The other night I was trawling through my Steam library as I sometimes do in an effort to remind myself of the games I bought, and to wonder when the hell I bought most of them. Coming down off the twin high of The Division and Black Desert Online over the past weekend, I was in that “nothing I had been doing prior to this past weekend is as interesting right now” phase, and looking for something quote-new-unquote to try in the meanwhile.
My eyes alighted upon Remember Me, which might not actually jog a memory of yours because it was a game that got some fanfare prior to launch, launched, and then…vanished from public consciousness. I don’t remember hearing anyone talking about it, although I have a vague recollection of maybe one or two people claiming to have played it and maybe having enjoyed it.
In Remember Me, you play Nilin, an empty character both literally and figuratively. You start the game by watching a commercial for Sensen, a ubiquitous neural implant from the Memorize Corporation that allows people to share their memories as data. But like data on your hard drive, what can be extracted can also be overwritten, and that’s both the premise of the game and where you find yourself after the game’s intro: having your memories overwritten in the Bastille Fortress, a supermax prison-slash-human memory processing plant. As you stumble towards your doom, you’re contacted by an ex-compatriot conspicuously named Rogue who helps you to escape and join up with what turns out to be a resistance group fighting against Memorize. Not only is Memorize the creators of Sensen, but they also have a stranglehold on the market for buying, selling, and archiving memories…and since they operate La Bastille, they’re probably up to no good with those memories as well.
Turns out you used to be kind of a bad-ass, as you’d expect in a video game. You were an Errorist (kinda like a terrorist, but since we’re talking about memories as data…errorist), an Arkham Knight-styled brawler who is able to defend yourself against the Sensen “Leapers”, elite S.A.B.R.E. soldiers, and various boss characters who live in and under Neo-Paris, but your real value as an Errorist was your ability to extract and re-write people’s memories.
The setting is Europunk and is what I refer to as cyberpunk plus: normal cyberpunk trappings like evil corporations, resistance fighters, and loads of technological body modification, but with some other non-standard conceit. For example, Shadowrun has magic, and Remember Me has Sensen. The setting and execution of this adds up to an A+ in my book, and the initial burst of gameplay that sees you escaping from the processing plant, making your way through the Leaper infested underworld, and meeting up with your cohort, was really well done and fit perfectly in a cyberpunk setting.
Combat is combo based, but not entirely like what you get from most brawler type games. You build combos in a “combo editor” by slotting what they call Pressens. These Pressens come in the forms of either punches (LMB) or kicks (RMB), and you chain them together in execution order in the editor. When in combat, executing a chain as defined in the editor leads to increased effects the further along the chain you progress. Each Pressen belongs to a class such as damage, healing, or cooldown reduction. This system allows you to really create all kinds of powerful combos to deal damage, heal yourself, and reduce the count-down timer on your “S-Pressen” ultimate attack wheel, which allows you to trigger attacks such as a combo-less damage multiplier assault. You unlock more Pressens, S-Pressens, and classes as you progress.
If you really want to get your socks blown off, though, you need to play for about an hour, until the non-spoilery part where a bounty hunter assaults you for the price on your head. As the two of you struggle, you get your first chance to mess with someone’s memories.
A memory is presented as a scene that the target initially remembers as it actually happened. Your job is to re-write it so that they remember it in a way that didn’t actually happen, with the hope that this new memory will convince the target to alter their real-world perception accordingly. In the case of your first remix, you learn through an in-game cut-scene that the Olga Sedova’s husband was suffering from what looks to be a Sensen addiction. He’s being treated by a doctor using a memory transference therapy that allows Olga’s familiar memories to flow to her husband in an effort to provide a stabilizing effect.
The memory takes place in a very sparse and mostly washed-out scene: a kind of techno-dream room where Olga is lying on a bed on one side of a safety wall, and her husband strapped into a machine on the other while the doctor goes about the treatment. As the scene plays out, you see the doctor going through the procedure: administering a sedative, checking machines and reading readouts while conversing with Olga about the process and progress.
Nilin’s job, however, is to make Olga remember that the doctor (who works for Memorize, of course) kills her husband.
The mechanic at play here is that, if you circle your mouse in the counter-clockwise direction, you rewind the cut-scene like scrubbing through a VHS tape (someday, that explanation will totally lose it’s relevance…). Rotating it clockwise fast-forwards the scene. If you do nothing but rewind, you’ll be able to replay the whole memory over and over. But you need to alter the memory, and you do so by changing elements that become highlighted via a “glitch” during key points in the memory. I won’t go into details on how this one plays out, but you need to alter the situation in such a way that the husband starts to freak out and attack the doctor, forcing the physician to defend himself by terminating the patient.
The effect in the real world is that the woman who seconds ago wants to kill you suddenly has a vendetta against Memorize, and becomes your willing ally. It’s pretty friggin cool. Of course, I don’t know if A) there’s a way to fail the memory remix, or B) if it’s possible to have any other outcome besides the beneficial one I got. Maybe this simple training-and-narrative-setup case was an anomaly, and later experiences will be timed or can be failed for different consequences.
What really got me, aside from the cool features of being able to rewind the memory scene, was how smooth the results of the changes were enacted. It was a three part solution, and after each change the scene just flowed into an alternate dialog, cameras, everything. I was chatting with a friend while playing through this segment, and after I explained the scene to him he said it sounded like a digital Choose Your Own Adventure book, which is exactly how it played out.
So far, the game gets very high marks for setting, visuals (the models are above average and animation is pretty OK, but Neo-Paris is 100% pure cyberpunk awesomeness), action, and the memory system. What it scores low on is the camera and general control scheme. The camera is fussy and weak, being too sensitive on high settings, and too sluggish on low-to-moderate settings. I never feel like there’s a decent FoV in tight spaces, which makes the wall-climbing parkour segments sometimes difficult, as you’ll need to scan vertically and horizontally in order to find a hand-hold to jump to.
I can’t convey how much I am loving this game right now, and I really wish the camera wasn’t holding me back from really beating you over the head about this. It’s got more going for it than it has working against it, though, and if you’re an action combat fan, lover of cyberpunk, and are looking for an overlooked gem, Remember Me will do the trick.