Remember Adrift? No? How about Remember Me, as the début game from palindromic Parisian studio Dontnod is now known?
has had a bumpy road to the store shelf. Having been originally snapped up by Sony, the game got dropped as they rationalised their product stable. Subsequently picked up by Capcom, the game is due for release this month.
There has been quite some hoo-ha about Remember Me
being something special and something new, and to an extent it is... in so much as anything can be new. Maybe it's fairer to say that Remember Me
takes a selection of familiar themes and memes, and remixes them in a way that is unfamiliar enough to seem innovative. It also does so in a beautifully realised game world: a version of Paris from 2084 , Neo-Paris, rendered by the Unreal 3 engine.
It does so with a female protagonist - which is still (apparently) a risky move in a medium dominated by white male hero-figures. I'm struggling with this given that, 17 years after Tomb Raider
, we live in a world that has also brought us Bayonetta
, Faith (Mirror's Edge
), Samus, Claire Redfield/Jill Valentine, Yuna/Tifa Lockhart and many more.
But apparently there is a section of the industry that thinks males are reticent to play as female characters. I guess certain males, who are confused or insecure in their sexuality, might be. But I know for sure that if I am going to spend hours looking at a characters ass, I'd... well, you get the idea.
The incredible success of Tomb Raider
belies this industry-stagnant suggestion, unless we've gradually become more gender stereotyped over the last 16 years. So, in Remember Me
, you play a girl/woman; an amnesiac woman called Nilin, who lives in a futuristic dystopia where memories have become commodities which can be bought and sold and even manipulated. Nilin is a memory hunter who, it transpires, is aligned with the resistance to the predictably totalitarian ruling regime.
The game itself follow the sort of adventuring, climbing and "exploring" gameplay that we are familiar with from early Tomb Raider
games. Like those games, it is strangely linear - at least by modern standards. There's no open world here, there are no side missions, there's no non-linearity.
So, what is it that lifts this seemingly mundane action adventure game above the humdrum? Basically there are two things:
One is the combat gameplay - specifically, the user-definable combos. Combat is an ever present element of the gameplay. As you traverse the game world, you will meet antagonists who, if you cannot stealth past them, you will have to engage in combat.
Button mashing will not see you get very far in Remember Me
. Instead you have to use combo sequences to do maximum damage. So far so ordinary, but Remember Me
has a trick up its sleeve. Users can define their own combo sequences, and each 'hit' in the sequence can be assigned a certain feature. So hit one might do damage to your opponent, but hit two will recover your own energy. These sequences are called Pressens.
As you progress through the game, collectable items will enable you to expand your Pressens, and even develop Super Pressens. Super Pressens are, as their name suggests, extra powerful combat moves, which you will need to defeat certain level bosses.
Super Pressens can only be used once, and then they require a recharge period. But, it is possible to assign S-Pressen recharge functions to your normal Pressens, so performing the correct sequence of button presses will actually speed up your S-Pressen recharge. So, if you do it right, performing a key combo sequence can actually hurt your opponent, recharge your energy, and recharge your super-weapon or ability.
The further along a sequence you place a Pressen, the greater the effect it will have. So a four damage Pressen sequence will do increasingly more damage with each "hit" you make.
At first, this seems like it's just an interesting feature of the game - but as you progress, it becomes clear that only by using your Pressens smartly will you be able to progress through the game. You cannot button mash your way past these end of level guardians.
They have increasingly fiendish powers and unless you make intelligent use of the Pressen system, you will not have what it takes to combat them. Suddenly what seemed like a simple adventure and combat game becomes quite strategic. And it's much better for it.
The second element of Remember Me
's USP is the memory re-sequencing sections. These are pivotal elements of the game narrative where, if a certain event occurs, or an NPC makes a certain decision, then things will not go as you want or need them to.
So, Nilin uses her Memory Hunter capabilities to turn back time, so that she can find a way to influence events so that the outcome is different. It's a bit hit and miss, but it's quite a fun distraction, and certainly unique as far as I am aware.
Otherwise, Remember Me
is not that different to other games you will have played. But it is very lovely. The environments and the characters are all fabulous-looking. And because you are in a strange cyber/augmented-reality - items around the playfield are labelled in a way that is sometimes helpful and sometimes just confusing, but always very pretty.
Traversal is fluid, but a little stilted. It lacks the smooth flow of a game like Mirror's Edge
or even Assassin's Creed
. And it is sometimes frustratingly easy to mistime a jump. But you soon become used to it, and while it doesn't add to the enjoyment of the game, it doesn't hinder it either.
All in all Remember Me
manages to do that most vital of things. It creates an experience that is involving and entertaining. It's not without its faults: it is very linear by modern standards, and the difference in difficulty between the standard game combat and the end of level sequences is quite jarring. But this is where your strategy has to come in, use your Pressens wisely, and you can defeat the enemies and restore order to Neo-Paris.