A memory hunter looks to restore her life and helps topple a dystopian government in the third-person action epic Remember Me (Capcom and Dontnod Entertainment, Rated Mature, reviewed for Xbox 360, $59.99).
It’s the year 2084, and a player controls Nilin, a female agent mixing the physique, moves and skill sets of such pop culture heroines as Aeon Flux, Lara Croft and Selina Kyle.
Sounds promising, and it’s hard to not appreciate a game that not only delivers a strong lead character but jogs so many, well, memories, by tapping into many of my favorite sci-fi movies.
Specifically, I could find remnants of “Blade Runner,” “Total Recall,” “The Running Man,” “Minority Report,” “Inception” and “Judge Dredd” among the roughly 10-hour, solo campaign.
At the start of the tale, we find Nilin suffering from a serious case of employer-induced amnesia as she escapes a facility and finds herself in a futuristic Paris.
By the way, the city offers some of the most realistic-looking statuary I have ever seen in a game.
She exists in a world where a human’s memories become digitized and pieces of a corporate-controlled commodity. It’s up to Nilin and her rebellious friends the Errorists to restore citizens back their most precious brain cargo.
As our heroine moves from below to above ground, the gorgeous designs throughout tease with stunning beauty (reference futuristic, ornate buildings) as well as despair (littered sewers filled with garbage and graffiti). The constant need for a player to roam is unbearable around every corner while the way too linear narrative unfolds.
Alas, exploring is always at a premium, and I am stuck on a predetermined path almost all of the time, unable to climb where I want to or enter intriguing areas.
So dealing with the decided lack of freedom within Neo-Paris is a disappointment but sometimes forgotten by the developer’s attempt at innovating the game mechanics.
The clear highlight of the action arrives not nearly often enough as a player can remix the memories of a character to help Nilin.
During specific scenes, use the controller’s analog stick like a digital movie timeline editor to reverse an enemy’s select memory and carefully look for the slightest glitches onscreen.
Combine multiple glitches to play out a new scene to try and to change its outcome. For example, a reprocessed memory of a bounty hunter’s boyfriend dying changes the outcome of an encounter between Nilin and the female warrior.
These mixers could have dominated the game and really made it a spectacular experience.
Unfortunately, there are only a handful of these brilliant moments.
Instead, a player spends too much time climbing around walls, up and down drainpipes and ladders and across gutters, basically, bouncing around carefully telegraphed environmental obstacle courses with little chance of failure.
Additionally, an abundance of combat further dilutes the game’s atmospheric potential and memory jumbling.
Now some might appreciate the ability to construct combination attack moves (literally positioning “x” and “y” button controller choices into a sequence) that with each strike allows Nilin to either hurt an opponent, restore some of her health or cool down one of her handful of more powerful maneuvers when executed.
For me, under the stress of fighting frightening underground addicts called Leapers or bulky Saber Force guards, it melded into one large button-mash session nearly every time.
Although I’m sounding a bit sour on the game, Remember Me does add some extra fun worth mentioning.
Locations often provide a digital images puzzle that pop up in odd places and requires a mini-scavenger hunt to try and find upgrades or history data packets that bring to life a very rich mythology in a text database.
Furthermore, Nilin can tap into memories of some individuals that replay movements and act as holographic maps for her to navigate dangerous areas.
I also appreciated a weapon called the Spammer. Worn like a gauntlet, it shoots data bursts that will stun and damage opponent’s memory functions and even break apart certain structures, including robots.
Ultimately, the overtly ambitious Remember Me remind us about the pitfalls of an ever-evolving digital age (I’ll pass on Google Glass now) in its smartly constructed story.
However, its inability to focus on its slick innovations and mire a player in melee and platform action leaves too many moments better off forgotten than fondly recalled.
Parental advice: The ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) — after watching Nilin yank the digital memories out of the back of soldier’s head through his Sensen port until he crumples over brain dead — decided to label this game “M” and that stands for mature — gamers only 17 years and older can take part in Remember Me. Although the game is not as violent as the standard “M” rated fare, it offers plenty of close-quarters combat and adult themes such as murder and suicide.