Henceforth, all discussions on the craft of video game settings are legally obligated to include Remember Me, an otherwise stock sci-fi actioner set in an astonishing world.
The year is 2084. Held under Orwellian surveillance by corrupt state officials, the citizens of Neo-Paris have forfeited confidentiality in exchange for the convenience of technology. They've even given up memories. Now, cherished recollections are commodities, bought, sold, and bartered. This is where Nilin steps in.
As a so-called Memory Hunter, Nilin can break into people's brains to loot, alter and overload. Fearful of this power, her former employer Memorize wipes her slate and locks her up. Nilin's escape from head-sapping mega jail, Bastille, kick-starts a journey of revolution and rediscovery: of who she is, of what she knows, and of just how much damage a Memhunter can do to Big Brother.
Disappointingly, this tempting gambit soon gives out to the ordinary. You will, for instance, spend a large part of Remember Me fighting - a door opens, a feisty rabble piles in, and a scrap ensues within a large, flat space. Such sections make little sense plotwise, but they do offer fleeting glimpses of innovation.
Combos are customisable, letting you set each strike on a chain of up to eight. Four different effects, called Pressens, enhance these strikes. Down on health? Slap all your red regenerative Pressens into one combo. Need to cut the cool-down of your special moves? Use the blue ones instead. Combos can be mixed-and-matched to suit circumstance.
Enemies are nuisances, however, constantly disrupting flow with weedy jabs, and while you can dodge them to continue combos, in the hubbub it's common to inadvertently tag a straggler and break the chain. The alternative doesn't necessarily have to be comical queues waiting patiently to get punched; Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham Asylum circumvented the problem by making enemies mostly attack between moves.
Disappointingly, the promise of its world soon gives way to ordinary combat
Fights steadily demand more from you. First come Leapers; deranged slum denizens who charge at you whilst throwing out disturbing soundbites like "The flies hate me." They vary from standard biters and scratchers, to charging 7ft monstrosities, to ghoulish invisibles who need luring into light. Then come burly, baton-wielding S.A.B.R.E. troops with bigger health bars, pursuing you throughout in a nod to Minority Report. Towards the middle are sleek Gundam-esque air drones which you'll pound from distance with projectiles when their shields momentarily drop. And by the end, it's simultaneous fisticuffs with everyone.
If fighting is half the game, platforming is the other. Clambering over solar-panelled Neo-Parisian rooftops, down flooded slums and grimy fish markets, and through steel and chrome industrial sectors, is visually arresting but distinctly lacking in peril or dynamism. The next ledge is always highlighted by necessary but perfunctory yellow icons, and unlike Uncharted or Tomb Raider, moving parts are minimal - the odd steam vent or rotating billboard.
In fairness, there is some wriggle room between fighting and jumping. Remembranes, for example, let you retrace a ghostly memory's steps to open locked doors. Memory Remixes are better. Mixing Inception with a little Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, it's all about planting an idea. Want to convince a man he killed his wife? Rewind to the start of his memory and take the safety catch off that gun on the coffee table. Sadly, Memory Remixes are fleeting, brilliant but underused. Instead? More fighting and jumping.
Often you'll feel like packing it in to just go and walk around - but the wandering you'll do is mostly in a straight line. In the seedy Slum 404, 'i, Robot'-style hooker bots wait suggestively on dimly lit street corners. In the affluent district of Saint Michel, they wait tables instead. ATM points offer the chance to relive your best memories, while dodgy pawn shops let you cash them in, no questions asked. Historic landmarks like Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe stand steadfast against encroaching waves of gleaming glass and neon. Meanwhile, a codex details concepts unable to be baked into the skyline, from otherwordly residential projects to the great European Civil War of the 2040's.
There are visionary ideas here - but they're hamstrung by a lot of fighting
It's a vision of tomorrow's world, using today's technological horizons as a jumping-off point. Overt and occasionally clumsy references do stand out for the wrong reasons: your gun is a 'Spammer', for example, and you rendezvous with a man called Bad Request, and moves have names like DOS and Logic Bomb. But if nothing else, though, Remember Me offers a prescient glimpse of how a toilet might look 70 years from now (answer: very angular).
So, while Remember Me remains fictionally fresh with a finger on the pulse, its visionary ideas soon give way to a less inspiring reality: an ambitious world hamstrung by an overbearing reliance on jumping and scrapping.
Combat and platforming are the least interesting parts of Remember Me, and they're what you'll be doing most. Though Neo-Paris is unforgettable, your journey through it isn't.
- Memory Remixes play like Inception meets Ghost Trick
- Explores hot-button issues like surveillance and social media
- A visionary world you want to explore...
- ... but you'll rarely get the chance to
- Combat frustrates, even on easy