Every year a handful of worthy games fly under the radar during the months leading up until their release. For whatever reason, some titles fail to generate the buzz they probably could garner under optimal conditions.
Remember Me might be the prime example of such a game this year. It's a game that surprised me when I began playing, and it presented enough interesting gameplay and narrative to keep me wanting to discover more about its beautifully realized world of Neo-Paris, 2084.
The title comes from Dontnod Entertainment, a developer composed mostly of former Ubisoft Paris veterans. You play as Nilin (the palindromes are strong with this one), a former memory hunter who has recently had her memory wiped of her thieving past.
The year is 2084 and Neo-Paris is a city where memories serve as a commodity. With the right cash, citizens can share and learn new memories to feel things they couldn't before.
Of course there's one evil corporation called Memorize that's monopolized the memory market with a product called Sensen. Because she can't remember most of her past, Nilin is "re-recruited" by the leader of a resistance faction that aims to bring Memorize down.
The futuristic city of Neo-Paris is an astonishing achievement not just in design but also in character. Remember Me shows influence from a handful of sci-fi franchises. It's equal parts "Minority Report" and "The Fifth Element," with moments that resemble "Blade Runner" and "Aeon Flux" (the cartoon, thankfully). The narrative is presented in ultrastylized cinematics and fictional commercials, all of which are reinforced through the digital propaganda projected on the sides of buildings and emblazoned in alleys through graffiti.
Neo-Paris is so impressive and complex that it makes Remember Me feel like an open-world game that's trapped inside a linear game. There's a clear path to follow that's exemplified by the breadcrumb markers that denote where to jump and climb. It's a shackling feeling at times because you'll pass so many interesting locales that you can't explore. It's simply not an option.
The times that I wanted more out of Remember Me were easily overshadowed by the inventive and satisfying mechanics the game introduces. The melee system is somewhat customizable, in the sense that you can decide which links in a combo chain offer perks when executed. You can design combos that work to regenerate health or cause more damage. It's a fresh take that really shines once you wrap your head around it, even if at times it can feel clunky.
The game also attempts to test your own memory. You'll be confronted with a still image floating in a level that gives away the location of a hidden item. Using the information detailed in the still, you must keep an eye out as you travel.
But by far the most exciting element in Remember Me has got to be what's called memory remixing. Nilin can scrub through other people's minds and alter their memories. Using a unique set of controls similar to a DVR, you'll need to interact with the right moments in a cut scene so that a specific objective is completed. The catch here is that not everything that can be changed is part of the correct formula. You'll need to rewind, fast-forward, and pause to line up the right combination of details.
A lot of the scaling of buildings and making your way through the different environments of Neo-Paris is presented with fluid, cinematic camera movements. Remember Me exudes a polish that goes above and beyond most action titles. That said, the controls can occasionally feel sluggish. It doesn't ruin the experience, but I wish things played more tightly than what's presented.
The visuals in Remember Me are top-notch. The game looks awesome on an Xbox 360 and even better on a high-end gaming PC. I played a few hours on a Digital Storm gaming laptop that bumped up the frame rate and improved texture quality and smoothness. If you have the means, PC is the way to go.
I was also very impressed with Remember Me's graphics packaging. There's a defined style throughout that makes effective use of a Helvetica-based typeface. The world is littered with this aesthetic. There's also a unique set of dazzling visual effects -- mostly during combat -- that separate the look and feel from other melee-heavy games you might have played before. It's also worth noting the masterfully engineered sound design in Remember Me that successfully delivers a futuristic tone on par with some of the best works in sci-fi film and games.
Remember Me is sure to make for a unique gameplay experience that should resonate with any type of gamer. Interestingly enough, it's hitting right before E3, a time of the year devoted to the future of games. So while it's easy to get caught up in what's ahead for gamers, Remember Me reminds us that there's still plenty of fuel left in the tank of current-gen software.
It's not perfect, but it's different. And in my opinion sometimes that's worth more.
CNET verdict: Highly recommended
Remember Me is breath of fresh air that's fantastically realized through a futuristic projection of Neo-Paris, 2084. It's smart, uniquely designed, and best of all brings new and exciting ways to play.
If there's anything to criticize, it's that Remember Me's brilliant setting is dying to be further explored and is perhaps held back by a mostly linear experience.
Be sure to check out GameSpot's take on Remember Me