Remember Me is a game of contradictions. The gorgeous sci-fi buildings mingle with old world Paris. You can remix your memories, but the video screens only show static images. And the bourgeoisie are excluded and walled away from the slums that make up large parts of Neo-Paris. Not Nouvelle Paris as you would expect, because Neo-Paris doesn’t have any French people in it.
Nilin wakes to find herself in Le Bastille, now a prison where your memories are ripped from your mind and stored until you are released. With the sudden appearance of freedom fighter Edge (no seriously, Edge), Nilin is able to escape to the discarded tunnels of the Metro.
As the game progresses, Edge gets Nillin to perform more and more violent acts. As time goes on and as she slowly regains her memories, she wonders if what she is doing is right. Though all too often she quickly says that she must remaster her old powers as this is clearly what she was supposed to do.
See Nillin was a memory hunter, the game never clearly explains what this is, but it’s clear that she has the ability to not only steal people’s memories but also to remix them.
Remixing memories - implanting false recollections - is something we can already do to people... for better or worse. Nillin’s ability is a bit more extreme than verbal suggestion; she actually goes into the memories and replays them backwards and forwards like a film strip and then changes certain elements. If she gets the right combination of changes, then that person’s memories can change from simply sad to traumatic. She can even change your allegiance.
The gameplay mechanic for remixing is actually quite fun, like a visual puzzle. You roll the footage back and forth looking for glitches that you can turn on or off (i.e. undo an arm strap or knock a trophy off a shelf). It was actually a little disappointing that Nillin wasn’t called on to remix more memories (despite her moral qualms.)
The rest of the game feels like a cross between Uncharted and Mirror’s Edge. The gameplay is very much like Uncharted, only with no guns. In the future no one has guns, except the flying robots, who have some kind of energy cannons.
Instead, Nillin uses a series of combos. In the menu you can change what these combos do and how much damage they inflict. While you can’t change the button combinations, you can change what each button press does. Some moves (or Presens) hit the enemy for less damage but regain you some health, some amplify the previous Presens. Others shorten the cool down on your S-Presens, the super powers that you will definitely want to use.
The S-Presens basically screw up your opponents’ minds via their Sensen (I’ll explain that one soon.) You can freeze enemies, link together long combos, plant bombs, turn invisible, or take over robots. But once you use them they can take over a minute to cool down before they are useable again. Hence the cooldown Presens being very useful. If I may offer a tip: put a cooldown Presen at the end of a basic three-button combo, because you do not want to be waiting 160 seconds to reveal invisible bad guys.
If one thing will annoy the heck out of you during combat, it’s the camera. Cameras are the downfall of most 3rd-person games, and Remember Me is no exception. While you want your right thumb to be concentrating on button mashing combos, at times you’ll have to use it instead to swing the camera around to show you exactly where the bad guys are who you want to punch.
You also want to be careful about where you die.
In one battle you have to use one of your S-Pressen (“D.O.S.”) to freeze all the bad guys (Leapers) and reveal invisible ones. To use the ability, you need “focus” and to fill your focus meter you have to hit people. Your first time through, you’ve battled a few easy foes and so already have some focus before the big fight... but if you die, like I did, then you restart the large battle back at square one with no focus and a bunch of invisible enemies who you can’t hit (easily). With a bit of skill and a few deaths you can get past this, but it feels sloppy.
Boss fights are simple if a little hand-holdy. But they all end with quicktime events! Here I was, happily watching the chaotic battle scene cutscene and didn’t notice the little icon saying to tap the X button and so I had to start over again. For a game like Remember Me, with lots of details in the visuals, it bugged me that I had to stay trained for little pop-ups to hit a particular button.
The details are what makes Remember Me. When I first played it I said it felt flat and two-dimensional. Like a facade of the world Nillin was supposed to be in. And there is still an element of that; this is not an explorable world, you have a simple path to follow. But since the preview release a lot of things have been added. Boats now traverse the canals, there is more movement of debris and water as you splash by in the sewers, and the NPCs interact with each other, including a pair who beat up a man and throw him in the canal. (Annoyingly they are still non-interactive with you, so don’t expect conversations.)
Sometimes the path is unclear, this is where the Sensen comes in. Everyone in Neo-Paris (and it assumed the rest of the world) has a Sensen. The glowing disc in the back of your neck is the gateway to your memories. Memories stream through the air as visible data as Nillin extracts them or blasts them out of the heads of her enemies when she overloads them (in quite a cool visual effect).
The Sensen also overlays the city with an augmented reality effect. Climbable items have a small arrow pop up above them, enemies gain a glowing red exclamation point just before they hit you, and signs hang in the air everywhere, telling you what things are or giving warnings. It’s like Google Glass on steroids.
The Sensen can also be used to follow people’s memories after you steal them. These “rememberences” are how Nillin finds her way into locked down buildings and returns to the Bastille.
It still annoys me that you can’t explore the city more, especially as it seems so interesting. The world of Remember Me is wonderfully deep but the gameplay experience is quite flat. There is only one path to your goal (with occasionally a second dead-end path to get a power pick-up) and while Nillin will be climbing buildings, hundreds of metres in the air, there is little tension as you know that you could put down the controller, go and make a coffee and return to find that she is still there, happily hanging by her fingertips.
I’m not sure if the cutscenes between the action had been altered at all but I was much more satisfied with the plot than I was in the preview. Nillin seems a lot more wary of Edge and his tactics. New Nillin, with her memory erased, seems less inclined to follow Edge than pre-Bastille Nillin. There are a lot of character and plot tropes that the story still falls into: the stern keeper of the Bastille is a dominatrix with a cane, the creepy guard is creepy etc etc. But there are also some genuinely creepy moments in the sewers with the Leapers (who like to collect android heads).
As a final side note, the review copy I had suffered from a weird glitch with sound in cutscenes (that I am certain will not be in the final versions). It would create a strange echo effect that actually made the scenes seem more perfect, like you had glimpsed the Matrix.