Memory is a tricky thing. Sometimes we don't quite remember events exactly as they happened. Other times we remember far more than we want to. But our memories are still ours, imperfect as they are. What if, though, those past events stored neatly away in our craniums could be adjusted or erased, just like the files and pictures we keep on our computer's hard drive? What if our recollections could be pulled by somebody else and stored at a remote location, or even remixed to reflect a totally different outcome—changing former fear to boldness and regret to contented joy? Well, that's all possible in the futuristic sci-fi world of Capcom's new action/adventure battler Remember Me.
It's the year 2084 and nobody cares about posting on Twitter or Facebook anymore. It's the information posted in your head that's the real stuff of interest nowadays. And while the technology for human memory manipulation was originally created as a painless and compassionate cure for the miseries and miscues of life, the big corporation that created the process has now taken things to extremes. (Let's just say that "Don't be evil" isn't the working motto for this particular tech conglomerate.)
In this world, criminals are incarcerated and stripped of any idea of who they are or why they're locked up. And the underprivileged class—half-crazed, memory-damaged slum-dwellers called Leapers—are being reconditioned into obedient slaves. Everyone's memories have becomes a product that can be bought and abused like a drug, or stolen away and used by the powerful.
Ah, Nilin, I Remember Her Well
Gamers wake up in this exotic future world as Nilin, a dazed and confused woman who recalls very little about her life. She narrowly escapes prison and a total brain wipe thanks to the secretive efforts of an underground separatist group called the Errorists. And as she stumbles out into the debris-strewn dark side of Neo-Paris, the voice of a mysterious fellow named Edge rings in her ear and leads her forward.
It turns out she's actually an elite memory hunter who must regain her skills, champion the anarchistic cause and save the world. If she can trust that guy in her ear.
From there, players set off to navigate the city environs in a game of memory espionage. You make your way past high-tech traps and barricades, reclaim lost memories and equipment, unveil hidden truths, battle various types of human and robotic enemies, and jump off building rooftops to swing ledge to ledge like a future-tech Lara Croft. It's a 10-plus hour pursuit packed with thought-provoking ideas and high-kicking action.
Sound creative? Yep, it is. Even that high-kicking action has a clever twist in its mix: The game features a Combo Lab, which lets you customize Nilin's strung-together attacks. Specifically focused punches, tumbles and kicks called Pressens can be slotted into several different combo templates—to fit a gamer's whims and allow Nilin to regain health or charge up special skills in the midst of battle. She'll need every advantage she can muster, too, since there are always shadow-hugging maniacs, armored police and powerful sentinel robots regularly popping up to take her down—and she has no weapons except a glove-like device called a "spammer" that she uses to unlock doors and deliver a few long-distance electronic zaps. So her main defense are those hand-to-hand skills she must master.
Another unique addition that gives the game something extra over your typical battling actioner is a game mechanic that allows Nilin to use her glove mech to remix people's memories. At key moments, she taps into an individual's head, watches a particular memory scene and then rewinds or fast-forwards the event, changing just enough to turn that person into an ally or generally wipe away the desire to pursue whatever nastiness was originally in his or her mind.
Things They Should Have Forgotten
That kind of fun futuristic fantasy makes it all the more unfortunate that Remember Me includes some seriously unnecessary and less-than-clever things. For example, some of the memory cutscenes Nilin encounters can head in messy directions:
One character ends up shooting either a woman or himself. A doctor painfully extinguishes a struggling patient. A father causes the violent death of a his own daughter. And these types of scenes depict blood spatter and people lying in pools of their own gore.
Then there's the sexual side of things. Nilin herself is a shapely, athletic individual who wears formfitting clothes, and the game's camera likes to admire her from all angles. There are also some odd posters and images of near-naked, topless women seen at one point. (They don't seem to have any bearing on the story or any reason for being there other than titillation.) A smattering of foul language includes a few f-words, s-words and uses of "h‑‑‑" and "a‑‑."
So it seems that memory isn't the only thing that's tricky when it comes to video games. Creativity is tricky too. Why were all these problems left strewn around like so many corrupted power-ups? Is that creative? Do they help make this game more memorable?