Preview: Remember Me – first impressions
When it comes to female protagonists, there’s not a hell of a lot to choose from, bar titles supporting gender customisation. The new Tomb Raider brought back to the forefront a tough, sexy and more than capable lead and Remember Me is looking to do the same with its bounty hunter Nilin.
The year is 2084. You play Nilin, an elite memory hunter in Neo-Paris who’s just awoken in a casket in the less than hospitable slums with her memory wiped. Nilin is a rare gem, and not because of the cracking arse she’s got on display in the about screenshot. You see, Nilin trades in memories and secrets. That’s the currency of the future and given the meteoric rise of social networking and electronic interactions in the present, it’s not really that far out of the realms of possibility.
Not only does she have the unique ability to steal said memories, but she can also rewrite them. If you’re thinking this is a scary god-like kind of power you’d be right, and you’re not the only one. The very people she worked for, fear her, hence her current predicament. As she pieces together the shattered remnants of her mind Nilin will rediscover her lost skills and begin to utilise them.
After a tutorial styled introduction to combat, against many unfortunate and desperate souls the victims of low tech upgrades, Nilin escapes from the colourful container styled favela slums and heads to the surface. The stark different between the classes is abundantly apparent as soon as you make it topside. There’s no doubt you are in Neo-Paris, and it’s not the Eiffel Tower that gives it away.
French design elements and colours simply burst through, permeating everything you see around you, from the classical architecture, traditional French signage or Metro subway stations, it all demands you surrender to its beauty. It offers a fresh take on the future with electronic advertising and overlays everywhere. It’s quite unlike anything I’ve seen and immediately engaging.
Gameplay is a mixture of fast paced combat and platforming with a few chase sequences peppered in for good measure. I found it hard to shake the feeling that I was playing through a spiritual successor to Michel Ancel’s critically acclaimed, financially disastrous masterpiece Beyond Good and Evil. It wasn’t so much the particular elements just an overall feeling and tone. Then again it could have been the whole Parisian thing, but I digress.
The most exciting aspect to the fluid punchy kicky stuff came through in the revolutionary Combo Lab. Rather than give you a set selection of combinations to work through and master, developer Dontnod Entertainment lets you do it your own way. After completing various tasks you’ll be rewarded with Procedural Mastering Power (or PMP) which serves as your in game currency. As you level up you’ll unlock different attacks or Pressens, and yes, I agree, it is the most ridiculous sounding name out there. Sorry. Again with the digressing.
Here’s how it works. Each unlock earns you another slot in a combination to fill with one of four types of attacks. You’ve got one that brings the pain, one which deals slight damage but regenerates health, a third love-tap that cools down your Special Pressens and the last one allows you to chains attack sequences together. I was partial to one heavy damage combo to put enemies in the hurt locker and another which tag-teamed regen and cooldowns book-ended by sturdier punches and found they worked beautifully in tandem together.
It would be easy to mistakenly pigeon-hole the combat as a Batman: Arkham City clone and while there are similarities on the surface, the handling is worlds apart. There’s no counter, rather an evade which allows you to roll out of the way or cartwheel over adversaries mid-combination. The timing is also radically different. It is measured and almost elegant in nature, mirroring Nilin herself. She’s no bruiser and uses debilitating and precise strikes to overcome her opponents, like the Memory Overload when she shorts out some poor sap’s brain as seen below.
The Special Pressens come into play when you want to really lay the smack down in fluid motion or can’t take out heavily armoured or shielded foes. You’ve got a Focus Gauge which fills as you successfully mount attacks. Triggering Sensen Fury lets you whirl about from enemy to enemy similarly to Batman: Arkham City when you’ve got a huge flow on, with any strike that hits you cancelling the motion.
The Logic Bomb is perfect for disorienting groups of guards or those sporting shields. You shove this concentrated and volatile cluster of energy into some schmuck and not only does it take him out, but the explosive shock-wave on detonation momentarily incapacitates all other enemies and shatters any shield so you can quickly mop up the stragglers. The combat has an extremely novel approach to it. It’s something I think fight aficionados will really sink their teeth into and get lost in as they find that perfect fisticuffs sweet-spot.
As I mentioned earlier Nilin can access, steal and rewrite memories and I had the chance to give one of these mind-fucking sequences a go. Here’s the gist. You watch a scene play out as she’s literally getting inside the head of her quarry and then you can rewind it or fast forward to a specific section and change the details. Each plays out like a puzzle with only one correct solution, though there are plenty of things to change and several unsuccessful outcomes.
The above sequence was triggered when a bounty hunter grabbed a weakened Nilin and sought to turn her in for a huge reward to help save her partner, who was dying from a horrible biological and electronic virus. As he was being treated I switched a sedative the doctor was hoping to administer and removed the unlucky bastard’s anaesthetic mask. When he started flipping out the physician had no choice but to pull the plug. Understand, I didn’t actually kill him, just rewrote the bitch who’d grabbed me’s memory of the event.
She crumpled, let me go muttering something about the futility of it all and ended up becoming a valuable ally. There are more complex options later on and I heard from our local PR rep that you could actually make my new best friend kill herself within the memory, not that it would make any difference to the situation at hand and would have counted as a fail none-the-less.
My time with Remember Me passed all too quickly. Over the course of those hours I felt like a was playing a Frankenstein mash-up of elements from Beyond Good and Evil, Batman: Arkham City and even hints of the Uncharted franchise, yet somehow it all managed to fell completely fresh and oh so very French. The memory puzzle aspects were incredibly cool and the unique take on customisable combat was absolutely smashing. I look forward to taking Nilin out for another spin and will give you all the details once I do.