Preview: Remember Me

May 19, 2013

When it came to previewing Remember Me at Microsoft’s Sydney office, I knew nothing about it until I picked up my controller. Was it going to be an action adventure game? A fighter? An RPG? As it turned out, Remember Me has a few sprinklings of each of these genres, wrapped in a story that is equally diverse in its inspirations. If you’ve never heard of it until now or have since forgotten about it then you’ll discover the inklings of a game which could very well become a sleeper hit.

Developed by Capcom, Remember Me takes place in the year 2084. Human memories have become a commodity, and can be saved, removed and in some cases altered together. However, the memory game is dominated by Memorize, a corporation that on the surface appears to have a sinister tinge about it. Players take control of Nilin, a memory hunter with Memorize. It’s her job to pluck memories from people’s minds and also store them away. On top of this, she also has the rare gift of being able to change people’s memories, which can alter their actions into the future. At the start of the game Nilin is revealed to have had her own memories erased and allies herself with the Errorists, who aim to bring down Memorize for good and restore memories to those who have had them taken. As the year of its setting suggests, the game’s universe has a little influence from George Orwell’s 1984 with a bit of a dash of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for good measure and is set in the gorgeous surrounds of a semi-futuristic Paris. It’s an intriguing mix that holds up quite well from the portion I played.

After a quick prologue to set the scene for the game and its basic controls, you wind up in the sewers below Neo Paris where you confront the game’s most frequent type of mook, the Leapers. The Leapers are people who have become addicts to memories and regress into what could be described as a feral state. Fighting them involves a combat system similar to that found in Batman: Arkham Asylum. You can create your own string of combos to produce different kinds of effects on enemies when you time you button pressing sequences correctly, known in-game as Pressens. There are four types of pressens – standard damage pressens, health regenerators, cooldown pressens to renew your super attacks and amplifier pressens which increase the effect of the preceding pressen. When you face enemies one-on-one, it’s easy enough to carry out most of your combos but things do tend to be a bit more difficult when trying to fight off groups – if you get struck by another enemy you can have your combo string interrupted and will have to start again to carry it off. That being said, this is nullified a bit with the ability to leap over your enemies and quickly re-engage in your combos without having to start over.

Besides the standard Leapers, there are also other enemies which require a bit more thought and technique to take out. Later in the game you encounter some which are able to go completely invisible in the dark and make it so that you cannot land a damaging hit. To counter this problem you need to light up the area, either by using one of your super attacks or by activating a nearby light source. Whichever method you choose, the light will only be temporary and you will need to keep reactivating light sources in order to vanquish such invisible foes. There are also a couple of boss fights in the game at the end of some chapters which help to move Nilin’s quest to restore her memory along. From what I played, each fight shall require different combative tactics on Nilin’s part to defeat and give a bit more variety beyond the normal Leaper slug-fests.

Outside of combat, Remember Me has a large emphasis on exploring the streets of Neo Paris. Nilin proves to be quite adept at climbing different structures, with the way forward marked by orange arrows on ideal contact points. It resembles the exploratory antics of the Assassin’s Creed series in terms of being stealthy and getting treated to some beautiful architecture, though it’s in a much more linear fashion. I didn’t think this lack of free-roaming hurt Remember Me too much, as it does throw some inventive puzzles at you to keep you thinking about the best way forward. Through the game there are a lot of flipping panel signs that you need to shimmy across to get to another platform, and you cannot be holding on to one during the flipping process or else you shall fall. Other such sign puzzles have some of the panels broken and stuck in place, necessitating a bit more thought into the timing of your actions.

What Remember Me does that really makes it stand out is the integration of story and gameplay mechanics, as seen when you access stolen memories. Nilin is able to acquire memories from both allies and enemies in order to see the best path forward for the mission in platforming sections. Once a memory is activated, a hologram will play of the person’s actions from the time the memory is set – it can be anything from a few hours ago to several days. The hologram will also activate switches that you would normally be unable to access. Whenever such situations come up, you can activate a synchronise function which allows switches to be activate in the real world for you to progress on to the next memory segment. In some ways it recalls the kind of tutorial ghosts that are seen in some Nintendo games as of late, but you have a much more active role in what’s going on as it’s essential rather than optional to engage with these memories.

The best way in which Remember Me is able to use its concepts of memory within the story for gameplay purposes can be seen in the memory remix sections. When Nilin comes into direct contact with a plot-important character, you will be able to access their memories from a time in which crucial events have transpired to lead the to the present. It manifests itself initially in a short cinematic sequence, but it’s interactive. Players can fast forward and rewind the person’s memory by twirling the controller sticks around to detect glitches in the memory. These glitches indicate small items on their own which can be changed in order to alter the person’s behavior and motivation. In the memory remix segment that I played, Nilin dove into the mind of a woman who was attempting to assassinate her in order to collect a bounty to fund her husband’s medical treatment. The memory itself saw us in a Memorize medical facility where her husband was being treated. By altering some items (such as restraints and medical apparatus), we were able to kill her husband, which had the effect of changing our would-be assassin’s motivation from collecting a bounty to lusting for revenge against Memoreize and wanting to work together to take them out. It’s clear that a lot of effort has gone into these sections in terms of programming alone – you can change different numbers of items within a memory to produce a slightly different result when things are played back. It also raises some interesting ethical questions about Nilin’s work – the game has the strong theme of memories being the key to a person’s identity, and changing memories has the potential to alter who a person is forever.

Remember Me is one of the freshest games to come out in some time. As a total package, there’s a lot in its story and gameplay execution which is unique without coming off as overly gimmicky. I really enjoyed my time with Remember Me and hope that the full game is as rewarding and satisfying as its first few chapters.