Remember Me is a game that wants to tell a story but isn’t entirely sure how. Chalk it up to the developer’s inexperience, but it’s easy to find yourself briefly being distracted by attractive set pieces before being grounded once again by a shaky script and the story’s lack of context. What little emotion is present is lost due to poor character development, which will leave players scratching their heads, often wondering who these people are and why they should care.
The combat and artistic direction will pull much of the game out of obscurity, but Remember Me has enough problems to warrant careful thought as to whether it, like the title implies, bears remembering at all. Still, the game is not bad by any stretch, it’s actually quite enjoyable, but as a first title from developer DONTNOD Entertainment, it could use some polish.
Remember Me is a sci-fi revenge story set in a dystopian Paris in 2084 where having an open mind is no longer an option. The company Memorise has developed technology called Sensen, which allows users to explore the vastness of the human brain in order to access, remix or destroy memories. Gamers play the role of elite memory hunter, Nilan, who has been imprisoned for being too good at her job and is about to have her memories wiped completely. Through the help of a mysterious ally name Edge, Nilan is able to escape and begin an adventure through a broken city to reclaim her stolen memories and take revenge on those responsible at Memorise. Along the way she beats up a lot of thugs and messes with people’s heads.
The ability to enter minds and alter memories may not be an entirely new concept, but it certainly hasn’t been done in such an intriguing and enjoyable way. But as you’re playing, it’s hard no to ask yourself why this ability exists in the first place. The game likes to remind the player that sometimes we have memories we wish we didn’t have – and that’s why this technology was devised. As such, people have willingly made their brains accessible at all times and thus prone to outside attack from just about everyone. Seriously, everyone. It isn’t fully explained why having a virtual hole in your brain is as common as having a cell phone, which comes off as major plot contrivance and a lazy way to never impede the core mechanic of the game. Admittedly, this mechanic is used in so many enjoyable ways that this detail is, by the end, excusable.
The Sensen technology Nilan processes can be used in several ways. Outside of combat, it is used to navigate obstacles by shooting projectiles, access doors and move objects. One of Nilan’s most useful abilities is to steal memories, which allows access to Remembranes. These literally allow her to walk in the steps of another person, which opens up plenty of secrets, such as hidden paths or door codes. Another important ability, which happens to be my absolute favorite, is the remixing of memories. This is where Nilan enters the mind of another person, watches a specific memory take place and then makes small alterations to affect the outcome. For example, a bounty hunter attacks you, bent on taking you in for the money. Inside her mind it is revealed the money is for her brother’s medical fees. He just happens to be cared for at Memorise. A few adjustments later, like a doctor giving him the wrong medication, and her brother is dead – at least in her memory. At that point, the enemy’s tune could change and become an ally bent on taking Memorise down for her brother’s death.
Despite access to so many minds, the player is left predominantly in the dark about every major event and character in the game – because there is no time made for set-up. And with little set-up, there is no real motivation. Admittedly, taking time from action to develop a story can slow down the pace of a game, but Remember Me rarely takes a breather. All of the game’s story is told on the run. Your friend Edge, via radio, will tell you that someone needs to be taken out, and you do it with little to no questions asked – a major oversight for someone with a broken memory. Granted, most of the characters players encounter are extremely unlikable – which helps to justify utterly destroying them (i.e. blasting their brains to oblivion). A little background would have been nice – especially since most of them end up serving a purpose in the progression of the story.
Maybe it’s because the developers are French and the game is in English, but there is some truly terrible dialogue accented by performances that are absolutely cringe worthy. Nilan is well cast, as well as one or two others, but the majority of the actors are atrocious. Still, it’s hard to blame them when the script itself is a dud. Even the characters’ names are sometimes silly. Kid Xmas is a prime example. Why Christmas? Because he mentions Christmas as lot. That’s pretty much it.
Another large draw is the world itself. It’s fascinating, beautiful and it’s unfortunate that learning anything more about it is restricted to in-game journals and collectibles. Strolling through the city is a pleasure. The citizens all go about their lives as realistically as can be expected – and it’s believable enough. You’ll be traversing a good portion of Neo-Paris from the sky, as well, since climbing is an important part of game. There is a lot of hand holding with this mechanic and there isn’t much to it, but it does add to the whole action vibe the game embodies. Unfortunately, the game is so linear that it almost discourages exploration – so players might want to take a few wrong turns just to see what else the world has to offer.
That said, there is a lot to offer in Remember Me that isn’t fully fleshed out. Poor character development coupled with a lack of information about the world around you is confusing and the numerous restrictions while exploring is frustrating. These limits are entirely lifted with combat, which is the main draw of the game and is actually quite good.
The stylish, combo-based combat is where Remember Me shines. The game utilizes the Sensen technology angle in its combat, which results in a sort of augmented reality that is just gorgeous. While there are only four combos allowed in the game, each attack within the combo is fully customizable through the use of attacks called Pressens. Pressens can be used to regenerate health, reduce cooldowns on special abilities, deal damage or amplify effects of other Pressens. Attacking enemies accumulates focus, which is used to unleash some truly devastating attacks. This isn’t a simple button masher either – strategically utilizing your abilities is key to surviving. Encounter an enemy that damages you if you attack it? Try using regeneration Pressens to gain health and even out the damage received. If you feel overwhelmed, unleash a Logic Bomb that damages multiple targets and destroys shields.
There are multiple enemy types, all with their own strengths and weaknesses, sometimes influenced by the environment itself – such as an ability to be invisible in dark places like the ghoulish Leapers, humans twisted through experimentation and destruction of memories. There are also a few quick time event flourishes ala God of War that spice things up and offer satisfying conclusions to long battles.
What Remember Me does right is create a world you’ll want to explore further – but ultimately can’t. While elaborating on the story through journals offers welcome content, a player shouldn’t be required to research in order to understand the main plot. Characters aren’t fleshed out and most of their personalities are lacking, but Nilan still shines through as an intelligent, capable heroine whose story has some satisfying payoff.
The combat is the real diamond in the rough and makes the journey into Neo-Paris completely worthwhile. There are plenty of mistakes, but also a few triumphs. It’s hard to recommend rushing out to get this one, as it feels more like a downloadable title due to its short playtime, but I would also be remiss to suggest avoiding it completely. Ultimately, it’s an excellent first attempt by DONTNOD Entertainment – and should encourage more than a few gamers to look forward to their next offering.
Remember Me is available now for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. Game Rant played the Xbox 360 version for this review.
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