarn and comes with a style and a charm all of its own. It just seems a pity that it never quite gets to the lofty ambitions of the ideas that it so clings to. It’s a shame that I fear in a years time, Remember Me will be the sort of thing forgotten and shunted aside, when it really deserves to have its base core expanded and explored more in the coming generational jump, but at a time when we’re seeing and expecting better, it’s also the sort of game that is misleading in its intrinsic presentation. It looks more competent than it really is deep down, and many will likely walk away quite disappointed, forgetting it in favour of other games.

Which would be silly. There’s plenty to like here and even some bits to love. There’s a real potential there for Dontnod and Capcom to build on in the way UbiSoft built on Assassin’s Creed. There’s plenty of nice hours to be enjoyed in the game.

It won’t rock your world or perhaps create wonderful memories, but it’s a pleasantly competent affair whilst it lasts.

SUMMARY;

YAY!;

  • Plenty of really good ideas.
  • Technically quite smooth and accomplished. Makes a change!
  • Nilin is frankly one of the best new female characters in a long time.
  • Ultimately inoffensive.
  • Memory Remixes are a lot of fun!

NAY!;

  • Feels very safe and sedate at times.
  • Retreats into obvious linearity more often than it likes to admit to.
  • Never really escalates into something more interesting.
  • Not enough of the good ideas to go around, especially the Memory Remixes.

Ey?;

  • Edge Edge Edge Edge Edge Edge Edge.
  • The combat system really isn’t a lot to write home about.
  • Never quite sets about answering all its questions.
  • France as a European War winner? Some may not be able to suspend their disbelief there…

OVERALL CONCLUSION – Will totally respect you in the morning! (6.5 out of 10 – Good!)

Remember Me is a pleasant, if sadly unambitious, project that some may find rather forgettable. Get down into its heart and there is plenty to love and respect, but it’s constrained inside a game which projects a higher quality feel than it actually gives itself unto. Those who fall for its charms will, like me, acknowledge that the future may indeed be bright for this particular IP. Right now, it’s nothing but ideas and potential, and in a market that is about to get The Last of Us, that simply may not be enough, sadly…

Header image taken from the box art, no infringements intended.

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