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Remember Me Hands-On Preview
- Updated: 25th Feb, 2013
Capcom’s Remember Me follows the story of Nilin, a memory hunter in Neo-Paris during 2084. Nilin’s forté is hacking into people’s heads and generally wreaking havoc wherever she goes, much as you’d expect from a melee action protagonist. But what’s a memory hunter and why is it significant?
Remember that episode from Black Mirror’s first series where every sight was recorded and stored for future playback? Instead of spicing up bad sex by fantasising about shagging other people (shut up, we’ve all done it), you could just replay your past highlights over and over again, ignoring the flabby, wrinkled oxen grunting above you and playing back how they (or your wank-bank partner of choice) looked in the good old days.
Now expand that recording, so you not only get the sight, but the sensations, the smells, your mood – the full package. You could perfectly recall that course notes for your exams, relive the magic of your very first kiss, or replay that time you scored the winning goal against the league champions.
Even better, what if you could download other people’s experiences? Imagine living through Jonny Wilkinson’s winning drop-goal against Australia in the last 20 seconds of the 2003 Rugby World Cup. See what he saw, hear what he heard. Feel the rush as you catch the pass in the hundredth minute, the desperation of getting the ball away as two giant Australians bear down on you and bask in the glorious satisfaction and rapturous applause as your/his drop-kick arcs between the posts. Imagine all that, downloadable from a simple vending machine in the street and delivered directly to your brain.
This is the world that DONTNOD Entertainment has built for Remember Me’s Neo-Paris setting. Everyone has a Sensen neural interface that outsources memories and fills the world with augmented reality pop-ups. It’s a horrible place.
On one side of the divide, the “haves” live very well in closed luxury apartment complexes. Android servants whizz around the streets collecting their shopping while the people themselves relax in cafés.
On the other, memory addicts whimper in filthy corners begging to download just one more happy thought into their Sensen neural implants, while Leapers, twisted humans without implants, lurk in dark shadows behind stark messages that warn passers-by and adventurous children of their lairs.
As you take Nilin clambering around the city, you’ll come across memory collectibles knows as Mnesist. These are info packages that remind citizens of Neo-Paris about their history – notable things like the destruction of original Paris in 2047 marking the end of the European Civil War. According to these, Paris was declared a Free City in 2048, which I guess explains why hardly anyone has a French accent. The Mnesist packages also talk about the construction of the Meriphérique, a huge dam that encircles the city. It’s there to protect the citizens by keeping unsavoury characters out (and citizens in).
Digital screens are everywhere, advertising Kid Xmas’s broadcast channel. So are security cameras, which float about policing the private streets and monitoring crowds that are starting look a bit too much like a rabble.
Nilin is a wanted woman – Public Enemy Number 1 in fact – due to her ability to alter people’s recorded memories, and her propensity to do so for fun and profit. Thanks to her undisclosed past deeds, her face is plastered on giant Wanted posters about the city. Early on in the game, you’ll have to find Nilin’s former partners-in-crime to reclaim a hacking glove tool tailored to her physiology. Within minutes of picking it up, you’ll be digging away in someone’s brain to, quite literally, mess with their head.
This phase of the game is called the Memory Remix. There’s a sample memory remix video here, if you skip to 3:30. Nilin uses her customised “Hunt Glove” to hack into her target’s neural implant, bringing up a memory. In the one I played, I was given a goal – change the memory so that the doctor kills his patient instead of saving him.
I don’t know how many ways there are to achieve this. I suspect there’s only one but even the failed attempts are enjoyable. The tool works by finding glitches in the recorded memory – a trolley in an operating theatre or the contents of a syringe. You won’t choose the detail on what to do – just pick your glitches and see what happens. It works, because DONTNOD have put a lot of detail into these remixes, up to and including the option to accidentally kill your hacking victim. Obviously this doesn’t work because your victim knows damn well that he or she is still alive but watching the story play out is fascinating.
As the new memory unfolds, the glitches you’ve applied are shown in the HUD overlay. You can see which ones are having a measurable effect, so it’s not just picking things at random and hoping. There’s still that element of planning and decision as you watch an outcome that’s not quite right.
In this case my victim was Olga Sedova, a woman out to kill Nilin whom she seemed to consider responsible for putting her husband in the hospital. Or at least, she did until I got Nilin’s dirty tricks into her head and shifted the blame over to the doctor for killing her husband and completely shifted her allegiance. I do hope that these manipulations are exposed later in the game. With Nilin’s anti-hero behaviour, DONTNOD are playing with some fascinating concepts here and could tell a terrifically dark story.
Climbing and Combat
Outside the memory remixes, you’ll mostly be climbing around platforms and avoiding (or tackling) the security. It’s a strictly linear game so if you fail to evade a security bot, you’re more likely to just die than fight your way out. Nilin has plenty of tools at her disposal – linking up with another hacker allowed her to use his filter implant memories to see the alert radius of the bots and catch door security codes that had been entered hours before.
Whether you’re escaping the Leaper’s filthy dwelling space or breaking into people’s apartments, Nilin’s HUD clearly flags the next handhold based on distance and where you’re pointing the camera. It all feels quite linear and Enslaved-ish but, as with Enslaved, there are open areas and little side-nooks to explore. Other climbers allied with Nilin’s mysterious past call themselves “Errorists” and leave packages around the city, showing a view of a nearby location on her HUD. Find that location and you can collect these packages for health upgrades.
You’ll occasionally stumble across security patrols and the camera will automatically swoop into combat mode, turning the place into an arena. Combat has two basic methods – the combo system and Nilin’s Focus mode. There’s detail on Remember Me’s combat mode here. In practice, it looks great but the combo chain timing is slow, which makes it feel clunky. You build up your own combo chains in the “lab” menu. I had two chains to fill with a variety of “pressens”; button pushes that either do damage, reduce skill cooldowns or heal Nilin on contact. Each chain is just a series of slots – I had one for three pressens and one for five.
As you progress and unlock more pressens for Nilin, you can build up combos tailored to your playstyle. I started with 3 damage pressens and a couple of heals, which left me with an all-out attack combo and a damage+heal. Unlocking more pressens could give me an all-out 5-attack combo and heal+cooldown, or a series of damage+heal+cooldowns and more chains will presumably unlock over time.
A handy “dynamic combo display” appears on the HUD as you fight, so you know what combo chains you’re doing, or exactly where you failed. Essentially, it’s a melee action game for people who aren’t very good at melee action games and want to customise their own attacks. It’s perfect for me, but even I could do with speeding things up a tad.
As you build up the hits, certain enemy types like security guards will be stunned, leaving them vulnerable for an Overload – hold the B button for a devastating knockout. You’ll also build up Nilin’s Focus gauge, allowing her to go into Sensen Fury – essentially an overdrive/power attack mode where you bash the attack buttons and she flips from enemy to enemy, kicking them all in the face until they fall over. These additions help to break up the repetitive nature of the combos and you’ll likely have to change your combos to deal with the strengths and weaknesses of different enemy types and boss battles. It’s interesting, yet still… a bit clunky.
I’m fascinated by Remember Me. In the preview build the balance between combat, story, exploration and puzzles was just about perfect. Every character has their own backstory in this world of Errorist revolutionaries and Nilin’s anti-hero tendencies should make for a really engaging tale. I hope the full game lives up to this promise.