Remember that old company called Capcom that wasn’t afraid to try something new? In a time before it started using the Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Lost Planet and Devil May Cry franchises like a crutch; the company used to introduce new gaming brands left and right.
In the previous console generation, it introduced us to games like the stylish action brawler Devil May Cry, an open world action RPG with Monster Hunter, a cell shaded first person shooter thriller called Killer 7, Onimusha a fantasy hack and slash set in feudal Japan, stealth/action hybrid in Shadow of Rome, Zanny beat ‘em ups with God Hand in 3D and Viewtuful Joe in 2D as well as Okami; an action-adventure masterpiece based on classical Japanese folklore.
After spending most of the current gen in a risk-averse, DLC filled hibernation, it looks like Capcom has finally decided to remind us of their risk taking past with their latest publishing endeavor; an offering of Cyberpunk action/platformer hybrid called; Remember Me.
Remember Me is set in a future where Europe has been ravaged in the past by climate change, famine and war, which has given birth to Neo-Paris; where a Corporation called Memorize has introduced and spread use of the technology called Sensen, which allows memories to be digitized and stored.
The narrative of the title is told from the perspective of Nilin; a memory hunter who has had her memories taken from her. Nilin’s journey to recover her past puts face to face with the Memorize Corporation and a rebel group called the Errorists.
The game is a science fiction adventure that provides social commentary as it explores the themes of information control, fear mongering, authoritarian governance and most prominently the power of memories.
While engaging and though provoking, the lore of the world around the protagonist is established but not explored in greater detail within the narrative itself, as Remember Me’s campaign is more comfortable is providing a much more personal tale with mysteries and dilemmas of an action thriller.
Complementing the action thriller aesthetic is the action/platformer hybrid gameplay which incorporates elements of stealth, brawling and platforming throughout the story.
This mix of gameplay mechanics with Uncharted-isque vertical platforming on pipes and ledges, an occasional jump into stealth when trying to avoid the lethal sentry drones and incorporation of melee combat akin to Batman Arkham series.
The brawling mechanics in Remember Me focus on dealing with groups of enemies with combo driven melee offense and dodge based defense.
Beginning with a very restrictive combo list in the starting chapters, Remember Me introduces players to Combo Lab where they can customize each hit of a combo with either a Damage Power, Health Regeneration, Power Cooldown or Chain effect power up called Presens, which can be unlocked via collecting enough Procedural Mastering Power, Remember me’s XP, by defeating enemies and leveling up the character.
Though the aspect of customizing each link in combo chain is a novel and fun idea which adds a higher level of strategy in the game’s melee combat, the number of combo themselves are fairly limited. So while the effects of each hit might be different, they are the same in their inputs. This can aggravate combat fatigue as controlling the melee battles can become repetitive.
In addition to the chain combos, Nilin also gains special moves called S-Presens. These abilities can range from temporarily powering up Nilin to turning robot foes against their allies, and are gain by defeating end of level bosses and incorporating their power; a la Megaman. Use of each of these powers consumes a focus meter and initiates a cooldown period before their reuse.
However Remember Me’s primary innovation is not in the way it handles combat but the way it incorporates memory manipulation as a gameplay mechanic called Memory Remix.
These Memory Remix sequences allow players to live and change a person’s memory and see its effects of these changes play out. The mechanic itself is played out like a trial and error based puzzle which, while fun, is presented in a very disjointed fashion and is used more as a plot device rather than an integrated gameplay element.
What’s more, the opportunity to conduct Memory Remixes occurs at specific instances that are few and far between, which is quite unfortunate as Memory Remixing is the core element that distinguishes Remember Me from host of other action-platformers out in the market.
Another gripe with the gameplay is that it takes very a linear approach with progression, limiting the player into mostly straight path across narrow, corridor like levels with little to no interactivity. This really hinders any attempts made to explore the gorgeous environments that the game has to offer.
Speaking of beautiful environments, while Remember Me does not seem as technically ground breaking as say God of Wars or Metro but it is still a beautiful game which beats those graphical juggernauts with its great artistic choice and color palette.
The game’s world is neither bright and squeaky clean like Mirror’s Edge nor is it a dull and dusty wasteland like Fallout.
Remember Me’s Blade Runner-esque dystopian future is filled with vivid colors rather than the clichéd mixture of drab browns and greys. Dark environments, blinding floodlights and neon ads create a wonderful interplay between light and shadows.
The locations themselves are highly detailed and have a lived-in look to them. Each level features details like graffiti on walls, particles in the air, bug and rats scurrying around, rain falling from the sky and more. Such attention to detail adds personality to every locale and makes it feel like a ‘real’ place.
However, Remember Me’s presentation is not perfect by any means. There occasional issues with animation, textures and camera movement that could have benefited from greater polish and certain elements like fire and Nilin’s hair, which is reminiscent of Joana Dark’s hair from the ill-fated Perfect Dark Zero, do not match the visual quality depicted in other areas of the game.
Furthermore, the game looks best when portraying the downtrodden, dirty and ruined areas whereas it comes of looking bland in clean and posh locales, which is unfortunate because the first level features one such area and is a source of first and lasting impression for many.
Nevertheless, the game manages to etch out its personality through an inspired art direction with respect to the presentation and design of the user interface. The game takes a very stylistic approach with depiction of menus, prompts and other user interface while maintain a HUD less screen for most part.
The screen also becomes glitchy when the players health is near empty, sort of like Assassin’s Creed. And like Assassin’s creed explains its interface due to Animus, Remember Me incorporates its effects, prompts and interface through the Sensen technology, a great way to explain the interface via story cannon and an attention to detail, which brings always a welcome source of believability in a game.
Remember Me’s cyberpunk aesthetic also continues into its sound design, where fast techno beats add feeling of adrenaline rush during action, however, the game also delivers solemn atmospheric music when it means to be creepy and haunting.
The beauty of sound design is extended to the sound effects. From sound of rain to splashes of water, squeaking mice to the stuttering sound of hacks, these acoustic details really add depth to the already spectacular looking environments, especially in the quieter moments of exploration.
While the sound design of Remember Me is quite good, the voice acting in the game needs something to be desired. Whether it is the fault of the dialogue script or performance of the voice actors, the conversations do not come off as carrying emotional weight and in several instances, Nilin’s inner monologue comes off as one note.
The game features a 10 hour-long story campaign and some incentive to dive back into the mode with higher difficulty settings, collecting extras like concept art and 3D models, XP collection to improve access to combo powerups and packets containing increase in focus and health capacity as well as data containing information on enemies and the lore of Neo Paris.
All in all, Remember Me presents a unique and interesting take on the action-adventure genre and its Memory Remixing mechanic is a novel idea which could have been more organically integrated into the main gameplay.
While a little rough around the edges, it reminds me of the first Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed game, which were also ambitious but flawed attempts at something new. Like Naughty Dog was able to elevate action adventure games with Uncharted 2 and Ubisoft found its groove with Assassin’s Creed 2, perhaps in time, the developer DONTNOD will also be able to improve upon its concept and deliver a true masterpiece.
While the concept of customizing combos is a novel and fun, the limited number of combo executions can make melee combat seem repetitive. Moreover the Memory Remix mechanic is use far too sparingly to make any significant difference to the way the game is played.
Gorgeous environments of Neo-Paris are filled with vibrant colors and little details found in the surroundings add character to each level. However certain aspects could have benefited from more polish.
Great soundtrack and audial effects make Remember Me’s sound design stand out, however experience is somewhat marred by less effective voice acting.
The thing that differentiates Remember Me from other cookie cutter action games is the way it embraces its cyberpunk aesthetic and uses fresh stylistic choices in its menus, on screen prompts and user interface.
While Remember Me offers some secrets to find and packages to collect, the linear level design does not make exploration a fun prospect and thus the game does not offer much incentive to head back into its 10 hour long campaign.
Remember Me is an ambitious concept that features couple of novel gameplay and design choices. While it lacks polish in some aspects, the game falls into the category of games like Uncharted 1 and Assassin’s Creed 1, which are fun in their own right but do not achieve their potential in their initial outing.
However, the game is worth a play for fans of cyberpunk genre and anyone looking for something different in the formulaic world of action games.