Like an ever faithful steam engine, good ol’ PlayStation Plus keeps chugging along. Passengers get a delectable buffet cart of free titles every month and like the Grade A hoarder that I am, I have yet to get through them all. So, every so often I take on a PS Plus title and test its mettle and this month’s challenger is…Remember Me.
“Why hello, dear Nilin,” we say as Remember Me’s female protagonist saunters into the room. “You’re quite special, you know,” we tell her with a smile, of course referring to the fact that she’s just one of 7 lady leads from the last two years. And then she prepares for battle in the game’s Neo-Parisian streets and we make sure she leaves with ‘all of our hopes and dreams for the future of female characters’ in the pockets of her distressed khakis. It’s a mistake and we instantly regret it. Oh Nilin, please come back.
You see Capcom’s title pits the aforementioned potential beacon of hope, enlightenment and opportunity, against the 2083 Paris streets in a dystopia where society thinks it’s cool to just jack people’s memories right out of their perfectly coiffed noggins. The gameplay itself riffs off of other shinning example of a badass free running woman, Faith, in DICE’s critical hit Mirror’s Edge.
However, unlike the title it was always inevitably going to be compared to, the problems are far more frequent and like a bag of Werther’s Originals mixed with chocolates with an expiry date of 1989, you’re never quite sure what you’re gonna get but you play on in search of that sweet, sticky toffee.
Like any Neo-something title worth its cybernetic salt, Remember Me’s setting is a beautiful recreation of Paris, set several decades in the future. Its visuals are as pretty as any future designer’s fever dream, with the development team clearly going to great lengths to include monuments from the current establishment of the French capital city. However, for all of its high definition walls, and slick, blinking Technicolor storefronts, there are mysteries too and hidden files and agendas to be uncovered via unlockable in-game wiki biographies, highlighting the dark and oppressive history that Remember Me’s city has done its best to cover up.
The problem is, when the game tells you that people are being robbed of their memories, at the hands of a shadier than the floor of the Amazon Rainforest type of corporation named Memorize, you struggle to understand the ‘why’ of it all. For plenty, it’s probably rather pleasant to have your memories, good, bad or the ones that didn’t happen but that you purchased from a memory bank, stored up in a hologram behind your noggin but it pits most of those affected by the memory wiping scourge as the bad guys too.
Controlling Nilin, on her quest to liberation the city (when really, she could just get out of dodge) combat is awkward like a gangly teen and enemies – dressed up generic guards on the hunt for you, a notorious memory hunter – are lumps of meat, with punches and kicks making you feel as though you’re attacking them with a rusty spoon. Remember Me aims to remedy this by giving you a system of ‘Pressens’, which are effectively ways of putting together combos which can offer powerful attacks or ones that heal, along with special moves that help clearing out guards become less of a lumpy ordeal.
Outside of the plagues of guards on lookout for the game’s lead, you’ll also encounter those who have had their memories unsuccessfully tampered with and have become hostile and unsightly, so while they are really the victims of the game’s lead antagonist corporation, you have to fight them anyway, sapping any motivation you have to save the Neo-Parisian world away from you, like a sponge in a muddy puddle.
What could have breathed life back into the world are the characters, who are criminally underused. Of the four main characters, there’s a man named Edge, who you don’t see in person but talks to you via an earpiece (Edge is characteristically a coward who ran away to avoid the same punishment as Nilin – more on that shortly), a woman named Olga who tries to kill you, seconds before you remix her memory to make you think that you’re a friend and not a foe, as well as a bar owner; a black male named Tommy who is actually incredibly helpful for a side character in a Capcom published title.
Nilin, the protagonist, is a woman of colour, falling into two categories of diversity in games that we see once in a blue moon but, while we aren’t expecting her identity to become a gimmick, a black woman in an oppressive universe left developers Dontnod Entertainment an incredible amount of room in terms of motivation to fight for the right side of Remember Me’s anti-Memorize movement.
Unfortunately, any experiences of the like were wiped at the start of the title, as Memorize (Nilin’s former employers) left her with the memory wiping parting gift before kicking her out of the organisation. I’ll add that a diverse character’s use doesn’t need to be a token nor does the character need to be ‘all about’ the thing that makes them different, but where differences are there, using them is key to celebrating those identities.
This isn’t a comprehensive review by all means, this is an opinion piece and by all accounts, I’m expecting plenty to disagree with my view on the game, but if it was, I’d award Remember Me a 6 out of 10 and a B minus for effort because there are so many elements here that could work but just don’t. A good example of this is the free running element of the game, in which it consistently gives you prompts of where to run or jump to and it’s needless hand holding that few other free-running games will ever give you.
It would be great if Remember Me got another outing in a sequel because for now, save for some characters with more potential than a first-drafted rookie and a world that puts the visuals of most other future-based games to shame – there’s very little to remember about this game at all.