Whether they consider it the artistic achievement of the decade or just a boring, linear sci-fi brawler, one thing reviewers agree on is that Remember Me is rough around the edges. The question is how rough.
While most considered the world of Dontnod’s futuristic action-adventure a joy to behold, the quality of the (English) voice acting and the occasional strangeness of the plot were both commonly mentioned negatives — along with the game’s disappointing linearity. Let’s have a look at what the reviews say.
Remember Me is painstakingly slow to unravel. After escaping the grip of her former employers, lead character Nilin – a futuristic memory-jacker turned fugitive – is lead across Neo-Paris and Saint Michel by a mysterious figure named Edge. His guidance has her clambering across rooftops, visiting robotic Red Light districts and re-entering the Bastille prison that once kept her captive. Edge’s instructions provide senseless justification to a narrative that opts for grandiose language and a pompous execution of ideas that makes everything sound far more intelligent than it actually is.
The artwork is clearly informed by the best of the French comic book scene and together with the wonderfully varied soundtrack this is one of the most intriguing sci-fi worlds in any video game for years. Although there are heavy influences from Blade Runner, and other familiar sources, it’s one of a very few games in the modern era that feels identifiably French, in both presentation and attitude. Given that it’s rather bizarre that there don’t seem to be any actual French people in Neo-Paris, since almost all the voice actors are very obviously British. This single-handedly ruins the atmosphere, although switching to the French voice track and using English subtitles thankfully recovers the situation — and makes some of the more awkwardly translated dialogue work a lot better.
Combat invites players to “create” their own “combos” by entering the Combo Lab, a contrivance far more simplistic than first impressions indicate. Nilin fights using simple kicks and punches, each bound to a single button. In the Combo Lab, you get to chain these attacks — sorry, Pressens — together by unlocking them and adding them to an attack chain. While you may think this gives you absolute freedom in what you chain together, it’s worth nothing there are only four real combo strings in the game, and you don’t get to choose what goes where. You can only select the type of punch or kick you deliver, not what you deliver or when.
It’s a shame that you never get a chance to explore this world to any notable degree. Remember Me is one of the most linear, guided games in recent memory, giving you little choice but to wander down its narrow paths until you reach the next battle, the next cutscene, or the next scripted platforming sequence. “Linear” needn’t be a bad thing, of course, and plenty of games lead you from point A to point Z with little room to breathe in between. Yet Remember Me stands out as a particularly egregious example of tightly controlled roller-coaster design, in spite of the few nooks hiding various collectibles. Some areas are so confined that the camera fails to find a good angle, and the paths you follow are so narrow that you long to break free. In the meanwhile, you look into the distance, aching to investigate the inviting Neo-Parisian sights and realising you are an outsider looking in rather than a true part of this incredible place.
Much like the hodgepodge skyline of Neo-Paris, Remember Me sandwiches an extra pillar into its packed structure: memory remixes. Deployed at infrequent intervals, these sections take you to an abstract mental plane to tinker with your subject’s recollection of an event. You rewind time by rolling back the left stick; hold it still near a glitching object to influence both your target and the situation. Effectively, then, you scrub about a timeline seeking switches, but these short sections are designed in such a manner that they make for a palate-cleansing way to absorb a bit more exposition.
It’s difficult, if not impossible, not to point out how Remember Me excels outside of how it plays. (…) Remember Me boasts some of the most effective social consciousness I’ve seen in a video game. I remember more characters of colour than not, more diversity than the absence thereof, and none of it ever felt heavy-handed or preachy. It simply existed comfortably within the game’s fiction as part of the norm. Dontnod may not have intended Remember Me to be a shining example of inclusiveness — and it’s all the better for that inadvertence — but the end result certainly is an admirable effort at acknowledging the underrepresented.
At first, I thought that Remember Me would be one of those games where I liked its ideas more than its execution. But, even though it’s surrounded by some rough gameplay and well-worn templates, the core concept behind the game — control over what we choose to hold onto — comes to life in ambitious ways.
Top picture: Gergő Vas