Remember Me is a strange, strange game. Since it was announced last August its most obvious selling point was, interestingly, a memory mechanic, allowing you to access the minds of a chosen individual, altering how they recalled a pre-existing chain of events. Resembling almost a point and click adventure, it grabbed a lot of people’s attention, including mine. The question is, then, why Remember Me seems so reluctant to dive into this gimmick further, especially when its other ideas seem to fall flat.
For starters, the good. Dontnod deserves plenty of credit for the world it’s created. It’s easy in today’s video game landscape to piece together a city that fails to do its job in capturing the attention of its audience and the French development studio has managed to avoid such pitfalls admirably. It’s version of Neo-Paris in a very different 2084 has been pieced together really quite beautifully, giving you an experience on par with the big-hitters of the genre. It may not have the openness of, say, a Skyrim, but many of the landscapes and horizons are, at least, equally as mesmerising to gaze upon.
Unfortunately, what you’re tasked to do within this setting just isn’t that entertaining. Breaking its major events down into platforming and combat – surprise, surprise – neither is able to be anything more than mediocre. While climbing around the city feels uninspired, the fighting is just lacklustre. Dontnod has tried to inject its own take on proceedings by allowing you to create your own combos based on moves you’ve already learned. It’s certainly a novel take on what video games do by default, but the results aren’t anywhere near as successful as you may expect.
The major problem is just how floaty everything feels. There’s a certain sense of satisfaction that it’s your combo which is doing away with enemies – specific patterns will even open up more powerful moves or replenish your health – but given what you’re kicking in the face seems to have come from the ‘my first adversary’ playbook it’s never anything to get truly excited about. Dontnod wants you to find a rhythm to your button presses and while this is most definitely achievable, even then it’s hard to shake the impression that mashing away would thrive just as well.
The personality-devoid foes do not help proceedings either. Tying into a much bigger issue that is the narrative as a whole, they lack the imagination you’d almost expect from a game set over seventy years in the future. Such worries are sparked almost instantly too. As Nilin, our hero, is run through the plot points – mainly that her memories have been taken from her – Remember Me begins to do a horrible job in taking you through the game’s background. There’s no build or dramatic moment: Nilin escapes her would-be prison in a coffin while the bigger picture is explained in its entirety by the mysterious Edge. It’s not like every game should have to deliver its story in a special or magical way – that would be ridiculous – but having it forced down your throat in such a forceful manner doesn’t do anything for the intrigue factor.
This is elevated hugely due to the horrendous voice acting. Causing quite the talking point when the original trailer first hit, the game’s credibility suffers because every line is delivered in an almost comical way. It wouldn’t matter if Remember Me didn’t take itself so seriously but it does – proceedings which are supposed to be hard-hitting end up making you laugh. I’m guessing that was not the studio’s intent.
Thankfully, the game’s potential saving grace is the reason it exists to begin with; the memory segments the developer was so keen to highlight in 2012 are genuinely fascinating. If you cast your minds back to an earlier demo you may recollect Nilin changing a man named Frank’s memory to convince him he’d killed his partner, Alexia. Overcome with guilt Frank committed suicide despite his wife being only a few feet away. It was incredibly dark and it’s a theme Remember Me is obviously keen to build upon.
On the verge of being executed by a bounty hunter, Nilin, after just rediscovering her magic remembrance glove, puts it to questionable use once again. Diving into her would-be killer’s mind, the reason for such blood lust become clear: the assassin is intent on earning money for her mentally-destroyed husband’s medical builds. There’s that same eerie similarity which apes what point and clicks used to offer, the key element revolving around changing certain memories so the victim remembers it differently. This is achieved thanks to the ability to control time as if it had been recorded, rewinding or fast-forwarding as you go. While it’s only a matter of keeping your eye out for the glitches the game is keen to flag up, finding the right sequence is truly captivating, particularly because you’re about to destroy a person’s life. In essence, Nilin is almost the villain of the piece.
Ultimately, however, Remember Me cannot survive as a one trick pony and while the architecture and soundtrack – Dontnod deserves particular credit for the latter – are excellent, I worry this will be nothing more than a slog through a number of disappointing sections as you wait to abuse yet someone else’s memory. Given that there’s, apparently, only a handful of these sections merely adds to the disappointment.
It’ll be an interesting aside, but I’m afraid it may be one that, as ridiculous as it sounds, actually doesn’t last that long in our memories at all.
Look for our review next month, and check out what Video Production Editor Matt Lees thinks in our Remember Me video: