In the dystopian future of Remember Me, Capcom’s third-person action-adventure, the mind-erasing technology of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has been taken to the next level. The mega-corporation Memorize has created a brain implant called Sensen that commoditizes memories, allowing users to buy, sell and trade their recollections in order to remain blissfully ignorant of society crumbling around them. What could possibly go wrong?
Pretty much everything. While the upper class can afford to jettison any bad memories, the lower class covet happy memories that will help them forget their difficult lives. Many are overdosing, turning them into Leapers: junkies who look like Gollum with a bad meth habit. Meanwhile, Memorize can silence its critics by simply imprisoning them and removing their memories altogether, which is how we meet Nilin, the heroine of the story. Nilin was Memorize’s most skilled ”memory hunter,” but for reasons unknown, the company wiped her memory in order to contain her. Now with the help of a mysterious benefactor, she must put the puzzle pieces back together, restore her memory and take down her former employer.
Remember Me is set in a Neo-Paris of 2084, and it’s gorgeously rendered. An anachronistic juxtaposition of vieux Paris architecture and gleaming futuristic skyscrapers, the city is bursting with personality. Androids and robots bustle about, cleaning and shopping amongst the fashionable Neo-Parisians. But the game is extremely linear, quickly ushering you from one point to the next; it’s a shame you don’t get to explore this imaginative world more. Nilin’s Sensen pops up a bright orange arrow telling you exactly where you can jump or climb, which removes any sense of challenge from the bare-bones platforming. The only difficulty is in the clunky jumping mechanic, which too often leads to unnecessary deaths and leaves you staring at too-long loading screens while the checkpoint reloads.
The combat is similarly frustrating. While it’s clearly inspired by Batman: Arkham City‘s free-flow fighting, it lacks the flexibility and adaptability that made that game so very satisfying. Remember Me tries to add something new with customizable combos, allowing you to equip modifiers that deal extra damage, restore health or decrease your special meter timer, and it’s a nice way of adding strategy. But the system itself feels sluggish and unresponsive, and Nilin lacks Batman’s counters and throws that let him chain together attacks seemingly endlessly. What’s worse is that when taking on swarms of enemies, it’s difficult to keep your combos going as they constantly swipe at you with cheap shots, and dodging will often break your combo. And while the combat often looks cool, particularly when you unleash a powerful special move or finish off foes with a flashy memory overload, it ultimately looks better than it feels.
Remember Me‘s most original mechanic is memory remixing. Nilin uniquely possesses the ability to alter people’s memories by tweaking certain triggers in the memory, allowing her to alter their perception of what actually happened. This plays out like an interactive cut-scene, where you watch the events unfold, then rewind and fast-forward, searching for glitches you can manipulate that lead to different outcomes. It’s an interesting idea, and far more engaging than a passive cinematic, though it ultimately comes down to trial and error until you discover the proper combination.
Capcom took a big risk publishing an original game starring a female character who isn’t Lara Croft. Remember Me is an ambitious first game from French developer Dontnod Entertainment, who are clearly a talented bunch, and they’ve created a rich cyberpunk world with interesting characters. It’s unfortunate that the gameplay doesn’t quite live up to the big ideas, or it could have been something truly memorable. B-