It was a pleasant surprise when Capcom announced that they’d be publishing Remember Me, the fledgling effort from rookie studio DontNod. Crafting a new IP is a challenge that developers shy away from, particularly at the end of a consoles life cycle but can it deliver on its lofty goals or would it be better to forget?
The opening cinematic sets the bar high, forcing us to spectate the brutal fragmentation of our heroine’s memory whittled away until nothing but the remnant of her name remains. Nilin escapes from the prison of La Bastille with the help of Edge, the enigmatic leader of the Errorist organisation with ties to Nilin’s previous life. Edge draws her back into the fight against M3morize and serving as your quest giver, directs you from point A to B.
Fuelled by her desire to recover her memories, Nilin commits some truly deplorable acts, toying with the idea of being an anti-hero. She never really faces any repercussions for her actions, a missed opportunity by the developers. Without those memories, she struggles to rally to the cause she once proudly waved the banner for, explained during the inner monologues at the beginning of each chapter.
Remember Me’s Neo-Paris is absolutely stunning, a futuristic metropolis built upon a stark social divide where the elite live in high rise apartments, walled off from the slums inhabited by the downtrodden. It’s a world you want to explore, but the environments can feel as if they’re stifling this supposed creativity by forcing you down linear corridors with light puzzle or stealth elements.
It’s a wonder that anyone in Neo-Paris manages to get around. With your Sensen module highlighting the way to go, Nilin finds herself scrambling up the walls of buildings, leaping across shutters and dodging the patrol of murderous drones, almost like it’s a city of free runners. It invokes a sensation that will feel familiar to anyone who has recently played Uncharted or the new Tomb Raider.
Despite how enclosed these environments are, they’re littered with collectables. In an attempt to mollycoddle you, often they’ll be a memory imprint, an image of where the collectible lays hidden and more often than not the maps are so small that it’s right around the corner. Perfectionists will have trouble nabbing the less integral collectibles and credit to DontNod for hiding them so well.
Combat in Remember Me is based on the beautiful freeflow system popularized in the Arkham games, separated by the combo lab, an open but closed system that allows you to switch pressens at will. This mechanic allows you to craft combos that focus on damage, health regeneration or reducing the cooldowns on your special abilities.
The final combo you unlock awards you PMP (experience) points for pulling it off successfully. Considering how easy it is to pull off you’ll quickly abandon those that had served you so well up until that point, leaving the combat from this point on feeling a little bland and dry. Irritatingly, the combo breaks if you switch targets, something that happens surprisingly often when surrounded by hulking enforcers.
Throughout the 8 or so hour campaign, you’ll come across various enemies from deranged Leapers that stalk the slums, to the “elite” combat skills of Sabre Force. Enemy AI works pretty well as Leapers bound across the environment clinging to walls, whilst the private security forces rely on mechanised units to try and overwhelm you.
Boss fights vary the pace from traditional encounters, often forcing you to rely on your S-pressens, special attacks that empower Nilin. Some of them stun the enemies around you whilst others increase your damage output for a limited time, and often you’ll be grinding cooldowns off weaker peons in order to damage the boss. Each battle ends with everyone’s favourite, the quick time event, and if you fail to pull it off, it’s back to the monotony of grinding down the weaker grunts.
In the games efforts to hold your hand throughout, handy tool tips appear on the loading menu. One of their favourites would be the one about reducing the games difficulty, which you can do at any time, but when death only resets you to the beginning of the fight, there’s not a lot to lose on the off chance an enemy lands a fatal combo on you.
Tooltips appear quite often during combat and if you miss one of the nodes in a combo, the game will tauntingly remind you about chaining combos and what S-pressen will win you the boss fight, removing the need for trial and error. The constant hitting of checkpoints, especially during boss fights which have numerous checkpoints throughout, did reduce the sense of satisfaction of taking down these tough opponents.
Nilin is separated from other memory hunters with the ability to Remix or alter the victim’s perception of an event and it’s these sections are where Remember Me shines. After watching the scene play out as it is originally intended, you can rewind the event making subtle changes that influence the flow of events. Generally there’s an achievement for ending the scene on a positive note, not that it’s the memory Nilin leaves her victim with. In a recurring theme, if you’re struggling at any point, the game will remedy the situation with a helpful tooltip.
Despite constantly reminding you to look both ways before crossing the road, Remember Me is an enjoyable romp through the streets of Neo-Paris. It’s obsession with style, world and attention to detail gave it everything it needed to excel, but it feels like it missed the mark, particularly as you head into the games closing chapters.
But as the pioneering project from DontNod, Remember Me could be the humble beginnings of something great and for that reason alone its worth picking up.
Remember Me is out now for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.