Memory is fragile. Who you are is essentially a collection of experiences coded and cataloged in your cranium for cross reference later. Your essence, your soul, is housed somewhere in your synapses. Without your memories you are no longer you. Just a hulking mass of animal instinct no different than the next poor sod who has had their memory wiped. Remember Me has a high sci-fi concept, but will it stick in the spaces between your synapses or trickle right out your ears?
Remember Me is an ambitious game to say the least. From its story clad in complex concepts of memory and identity to its attempt at fluid combat and platforming gameplay, this title reaches farther than it has any right to do. That's a good thing.
You play as Nilin, a former memory hunter in Neo-Paris. As you would expect from a game about memory, hers has been wiped. Well, nearly. Many games begin after the amnesia inducing incident, but Remember Me takes a step back and starts you off right in the middle of Nilin's memory erasure. She escapes while on her way to have the remaining bits of herself scraped away. With the help of Edge, she joins the Errorist movement bent on taking down Memorize, a corporation that controls the ubiquitous Sensen implants that allow people to access their own memories. Nilin wants to regain her memories, find her true self housed in a hard drive somewhere, and punish the people that did this to her. She is exceedingly likable and it is great to see a female protagonist who is intelligent, capable, and dangerous. Lara Croft is not alone anymore.
One star of the game that simply can't be overlooked is the setting. Neo-Paris is a spectacular city that inspires awe at the grand cityscape views. Even with its grandiose vistas, it has such a depth of character that every tiny alley has something different to show you. The design is a beautiful miasma of neon lights, brightly colored buildings, glass, and power lines draped over some of Paris's iconic monuments. The graphics are luscious and detailed in all the right ways. It is astonishing that the game runs as silky smooths as it does. Remember Me is a refreshing injection of bright color to the usual brown palette of dystopian future games.
With a city so lovely that it is begging to be explored, it is a shame that Nilin's path isn't more divergent. Remember Me is a linear game that sacrifices exploration for narrative pacing. The story itself is a complex conundrum that requires you to wrap your head around how the world of Remember Me works. It is extremely well written, if a bit verbose at times, but it will always entertain. More importantly, it will make you think about your own memories and consider the future. Considering that the team behind the title is stationed in France, a country with a long history of great science fiction and fantasy literature, the quality of storytelling is stellar. It will keep you intrigued to the very end. It is a somewhat short title, but that isn't a bad thing. It doesn't overstay its welcome.
The gameplay is pretty tight, but requires a bit of learning to get it right. The free flow combat system from the Batman: Arkham Asylum games has been modified for Remember Me. The animations are fluid, but it is essential to the game that you rely on properly timed combos to do more damage, replenish your health, or speed up the cool down of special abilities. You can customize each combo in the menu system and place certain abilities, called Pressens, for each hit. While the theory is interesting, in practice, it has you fiddling around in menus in the middle of the fight if you suddenly realize you need more healing abilities than damage dealing. It might have been a better choice just to have chained combos do more damage as you go and keep the tried and true health packs. But, once you get the hang of combat, it is fast, fun, and a change of pace from button mashing until the baddie goes down. Plus you can overload memories and blast them out the front of the enemy's face in a shower of pixels.
The newest addition to gameplay is Nilin's ability to remix a person's memories in order to manipulate their actions. If she needs to assassinate someone without touching them, she can remix a memory and convince them to commit suicide. Remember Me delves into some surprisingly dark places which is be expected when you're mucking around in someone's head. The remixing takes the form of a cut scene that you can move forward and backward through. Glitches that you can adjust appear in certain parts and you have to find the proper sequencing in order to achieve the desired effect. The only issue with this is that the logic can be flawed and confusing. You may walk away with no idea of how or why that series of glitches got you through the sequence. While flawed in execution, these scenes do provide some intriguing meat to the story and the citizens behind Memorize.
I would be completely remiss if I didn't mention the simply spectacular soundtrack. This often overlooked aspect of gaming really shines in Remember Me. The music swells along with the story at the appropriate moments like a tidal wave of string instruments augmented by slice and dice computers. The music is also reactive to the gameplay in a way that leaves you basking in satisfaction. Each time you land a Pressen in a combo, the music chimes in with a brilliantly triumphant cacophony of electronica. What higher praise could I give a game soundtrack other than I would absolutely listen to it even if the game didn't exist.
While Remember Me aspires to greatness, it has fallen just short. There are a number of issues that simply can't be ignored no matter how fresh and interesting the story or setting. Many enemies take an absurd number of hits to take down if you don't use the right combination of Pressen abilities to inflict enough damage. The linearity of the levels can be a bit disheartening for gamers that wish they could explore a bit more of the city. There really isn't much to interact with as you go other than picking up the occasional hidden upgrade.
Remember Me is a great game that aspired to be an amalgamation of some great games that came before it. It picks and chooses the best from each. The cyberpunk setting from Deus Ex, the platforming from Uncharted, and the combat from Arkham Asylum. But the sum of its parts do not quite equal a perfect whole. It has rough edges and falls just short of being a truly great game, but it is still a damn good one. If you enjoyed the games mentioned above, then you will find many enjoyable memories in Remember Me.
Does Remember Me fail to implant itself in my own memory? No. It is a game that I'll go back and play again just so I can enjoy the lush scenery, engaging story, and gameplay. While it may not be the greatest game of the generation, it is well worth your time to play. It is fun, action-packed, and more importantly, unexpected. Nilin's every twist and turn around Neo-Paris will surprise and delight.
Don't worry Remember Me, I'll remember you.
This review is based on a retail copy of Remember Me for the PS3.