Remember Me Hands-on (PS3)

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When it comes to videogames, I love surprises. I always enjoy finding a game of quality and it’s always a treat delving further into the experience, slowly peeling back layer after layer of a given title’s gameplay mechanics and depth while discovering more about that game’s unique world, filled with interesting personalities and intrigue all of its own.

Despite knowing about the game since gamescom 2012, Remember Me from Capcom and developer Dontnod is a wonderful surprise. With character and environment detail to match Devil May Cry and Uncharted, and a fistful of interesting innovations in videogame story-telling, exploration and combat, I’m confident that the surprise of discovering Remember Me won’t be limited to me when it’s out in June – this is a game that we’ll all be excitedly discussing later this year, and for a lot of very good reasons.

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Back to the Future

Remember Me whisks us away to the future of 2084 and takes place in Neo-Paris, an advanced but still recognisable version of the famous French capital. Cobblestone streets, ornate wall mouldings, fountains and statues of the old city are still visible, only retrofitted with neon displays and digital signs presenting passers-by with restaurant menu selections, general notices and special deals at street vendors.

The Eiffel Tower still stands tall and proud in the distance when glimpsed between buildings and from rooftops, but is now flanked by other structures that have been erected in the 70 years separating our present with the future of Remember Me. These 70 years have also seen the formation of sprawling slum areas suspended at the lower levels of the old city, connected by carelessly created catwalks leading to just as hastily built corrugated metal shelters. Lower still, an underground world of tunnels and sewers has become the filth-encrusted home of the city’s outcasts – citizens driven crazy by malfunctioning Sensation Engine memory implants.

Memory implants?

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That’s right. In 2084 in Neo-Paris, memories – those very personal recollections unique to you and I – are a commodity available to be bought and traded. The memories of the city’s citizens are all being recorded and stored by a corporation called Memorize, via devices implanted in every member of society, known as Sensation Engines, or Sensens, which appear as floating gadgets at the base of the neck.

Not only are memories sold at vending machines and traded in underground circles as a drug, they can also be removed from a person completely or changed to benefit other nefarious schemes… which is where our hero comes in: Nilin the memory hunter.

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A Story Told a Thousand Times, But With a Twist

After Memorize mysteriously wiped her memory clean (and therefore using the familiar ‘amnesia’ story trope), Remember Me sees Nilin begin her adventure in the depths of Neo-Paris as she tries to recall the people and places of her previous life, while rebuilding her repertoire of fighting moves to journey back into society and discover the truth behind her memory wipe.

Why did Memorize remove Nilin’s memories in the first place? Was the company scared of her power or did she learn something she shouldn’t have? As Nilin works with new and old friends, she’ll get to the bottom of the mystery while taking advantage of her abilities as a memory hunter to get there.

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Combat in Remember Me is entirely melee focussed, using the fighting system popularised by the Arkhamverse Batman games as a template, but building from there. It’s not uncommon to face off against half a dozen enemies at once, ranging from the crazed Leaper or monstrously strong Skinner, or more armoured foes like soldiers with shock sticks. You’ll be able to punch and kick your way to winning a fight with a combination of two buttons, but if you see an indicator over at enemy’s head, you’ll need to dodge out of the way of an incoming attack with the press of the jump button.

In Remember Me, you’re actively encouraged not to button mash but instead very deliberately and methodically input a sequence of correctly timed punches and kicks to attack enemies. Similar to a training mode in a head-to-head fighting game, the series of buttons you’re pressing is shown on-screen to make it clear if you’re successfully chaining a combo together, which is important when you’ve spent time creating your own moves list in the game’s ‘Combo Lab.’

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The Sweet Science of Combos

The Combo Lab in Remember Me allows you to craft attack combinations of your choosing, and as Nilin ‘remembers’ more attacks by levelling up and purchasing more moves, you can create more intricate and effective combo strings. These moves are called ‘Pressens,’ and are split up into the categories of ‘Power,’ ‘Regen’ and ‘Cooldown,’ all available to be mixed and matched in a single combination.

If you have a Power heavy combo you’ll do more damage, while a Regen specific combo will earn you more health once you successfully land that combination of attacks on an enemy. A Cooldown heavy combo, meanwhile, will let you more quickly access special signature moves, called S-Pressens – after using one of these extremely powerful moves it’ll take some time before they’re ready for use again, so reducing the cooldown is an effective way of rapidly taking advantage of their power again and again.

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Each category – Power, Regen and Cooldown – are very important to use during a fight in different situations, so it’s vital that you include them in your combos to begin with, but as Remember Me progresses you’ll be able to create dozens of unique combinations allowing you the freedom to specialise your attacks for maximum effectiveness – the longer the combo, the greater the impact, but with increased risk in pulling off the entire string of moves.

The ability to craft combinations of moves is a unique one and the need to methodically use specific combos at specific times during a fight will ultimately lead to more rewarding combat encounters, as opposed to other brawlers where button mashing will work just as well as deliberate button pressing. Finishing off particularly tough enemies can be delivered by way of a stylish and brutal ‘Overload’ takedown to act as a coup de grace and reward for your patient fighting.

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Whoa, Whoa, Whoa – Break it Up!

Remember Me doesn’t solely rely on combat to move the game forward, but also includes Uncharted-style platforming and exploration, with walls to climb, poles and ladders to zip up and down, and ledges to shimmy across, while robots floating in the environment will also act as suitable objects to leap onto and take for a short ride to your destination.

Nilin’s own Sensen implant will let you know where to go next and which ledges are climbable, while also cluing you into dangerous obstacles like electricity. Remember Me’s platforming sections will keep you on your toes as moving objects and other hazards do their best to hamper progress, meaning you’ll need to time your movements to get past.

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Remember Me extends the theme of memory sharing with technology called ‘Remembranes,’ digital recordings of another person’s movement and actions, only shown in real life and appearing as a ghostly image. In one mission, I was helped along by a particularly obliging memory hacker who had plotted a route for me to circumvent serious dangers in my path, with pass codes for doors and other information related to me via these eerie recordings, all without the hacker needing to be with me for the journey.

If you happen to feel a bit lost while traversing the slums and city streets of Neo-Paris, a helpful ‘Aug Eye’ prompt appears to push you in the right direction, but if you’re keen to explore and search for secret items you’ll be rewarded for your treasure hunting antics. An underground group called the Errorists have helpfully left clues around the world detailing locations of upgrade parts that will improve your abilities, so it’ll be worth your while to follow the clues in the long run.

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Erase and Rewind – I’ve Changed My Mind

Unbelievably, Remember Me’s suite of gameplay and story-telling innovations doesn’t stop with the Combo Lab because there’s one more very important trick we need to discuss: Memory Remixing.

In Nilin’s previous life, she was a memory hunter without compare – an elite agent admired and feared in equal measure. With the use of a special glove, Nilin is able to reach into the mind of a target to see special hidden memories and change them as she sees fit, which can have dramatic and catastrophic effects on the psyche of her target. Presented in a clinical dream-like digital space, memory remixing sequences reveal a specific series of events as remembered by the person who holds these memories.

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Using Nilin’s powers, and by rotating the left stick of your controller backwards and forwards, you’re able to effectively rewind and fast-forward through a given memory to search for objects that you can manipulate – glitches – that will change the events of that memory. The first time you’re given the opportunity to remix a memory, it’s necessary to change the outcome of a risky hospital procedure so that your target’s husband ends up dying in his bed, erasing the memory of his survival.

This example was easy enough to work through, requiring me to fastforward through the memory to find the correct objects to manipulate in sequence and ensure the husband is given the wrong treatment, but I can see future remixing challenges becoming much more intricate and complex – in a good way – with adventure game like puzzle solving as you mix and match the manipulation of different objects to reach a specific goal.

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The simple act of moving an object out of the reach of a person in the memory, or taking the safety off of a gun, can have dire consequences and it’s truly impressive to see the ripple effect of a single action dynamically play out as you fast-forward and rewind the memory and then let it naturally progress. I can definitely see the idea of Memory Remixing capturing the imagination of the gaming populace once Remember Me is available, as we discuss the different methods that we all took to reach the same objectives.

A Thoughtful Production

While Remember Me’s visible innovations lie in its gameplay and the story-telling technique of Memory Remixing, the game’s music is across the board superb and swells to sweeping orchestral compositions at dramatic moments, and appropriately fades into the background while still managing to add character to the city of Neo-Paris. The game’s theme of memory splicing finds its way into the compositions, too, making for an altogether unique sci-fi, alien soundscape.

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Small details like camera pans to showcase a living, breathing city beyond your own location make the world feel much larger and the adventure more epic than you might at first believe, but the questions Remember Me may ask of you will stay with you for longer than even these inspiring visions.

In a world bathed in social media destinations where your life and the lives of others are detailed and documented with snapshots of personal moments in photos, videos and blog posts for all to see, how much information do you want to share with the world? Are your own memories up for grabs, or should those remain personal? And how much of an impact could the removal or modification of your own memories have on you?

We may just find out in Remember Me.

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Remember Me is due out on June 4th in North America and June 7th in Europe and the UK, across Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.

Don’t miss El33tonline’s extensive previous coverage of Remember Me for trailers, collections of screenshots and other details.