Review: Remember Me

Nilin, the protagonist of Remember Me

Remember Me has a lot of great ideas, but falls down on gameplay and execution

Produced by Dontnod Studios and published by Capcom, Remember Me is an adrenaline-fueled action-adventure game set in a cyberpunk dystopia in which human memory has become commoditized and monopolized by a giant corporation called Memorize. You play as a talented rebel “memory hunter” named Nilin, who begins the game in prison with her memory removed. Under the guidance of a mysterious insurgent leader named Edge, you punch, kick, and platform your way through the gritty urban environment of Neo-Paris, fighting to reclaim your memories and liberate humanity. If Neal Stephenson wrote a screenplay based on A Tale of Two Cities and got Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) to direct, this would be the result.

The premise and setting of this game are compelling and relevant. Through subtle details, Remember Me tells a story of class warfare and wealth disparity. Signs in the slums advertise “Low-cost proteins,” while in the wealthy district, androids model haute couture. The game nonchalantly contrasts the clean, white interface of corporate computers with heaps of trash and buildings in disrepair.

These themes are successful when they are understated, but less so when they are treated ham-handedly. It’s a little too much to take when Nilin eventually discovers that the evil Memorize corporation wants to literally enslave the disenfranchised lower class using their technology, claiming of course that it’s all for the greater good. This is so blunt that it undercuts the message of the game; corporations are not evil because they want to enslave the proletariat, they are bad for society because they focus on profits and not people. Elevating their malicious intent to the point of slavery is unrealistic and almost insulting to the player.

On a more personal (and perhaps more poignant) thematic note, the game also focuses on the importance of family. Nilin has lost her memories, but rediscovers her parents and her childhood as the game progresses. Kezia Burrows, the actress who plays Nilin, does her best to establish these relationships and fill in the gaps left by spotty writing. It’s a rather touching human element in a game that ambitiously tries to tackle big social issues, which it does with mixed success.

The world of this game is rich in detail, but light on player engagement

The world of this game is rich in detail, but light on player engagement

Remember Me really falls down when it comes to gameplay.

The game’s touted “customizable combos” do little to spice up repetitive fights. Button sequences are preset, but the player unlocks “Pressens” that can make a given strike in a combo deal extra damage, restore some health, or reduce the cooldown of special attacks. Unfortunately, the limited number of enemy types renders this feature perfunctory at best. Encounters feel copied and pasted over and over, and there’s no pressure to adapt or use your new Pressens in a creative way. Instead of increasing encounter difficulty with interesting enemies or new tactical situations, the designers choose to simply send larger and larger mobs of the same six moronic opponents. It’s disappointing.

The “platforming” in this game simply isn’t. Though richly detailed, the levels are linear and limited, locking the player onto a pre-determined path which is didactically spelled out for you with a little orange hash mark. There are no jumping puzzles to speak of, only jumping tasks to complete. They add nothing to the experience.

The game’s climax is a predictably unsatisfying battle with escalating swarms of minions and a colossal boss that only interacts with you indirectly. Because more enemies and bigger bad guys is what makes a finale exciting, right?

Despite the game’s shortcomings, it’s worth mentioning that Nilin is a pretty cool mixed-race female protagonist. The game deals somewhat awkwardly with the issue of gender; brutish male guards hurling sexist taunts (“Careful you don’t break a nail!”), but the storyline and main dialogue don’t deal with the issue at all. It feels like the designers wanted to dip their toe in the issue without wading in fully. Still, the game deserves credit for placing an active and capable female character in the spotlight in an industry that so often marginalizes women.

Remember Me has a lot of fascinating ideas built into the world, and some rich visual aspects to enjoy along the way. However, its lackluster gameplay makes it seem like Dontnod would rather have produced a movie. Then again, the clumsy and unsubtle storytelling might have been a better fit for a graphic novel. Regardless of what form it should have taken, Remember Me is full of missed opportunities for greatness. The final result is a game with a lot of interesting details and facets that work well, mixed in with a lot of dross. It’s a fun play, if you don’t mind unplugging your brain like a member of the memory-wiped underclass of Neo-Paris.

 

Remember Me has wonderful aspects, but is full of missed opportunities for greatness

Remember Me has wonderful aspects, but is full of missed opportunities for greatness

Final Rating: 5.5/10

CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: Xbox 360 (also available for PS3 and PC)
Time to completion: 9 hours
Gamer Score Earned: 340
Price Bought at: $49.99
Current Price: $49.99
Recommend Purchase Price: $19.99 – wait for this one to show up in a Steam bundle
Why you should buy it: You’ve always wanted to get a cybernetic implant and suddenly be able to say, “I know kung-fu.”
Why you shouldn’t buy it: You haven’t yet had your cognitive ability impaired by an omnipotent corporation.

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About Clayton Faits

Clayton lives and works in Chicago. By day, he is a museum professional who creates science- and history-based educational programs. By night, he is a writer and the creator of the web-based audio drama Our Fair City (www.ourfaircity.com). As a born nerd and avid gamer, his interests range from console and PC titles to board and card games. His other hobbies include music, cycling, and cooking things over fire.