Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to play Capcom’s action-adventure title Remember Me. In many ways, this game is one of the rare instances where my expectations have been fulfilled through and through.
The focal part of this game is its well-thought out story. Set in Neo-Paris, 2084, Remember Me opens up with its main character Nilin having her memory drained in a Bastille prison facility owned by the corporation Memorize. Through technology known as ‘Sensen,’ Memorize has digitalized memories, allowing them to be shared, altered, and even taken away. In this age, many people have fallen victim to accidents with digitalized memory and others have gotten hooked on memory drugs, causing them to physically mutate and lose their minds. Others have been victims of memory accidents, which have been seldom reported by the media due to Memorize’s political stranglehold over the world. Nilin learns that she was once a part of an underground faction called the Errorists, and following her imprisonment she seeks to uncover more of her past while dismantling Memorize in the process.
Capcom’s futuristic vision of a coporatocratic dystopia comes alive in the form of dilapidated slums, the more modern parts of which look like they’ve been scrapped together by junkyard metal. There are a lot of these gritty environments in the game, which are sometimes offset by more sheltered parts of Paris such as corporation buildings and even the inner-most portions of Bastille’s prison. But one odd issue I had was that environments like the ones above and the flooded slum villages began to feel like they ran together toward the end. After you’ve played Remember Me, you begin to yearn for something you haven’t seen before and the game seldom delivers in that respect. You’ll notice that redundancy, even outside of the environments, is one of Remember Me’s biggest faults.
One thing that never quite gets old is Nilin’s acrobatic fighting style. You get four pre-designated combo strings, two at the beginning of the game, and as Nilin remembers each fighting technique you earn the ability to unlock it (presumably through experience) and sequence it wherever you’re allowed in the combo string. Combo strings function around guidelines that are intended to separate them, since you’re essentially using your Y button to kick and your X to punch. Therefore your XY YX combos are predetermined; however, you unlock different punches and kicks so that you can change the fighting moves performed by your X and Y in certain strings. The only other condition is that you also get a base attack for both buttons, which is why you can’t ever change the first move of each string. So while you’re not making the combo itself, you’re given power over the attacks that each button performs.
Playing with these combo strings is fun, as you usually find yourself tapping into your inner fight choreographer to put together some of the craziest looking combos you can imagine. It’s also something that becomes a huge advantage early in the game. Certain Y and X moves increase damage, replenish health, reduce cooldown on larger abilities and amplify the earlier mentioned effects of the previous moves in the string. As someone who played through the standard difficulty of the game, I found that this gave me an overwhelmingly huge advantage. Not only did I have the ability to change my combos in the middle of a fight, but nothing stopped me from stringing together one combo full of health restorative moves and another full of cooldowns so I could quickly (and I mean QUICKLY) regain usage of some of my larger abilities. You must remember: The button inputs never change either, so I was already familiar with how the combos were performed. It made me wonder if I had too large of an advantage; without some of my health buffs I surely would’ve died during certain parts of the game.
Later, Nilin unlocks a few special abilities that gain cooldowns so you can’t spam them, though if you purpose one of your longer combo strings entirely toward reducing cooldowns then you’ll find it’s available in the matter of a single string. Some of her abilities allow her to stun enemies, chain together consecutive hits faster than usual and even go invisible for a short period of time so she can automatically “override” them. “Overrides” are basically moves that execute an opponent who’s been weakened to the point he or she can barely fight anymore. After taking them down, Nilin uses her memory glove to suck away at her opponent’s memory and basically finish them off. Despite how cool some of these new features are, you’ll find that – unless you’re in a boss fight -- combat mostly consists of using your A button to chain evasive maneuvers due to your lack of a parry and Y and X to pummel enemies with lengthy combo strings. It should be mentioned that evasive movements don’t break combo strings either, so you can stop in the middle of your attack to evade and continue your previous string so that you earn all of the buffs from it.
Now you might not know this, but despite everything I’ve told you Remember Me is defined as an “action-adventure stealth game,” and the term “stealth” is used rather loosely. Aside from a few instances of sneaking past automated turrets, you shouldn’t expect to lurk in the darkness and stalk your prey even half of the time. Remember Me plays more like a beat-em-up; more often than not, you’ll find yourself flipping and rolling through hordes while employing your flashiest hand to hand techniques so you can take them out and unlock progression into the next level. Stealth is nothing more than a prevailing gimmick that creates an illusion of control, when in reality the player is always the one fighting off an ambush of some sort.
For the luster that polished titles like Remember Me put on proud display, the repetition of each level dulls the true impact of the game. Once you’ve mashed past the parkour bits, the high-falutin fight sequences and your first boss battle everything begins to seem uniform. The only fresh breaths of air throughout various parts of this game are the remix sequences that occur every time Nilin encounters a key antagonist in the plot. In order to take away their deepest convictions, she uses her glove and traces back to the strongest traumatic memory that fosters their way of thinking. For the player, this is laid out like a cutscene, and you use the stick to rewind time slowly enough so you can activate glitches that tamper with different parts of each scene to change the way it unfolds. The goal, ultimately, is to trigger a different series of actions and reactions that either makes it seem like the person remembering the event is at fault for it happening or like they’ve done something even worse. These puzzles are usually fun to piece together, however sometimes each outcome feels like an inherently evil course of action for a protagonist like Nilin.
So what more is there to say about Remember Me? It’s a great game for the most part. The storyline’s well-written, the gameplay’s excellently executed and the potential for the formula rather than the series spans far with a few tweaks. But like with all rigidly structured formulas, it gets old. That ravaged future you’re introduced to becomes bisected between the broken, impoverished shantytowns of Neo-Paris and the state-of-the-art architecture of its finer cities. Eventually, the enemies get small quirks and they become a little bit harder to deal with, but overall you realize you’re seeing nothing new. It’s a perpetual loop of similarly styled environments, remixed memories and enemy waves that gives you a yearning for something that seems far out of the game’s reach. Fortunately, Remember Me doesn’t lose its charm until you’ve almost seen all it has to show you and that in itself makes this game worth much more than afterthought. Happy hunting, Errorists.