Remember Me Review: Total-y Recall-ing Blade Runner
The story of Remember Me follows Nilin as she attempts to unlock her own past, and in the meantime, obeys Edge’s instructions to help take down Memorize, the company behind all this memory tech madness. We quickly discover that Nilin is an ass-kicker of an “Errorist,” the freedom-fighting terrorists of Neo-Paris, and that she was a thought-stealing “memory hunter” before she had her mind wiped. All the skills that go along with that profession — including climbing every building as if she were the love child of Spider-Man and Nathan Drake, and dealing out punishing hand-to-hand devastation like Batman: Arkham City‘s Catwoman on PCP — come back to Nilin over the course of the game.
It’s Nilin … who really makes Remember Me’s story work at all, and she’s a good enough character that leaps in logic are easy enough to ignore.
Remember Me’s story is a bit of a pendulum, occasionally swinging back toward sci-fi hamminess. For the most part, though, it’s a serviceable narrative well-treated by slowly uncovering the world of Neo-Paris, and especially by Nilin herself. It’s Nilin, who is both ruthless and morally torn throughout the course of the game, who really makes Remember Me’s story work at all, and she’s a good enough character that leaps in logic are easy enough to ignore.
The city itself, though linear and full of unreasonable environmental puzzles that include no real puzzle bits, is gorgeous. In fact, the presentation of Remember Me, from its graphics to its soaring but slightly digitally corrupted soundtrack, are a large part of what makes the game endearing. There are some really imaginative visuals throughout, and the entire world has a great augmented reality overlay that looks like something designed by Apple’s Jonathan Ives.
It’s too bad, then, that moment-to-moment, Remember Me’s gameplay is somewhat unremarkable, although usually pretty competent. The climbing is a touch on the easy side, but certainly no worse than what’s available in Uncharted or 2013′s Tomb Raider. Combat is focused on combos and feels a lot like that of Batman, with some good ideas thrown in: like Arkham City, you constantly beat on several guys at once, trying to make combos and dodge their attacks when prompted. You map out your simplistic combos by unlocking “Pressens,” or moves that have specific benefits: namely, executing some combo moves can heal you, or deal more damage, or shorten the cooldown on your powerful special moves.
As mentioned, on paper, the Pressen system is actually very cool. Nilin unlocks special moves that need to be charged up through regular combat, and when they’re used they pack varying cooldown timers. But the Pressen management menu allows you create combos of varying lengths on the fly, so you can rework your three-hit or five-hit combos in the middle of a battle to accommodate more cooling or quicker cooldowns. They combos themselves are simple — one button for punch, one button for kick, in the right orders — but as the game becomes more difficult, moving fast and still landing combos becomes necessary to succeed.
The trouble is that the combo system can also be kind of bland. It’s easy to set your first three-hit combo with a healing Pressen and use it for the rest of the game. Early on, I built out my five-hit combo, the second one I unlocked, to do devastating damage and heal me, and I found myself relying on it far more than the others for the next eight or nine hours.
The combat system is similarly weakened by the fact that you’re constantly swarmed by attacking enemies, and the only way to stay alive is to keep dodging away to avoid damage. That often means getting off two or three combo hits and moving clear.
When you unlock six- and seven-hit combos later in the game, it’s almost a bit of a joke, since it’s nearly impossible to land that many hits in any given fight.