The best science fiction doesn't just tell a story, but weaves one with a potent message about the times and places we currently live in.
Film buffs will know that Ridley Scott's Aliens is as much about the horrors of sexual violence as it is about space critters. Joe Haldeman's The Forever War may tell the story of space marines travelling through time dilation to fight distant alien monsters, but it's also a palpable parable on the rigours of the Vietnam War and the disillusionment faced by returning soldiers rebuffed and alienated by their country.
Remember Me seeks to butter its sci-fi toast with the same lofty intellectual margarine, with a story as much about social networks and the fears of the digitising of our identities as it is about a dystopian future with sleekly attractive females punching up the bad guys.
In the world of Neo-Paris 2084 the idea of sharing our experiences through digital means is taken a scary few steps further. Forget 'poking' your mates on Facebook or sharing snaps of your hols on Instagram. Mega-corporation Memoreyes has developed a Sensory Engine (or Sensen), a device which attaches to the back of a person's head and digitises their memories.
Rather than tell someone about a concert you raved at or of the birth of your child, you can give them your memories. This has a massive knock-on effect on society, not least for heroine of the piece Nilin, a cast aside memory hunter, capable of stealing these memories, who finds herself drawn into a battle against the overseeing forces of Memoreyes.
Core to the fore
We start off our hands on playthrough deep within the bowels of the city. Nilin has just escaped the Bastille, the pimped up prison where she's mysteriously been held captive after a memory wipe. A group of Leapers, warped and mutated people affected by too many memory implants, discover her in a capsule floating down the grimy sewer works and sets her free, thinking they will find another freakish addition to their less than merry band of disfigured crackpots. We're thrown into combat.
From the outside looking in it'd be easy to assume that Remember Me's gameplay is a casual experience, boasting as it does Uncharted-like traversal, with a set linear route to follow. A few minutes into a combat scenario, however, and we realise it really isn't. Button mashing gets you nowhere. Equally, looking down at a combo bar displayed at the bottom of the screen doesn't help you either as you try out your custom created combos. Refreshingly, you have to watch the screen, look at what Nilin and the enemies around her are up to, and then time your strikes accordingly.
A mini-boss fight cements this for us as we're forced to take out a few regular Leapers who are helping power up a larger one. Chaining health regeneratingPressens (unlockable fighting moves) keeps our health above zero while we deal out damage with power Pressens. It's a disarmingly complex system with depth that threatens to alienate as much as enrapture.
In Seine in the membrane
But back to that world. Neo-Paris ticks all the right dystopian boxes. We scale the sides of run down buildings and make our way towards The Leaking Brain, a decrepit bar run by an old friend. Memory junkies lay sprawled in dark alleys and rats scurry underfoot as the extravagant Parisian mid and upper districts' structures scale above us. It's impossible to ignore the fantastic audio design.
At one point we're treated to an epic vista of opulent Parisian architecture, accompanied by a crescendo of orchestral might and hopeful passion, before being scrambled into a Leaper fight where the meaty thwacks of our attacks complement the shuddering electronic glitches of the ever evolving aural soundscape.
Remember Me boasts a unique third pillar of gameplay, the act of memory manipulation itself. We've played games in which you can alter the past, Chrono Trigger, Shadow of Memories, FF XIII-2, but here you alter only the perception of the past. We're warned of a Bounty Hunter, Olga Sedova, out for our necks, but when she catches up with us we alter her memories and end up joining forces.
It all feels a little morally wrong, as it should. If the full game can live up to Dontnod's incredibly ambitious ideas, we'll be remembering this one for some time to come.