Good science fiction creates future worlds in order to discuss issues important to the present day. Remember Me, an action adventure game set in 2084 Paris, does just this by looking at class disparity through a setting where the rich enjoy access to memory manipulation technology and the poor live in slums haunted by the monstrous cast-offs of this uneven system.
This story is the most successful element of Remember Me and, in light of its ambitious, but fairly disappointing gameplay mechanics, may be the only part of the game that truly warrants attention. DONTNOD, the developer of the game, does a good job of making players want to explore the fiction of Neo-Paris and the characters who populate it. This is helped by a strong opening that sees protagonist Nilin escaping from a mysterious prison and beginning the process of recovering her stolen memories by making her way through a beautifully designed city that drips with visual and narrative detail. By the time players have picked their way through a series of sewer tunnels and emerged into the daylight of a half-collapsed slum, it’s likely that Remember Me‘s striking aesthetic (Neo-Paris mixes the marble and cobblestone of historic French architecture with super sleek metal and holographic billboards) and story hooks will have provided enough enticement to compensate for the flawed combat and navigation sections.
Even though Remember Me‘s narrative is largely successful, the way it’s told can be problematic. Silly, invented names for future technology are distracting —stored memories are “remembranes” and members of the underground resistance group Nilin works for are referred to as “Errorists.” Much of the dialogue is clumsy and often made worse by lacklustre voice actors tasked with trying to deliver unconvincing lines. Though there are a few exceptions (Nilin’s actor is very good) even the best actors are constantly hamstrung by having to attempt to humanize dialogue that almost always sounds overwritten and unnatural. None of the characters, barring Nilin, ever seem to develop as well as they should either. A lot of care has obviously gone into designing a colourful cast of enemies and supporting characters, but their personalities and motivations are never explored as fully as players might like. This is very evident in the celebrity “memory hunter” Kid X-Mas and troubled bounty hunter Olga Sedova. Both of these characters are extremely interesting although very shallowly portrayed, leaving players wishing for more detail. The story, while fascinating, is also not particularly well paced. Remember Me ‘s first and third acts are very strong, but the game drags throughout its middle portion. The plot loses its momentum during this section, asking players to maintain interest in rote missions that seem to have little to do with the larger narrative. This stretch is also filled with plenty of unimpressive combat sections that do little to help.
When Nilin has to take on a group of enemies, the encounters take the form of timing-based punch-ups reminiscent of (but not as good as) Rocksteady’s Arkham series. The fighting mechanics are serviceable, but not satisfying. Though the game’s soundtrack is wonderful, the same level of attention has not been paid to recording sound effects. There is hardly any audible feedback to signify the connection of Nilin’s fist and the enemy’s body, making timing button presses to attacks feel unresponsive and enemy encounters in general somewhat lifeless. This issue is somewhat lessened through Remember Me‘s customizable combo system. Players earn attacks — “pressens” — that deal damage, recover health or boost the effects of connected moves. Stringing these moves together alters a given combo’s effects. A health attack placed at the tail end of a combo heals Nilin more than it would if positioned as the first punch; likewise for the amount of damage that an attack move can deal relative to its spot in the combo. Unfortunately, this system never quite comes together as well as it should. The amount of customization available to players is limited to pre-set choices and later game fighting often features crowds of enemies who box in Nilin and make executing longer combinations extremely difficult.
Navigating Neo-Paris is also a bit disappointing. Nilin moves around the world by jumping across gaps, shimmying along edges and scaling objects protruding from the walls of the environment. The fact that players move about through gorgeous environments and to the accompaniment of an excellent orchestral soundtrack isn’t enough to make the challenge-free climbing much fun, though. Remember Me‘s levels are very linear and negotiating a climbing path is never particularly challenging. This wouldn’t strike me as much of an issue if jumping from ledge to ledge felt as satisfyingly tactile as a Tomb Raider or Uncharted, but, just as in combat, there is a lack of weight to Nilin’s movements.
The few segments that allow players to “remix” an enemy’s memory are far more interesting.