So. Imagine a drop dead gorgeous woman. The sort you’d actually consider committing mass murder over. The kind so unobtainable that you’d think million times before you inevitably curl up in a dark, decrepit corner of your room, sobbing yourself to sleep because you lack the requisite number of gonads to strike up a conversation with her.
Still with me? Great.
Now, imagine said female of smouldering epicness approaching you. You pinch yourself because you cannot believe this is happening. You then proceed to mentally beat the living daylights out of yourself as she makes her way towards you because you cannot process the possibility of this happening in this universe.
Before you know it, she’s right in front of you. An eleven on ten if there was any (and that’s on a bad day). And just as you were thinking of what your grandkids would be named, something happens.
She starts talking. A lot. Not a problem right? Until you inevitably listen. She has an IQ of a dead flea, heck she makes Paris Hilton seem like Einstein. Just like that the illusion shatters. Like the sound of glass breaking in every Bollywood movie you’ve watched, thus ends your not so dry day dreams about said person.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is exactly what playing Remember Me feels like. It’s a great looking game, not just in graphical prowess but art direction as well. Taking place in a futuristic version of Paris, it’s brilliantly realised. In a year that’s seen Metro: Last Light, The Last of Us and Crysis 3 to name a few, it manages to hold its own. The lighting is superlative and so are the character models and levels. Even on a mid range machine it looks capable.
Throw in superb music and you have some of the best production values around. Hard to imagine given that almost two years ago, developers Dontnod were released from their contract with Sony and had to hunt for a new publisher, eventually landing up with Capcom. The music is well arranged, bringing to life the game’s themes of cyberpunk and dystopia with aplomb. It’ll remain playing in your brain long after you’re done. Haunting doesn’t even begin to describe it. But delve past the sleek figures and clean visuals, and you’re left with very little else. And whatever remains is rather shallow.
Remember Me’s story has you in 2084 Paris. Memories can be uploaded, shared. erased and manipulated. People can absorb memories from others as well. All of this is possible due to Sensen, a product of the Memorize Corporation.They have for all purposes turned this city of futuristic beauty into a surveillance state thanks to the immense amount of data they can scrub as need be. This has another repercussion. Leapers. Think of raging alcoholics and drug addicts and you get the idea. These guys make Lindsay Lohan look just fine even after years of substance abuse. Yes, they’re quite grotesque.
Amidst all of this you find yourself in the more than capable shoes of Nilin, an errorist. No I didn’t swallow up a ‘t’ when I typed that. An errorist is one who rebels against Memorize’s ways. You start off in a prison facility and with the help of a few friends, you manage to escape. There are all the usual tropes you’ve come to expect in a game involving an amnesiac heroine in a dystopian future trying to find out who she is while trying to save the world. It all sounds deliciously glorious on the surface but truth be told, Remember Me’s premise promises more than it delivers, resulting in a game that ends on a less than stellar note. Along the way you’ll be treated to corny dialogues and cliches abound. At the end of it all, you can’t help but feel disappointed.
Narrative niggles aside, the gameplay is well, bogstandard. You have your typical platforming and uber light puzzle segments. Anyone who has played Uncharted or Assassin’s Creed would be at home with the way you navigate across the cityscapes of Neo-Paris. Traversal is made easier with an orange pointer telling you where to go. Think of it as a less obnoxious version of Fable 2’s breadcrumb trail and you get the idea. It’s relatively inoffensive compared to some of the bigger worries.
Then there’s combat. In theory it sounds fantastic. Craft your own combos and use them with precision for bonuses such as health boosts or damage amplifiers. However execution is a different matter altogether. Partly due to horrid level design that throws you into swarms of leapers coming at you from every angle, not giving you the space or the time to pull off some of the game’s most acrobatic moves.
In order to progress you either have to have superhuman reflexes or resort to creating shorter combos that you can button mash to go forward. This is heightened by the claustrophobic surroundings. The environments are never as open as you’d like them to be. It doesn’t help that the controls are unresposive. Platforming segments are fine, but combat feels messy with lack of fluidity to the proceedings that further the feeling of it being simple button mashing than a nuanced affair it should be.
There are special moves as well which let you string together combos without worrying about which button you’re pressing or help you stun and see invisible enemies (which the game has in droves), these take away some of the heat and are a welcome distraction. Ditto with the boss battles that are pretty sweet. Broken up into segments and ending in quick time events, they’re fun and make you feel more empowered than you should. Never a bad thing.
However you can rarely take a moment to soak in the goodness due to the camera. It regularly interferes with platforming and combat like that nagging uncle or aunt who forever wants to know when you plan to get hitched. You’ll almost always never find a good angle and it never feels as smooth as it needs to be.
The worst case scenario however is if it breaks completely, forcing you to reload the game. And a broken camera isn’t the only concern. Scripted events and puzzles may not work as they have to. Luckily they aren’t as frequent but further drive the point home that saving obsessively is your best friend.
All of these issues come in the way of experiencing what is the game’s most awesome feature. The ability to manipulate and remix the memories of others. From convincing a bounty hunter to turn against the company that sent her for your life to altering the memories of a CEO to prevent doing harm to the populace, it’s extremely cool. It plays out as a short series of events wherein you have the power to effect certain objects in the environment such as safety restraints, cameras and the like. The outcome is satisfying and I wish there were more of these moments in the game rather than clunky combat. In fact memory remixing is the biggest reason to even consider checking Remember Me out.
Nonetheless, the greatest tragedy of Remember Me is that we’re left with a faint whiff of what could have been if we were treated to a fully realised world rather than a linear romp through Neo-Paris. The sense of atmosphere and immersion is near epic. Pity that instead of focusing on creating a living, breathing city we’re treated to a shoddy cardboard impersonation.
The sense of unrealised potential, like most abject disappointments, is palpable. Much like talking to a pretty face that you wish was more than just that.