In the constant shotgun-fire of indie titles, mindless Call of Juarez: Final Booty reboots, clones, and various forms of incipient masturbation, it’s easy to miss any gems which might have gotten mixed in with the buckshot. There are a few games that stick with us however, in a permanent, painful kind of way. Games like Uncharted which have had so much money thrown into them that the franchise resembles a bloated cow rather than an action game now. It can get so bad that some games have to resort to screaming for its players to notice it. Remember Me might not be looking for a cry of help but it certainly has an attention seeking problem.
Set in Neo-Paris, whatever that means, Remember Me follows the happy and light-hearted adventures of Nilin, the only accented person in all of Neo-Paris. Never mind that the accent is British, the rest of the cast is either American or also hailing from the Isles, so unless a TARDIS is dropping down in the middle of the city to explain this I am going to assume that the French finally got invaded, blown up by America, and has finally been rebuilt with a very good sales model: let’s forget the horrible past. The game opens on a powerfully mood-setting ad for Sensen, a name which you’ll be hearing a lot during the game. Sensen is a device which somehow hooks into your brain and downloads and stores all of your memories. These memories can be shared, deleted, modified, whatever your perverted little heart desires, and best of all, it’s all owned by one company: Memorize!
Memorize is so clearly an evil corporation that it’s astounding that it didn’t require sinister mustaches as part of its dress code, although the cast of insane scientists, pro wrestlers, and a dominatrix (yes you heard me) which you’ll have to fight definitely make up for it. The characterization of Remember Me is solid and desperately seeking for approval. Every time you enter into a new beautifully designed room, the game forces you to sit down, grab some popcorn, and take a ride around the area to admire how much effort has been put into the zone. Now, sure, it’s pretty, but I think that it’s rather up to us to explore and see what we like about the world, isn’t it? Well, no. Not really.
The game is so linear that you barely have a chance to see anything at all. The world is hinted that it’s there, like a dodgy real estate agent who promises that they’ll let you into the apartment after a down-payment. But it never really delivers and you, the player, are left homeless, broke, and crying into your CostCo brand chardonnay. The story itself is interesting, if not entirely well executed. Nilin wakes up after having had her memories ravaged by Memorize and manages to escape the complete brain dump with the help of an anonymous voice who is later identified as Edge, the infamous leader of the Errorist movement and you, Nilin, are one of their top agents. You have the power to Remix memories to your will, and it’s up to you to take down Memorize and free the world from its aphasia. It sounds exciting, and parts of Remember Me definitely deliver. The music is incredible, creating a techno-jazz feel which really suits the bright Neo-Paris. The Remix sections where you are allowed to play around in a customizable cutscene are exciting and, at points, heartbreaking.
The game’s relentless linearity works for it in these sections as you are forced to do what must be done despite the consequences. However, outside of these moments, the story is at its best fun to listen to and at its worst, downright lazy in its writing.
Nilin’s monologues at the beginning of each chapter of the game (which are unskippable by the way) would be gag-worthy if it weren’t for the astounding acting job of Kezia Burrows who voices her. This reveals a bigger problem in Remember Me itself. The protagonist, Nilin, is an interesting female character. She is intriguing and she is not out for love or revenge. Her motives are, granted, being manipulated by a male power, but once she uncovers herself, she takes on a life of her own. But the game itself isn’t going to sell very well. The combat is a less interesting and precise rehash of Batman: Arkham Asylum’s combat system, and the Combo Lab feature doesn’t do much to save it. Being able to customize your combos would be interesting and fun if there wasn’t such a limited number of combos or moves to perform. During most of the game you’ll find yourself doing the same six to eight move combo while swapping out to a specific build for a boss fight, if only because each boss fight requires you to spam the special moves which you gain along the way. Moves which require a cooldown of up to three minutes that can be mitigated by a certain type of attack. This is fine, but it makes the combat overly simplistic and turns what could be an ass-kicking parkour style fight system into a waiting game.
Overall, the gameplay of Remember Me feels far too simple and linear which is strange given the elaborate world which was built to house it. The world is there and interesting, and Neo-Paris seems like a fascinating city, so why didn’t NoDoubt let you explore? The game could easily have been designed around a slightly more open model. Whatever its other issues, Remember Me failed in its largest goal: to be remembered. There is nothing earth shattering about this game despite its story and characters. Nilin, while compelling, doesn’t sell the game on her own. This is amazingly unfortunate as it may send the wrong message to Capcom regarding female protagonists. So, I’m saying this right here: Remember Me is a fine game, but what stopped it from being spectacular was not that the protagonist lacked a Y chromosome. It was an overly linear game which had sloppy writing and an overwrought plot, and that, is what can be forgotten.
Neo-Paris is still out there, waiting to be explored. So please, get the game at some point, rent it, borrow it, let NoDoubt know that you liked it. Let Capcom know that female protagonists are not a lost cause. Hopefully, if NoDoubt is given the room to work and complete a sequel, they’ll realize their mistakes and Remix Remember Me’s property into something worth memorizing.