A few rough edges don't ruin a unique premise and striking visual style
I love cyberpunk. Seeing the ways that futuristic tech affects the real world is a fascinating subject that I feel not enough games take advantage of, especially with the fast-moving nature of technology today. Therefore, whenever a game decides to give this style a try, I’m almost immediately on board. This was definitely the case with Remember Me. My first exposure to it instantly put it on my radar, particularly because of its striking visual style and female protagonist. That style still shines through in the final product, but several quirks and rough edges make Remember Me a bit tricky for me to review.
In Remember Me, society has invented a new addictive pastime: editing or removing the memories in our heads. Imagine a world where you can share a favorite memory with a loved one or delete a particularly bad memory from your head. Thanks to your Sensen, a mental implant that helps regulate these activities (along with a variety of other futuristic stuff, like receiving calls and projecting information into the environment), doing so is very simple. Everything isn’t perfect though; this invention has created a fractured society where no one wants to remember their history and where the buzz of a new memory is just as addictive as any drug.
In this world, you take control of Nilin, a Memory Hunter on a particularly bad day. As the game begins, she has been captured and wiped of nearly all of her memories due to her involvement in a rogue group called the Errorists. A mysterious voice named Edge manages to help her to escape the facility she is trapped in, but her memories remain lost. The remainder of the story has you taking Nilin through a series of tasks to take down the group behind it all and allow her to recover those memories she has lost. The story itself is pretty by-the-numbers and predictable, but I absolutely loved the premise here. I could easily imagine a future where humans are willing to delete the worst parts of their memories, even though the repercussions of such an action could be great for the course of human history. It’s a really neat idea, one that deserved a more engaging story to go with it. Even still, the fascinating style of the world engaged me from beginning to end, even though the characters didn’t really grab me.
The best parts of the story are the Memory Remix sequences, and they are easily some of the coolest things I’ve seen in a video game this generation. Nilin has the ability to interface with a person’s Sensen and change the events of that person’s memory, essentially making them think something happened even though it didn’t play out that way in reality. The way you do this in the game is by rewinding and fast-forwarding (manually by rotating the stick--so cool!) and looking for memory glitches you can alter the way the events play out in that person’s memory in order to make them see something or someone in a different light. These moments have a cool Matrix-esque style and were probably difficult as hell for the team to code, since you can essentially scrub through them in real-time. The final Remix is the coolest of all, in a way I can’t really explain without ruining it. Trust me, these segments are worth playing the game for alone.
At its core, Remember Me is a character action game most resembling one of the recent Batman games from Rocksteady (but without the counters). Tapping out strings of punches and kicks will make Nilin use combos on the various enemies in the game. Where this game differentiates itself is in the Combo Lab. By slotting passive abilities called Pressens into your four preset combos, you can add effects like health regen and faster cooldowns for the special combat abilities you unlock to the various hits. The farther into the combo an effect is added, the more powerful that effect is. It’s a fantastic idea that gives a great deal of control to the player on how they would like to fight. Unfortunately, the combat is otherwise very rough around the edges. If you’ve played Batman, you know how fluid and visceral that combat feels. Every hit feels like it really hurts. Remember Me’s fisticuffs are sluggish and unresponsive by comparison. It often feels like the game didn’t do what I wanted to do when I was inputting buttons, by aiming my hits at the wrong guy or fumbling through combos I felt I nailed. This iffy combat is also paired with a terrible camera that gets stuck on just about everything, which can make certain segments particularly rough. All in all, I think the combat system shows a lot of promise; it just lacked the necessary polish.
The whole game really has this roughness around the edges. Several of the animations are ridiculous to the point of seeming broken. The cutscenes are often jerky or choppy and look pretty bad for being rendered out-of-engine. Probably worst of all is the voice acting. I can’t think of a single character in the game that didn’t sound terrible at least part of the time. All of this makes me think that the game came out a little earlier than the team would have liked it to, missing out on those last few months of polish. These issues are enough to make Remember Me a bit harder to recommend; at the very least, I would feel the need to warn potential players about these issues, even though I still think the game is worth playing for other reasons.
As I mentioned above, several of the Remember Me’s graphical elements are a bit rough. The artstyle itself, however, is top-notch. Neo-Paris is a beautifully rendered cyberpunk city, mixing the older stylings of Paris’ more historic areas with plenty of large flatscreens, robot maids running to and fro, and computer terminals at every corner. I also really liked the way the designers interpreted Nilin’s Sensen would project UI elements into the world. Walking up to a cafe, for example, will list their specials and prices as a floating text book over its front. It all looks so sharp and crisp that I wish I could install a Sensen just to see all this stuff in real-time. I also want to note Nilin’s character design for its style. I think it is a such a great mix of femininity and style, without being overtly sexualized, that is rarely balanced so well in a video game. For some reason, I also really like her hair.
I’m not really a big music guy when it comes to games. Therefore, when a game’s soundtrack really jumps out at me, I take notice. Remember Me’s score is one of those soundtracks that managed to grab me. It is a genius blend of grand orchestrated tracks mixed with racing techno and dubstep sounds that I just loved listening to. The battle track, in particular, is one of my favorite game tracks in years; the way it dynamically flows with the fighting is fantastic. My one gripe is that many of the swelling music moments are just a little too epic and grand, almost as if trying to rub it in my face. It’s a small nitpick, one I don’t really think it hurts the brilliance of the soundtrack in any way. I plan to buy it as soon as I can.
I can’t stress enough that how much I like Remember Me is heavily influenced by the style and concept of the game. Few games are visually appealing to my sensibilities in such a way that I’m willing to slightly overlook some issues. I won’t say that Remember Me isn’t a rough game in areas. The combat is rough and occasionally frustrating, but I feel the ideas there really have some potential for another game. The other issues, particularly the lack of polish across the board, are harder to overlook, but I still don’t feel like they drag down one of the best cyberpunk worlds I’ve ever experienced. My advice to potential buyers is to consider how important great gameplay is to your experience. For those of you who don’t care about a poor playing game as long as it does something special elsewhere, I advise you to give Remember Me a try. It is a very unique visual experience that no game I know of comes close to realizing.