“Remember to Live, Live to Remember” – the company slogan for Memorize; a corporation wearing the innocent façade of a service provider, the inventors of the Sensen brain implants that allow citizens of 2084′s Neo-Paris to store and even share their memories. Under that guise is the reality; Memorize want control, and by having access to all of your memories, they have it. I would never give that sort of power to anyone, but I did give my time – a substantial 4 hours of it – to Remember Me (Xbox 360 version), just a few days ago. I played approximately 40-50% of the game – 4 Chapters – so I’ve got a lot to tell you, without important spoilers of course. However, I will be touching upon certain events for context.
Nilin was a memory hunter; the best around. That was until Memorize wiped her own memory. The game begins with the player taking control of Nilin within the Bastille compound where Memorize do their dirty work. She is being processed for residual memory clearing as she showed minor resistance to the initial procedure. As you plod along, following the path made by a flying bot, you get a glimpse into the facility and what exactly goes on away from the public eye. It’s practically torture. Thankfully, an unfamiliar man named Edge comes through on Nilin’s Sensen implant, hacks into their security to cause a distraction, opens a gate and directs Nilin to an escape route, by way of…a coffin?!
Dumped into the slums of Neo-Paris, the coffins house the deformed results of Memorize’s “experiments”, some of which still live, but have become referred to as the grotesque Leapers – the most common enemy in the game. Nilin learns about them the hard way, stepping out of her temporary tomb and straight into combat. At this, the earliest stage of the game, only one combo is available to the player. The fight is a very basic introduction to the Combo Lab, which is how you customise your combos by assigning Pressens – inputs that adopt different characteristics unlocked over time. At first, Power Pressens – hits that do extra damage and can break certain blocks – are all you have to assign.
The input chain is pre-determined – in this case it’s a 3-hit combo (‘X’, ‘X’, ‘X’) – with the first Pressen taking on no special properties, but the above screenshot (although from much earlier in the game’s development) shows the potential progression of the system to the point where even the input chain may be customisable and certainly extend into the maximum 8-hit length for each of the four combos you progressively gain access to. In this play-through, I unlocked all four combos (3, 5, 6 and 7 hits) and Pressen types. Aside from the Power Pressen, you’ve also got the Regen Pressen (regenerate health upon landing), the Cooldown Pressen (shortens cooldown meter on special moves) and the Chain Pressen (takes on the properties of the last Pressen in the order and doubles its effect).
The longer a combo, the stronger and more effective it is…provided you can land them, of course. There is an XP system in place called the PMP – Procedural Master Points. Upon surpassing your current PMP threshold, you will acquire a Pressen Unlock – basically a key to unlocking one of a select group of Pressens. Pressen types, however, become available to you at set points in the story. If I had to compare the combat system to another game’s, it would be Arkham Asylum‘s; the execution is deliberately paced with each successive button press needing to be made at the point of impact of the last attack. A red exclamation point also displays over an enemy whose attack is imminent, which you can dodge/jump over by pressing ‘A’, allowing you to continue your combo without breaking the chain, which would otherwise happen.
Once we make our way out of the dirty, grimy underground, we receive that obligatory establishing shot of the city with a view into the distant skyscrapers, although it’s not as wondrous or classically beautiful as one might expect Paris to be. And Nilin’s not out of the slums just yet either. She’s been tasked with reaching the Leaking Brain – a run-down bar owned by Headache Tommy, supposedly a friend of the Errorists. Think of the Errorists as freedom fighters and Edge as their secretive leader, hiding out where Memorize can’t find him. The path to the Leaking Brain is not a cakewalk…Nilin encounters the Sabre Force for the first time – a private police force that is financed and works for Memorize.
The introduction of variations in enemy types is well paced for the most part, although they come on heavy in the later chapters. The general Sabre Force soldiers are just a simple as the Leapers, except they require more hits to take down. Leapers can also leap (go figure!) off of walls to strike from above, whereas these guys don’t have any particular special ability. Hitting them with power combos is highly effective and will result in opportunities for Overloads. An Overload is essentially a finisher that nets you extra PMP, executed by pressing ‘B’ when prompted. They involve Nilin doing just what the name suggests to the enemy’s Sensen implant, the visual being reminiscent of a gunshot to the head at close range; somehow quite impactful without any of the blood or gore.
This trek to the Leaking Brain isn’t just fraught with physical, combative obstacles, but traversal and environmental ones as well. Climbing upwards is as easy as pressing ‘A’, with climbable/grippable surfaces being indicated by an orange arrow. What I loved was the fact that specific parts of what make Neo-Paris unique as a landscape and location become part of the hurdles in getting from point A to point B. The prime example of this are the shutter-ads. Needing to shimmy across these billboard-like ads should be easy enough, but they flip panel by panel, showing another advertisement but also knocking Nilin off the top rim. There are also timed, electrified climbing hazards and even a little puzzle encountered a little later where you must organise and match up a climbing path of fluorescent tubes from a control panel.
Arriving at the bar, Headache Tommy gives a welcome greeting to Nilin, although Nilin has no recollection of the towering man. But not everyone is happy to see her; as Nilin sheds her prisoner garb and gets suited up, she is pounced upon by an assassin named Olga Sedova (seen above). In a ditch effort for survival, Nilin enters the assailant’s memories through her Sensen implant in order to remix one in particular: her motivation for carrying out this contract. It becomes clear that she is desperate to earn the bounty on Nilin’s head in order to pay for her dying husband’s (quite expensive) further treatment. While in ‘Memory Remix mode’, the player’s objective is to force David to kill the doctor from his earlier session.
It’s a very interesting concept; one that plays out in-game like a video tape playback that can be rewound or fast forwarded (by rotating the left analog stick in the appropriate direction). The difference here is that there are variables, or glitches, that can be altered – untying David’s wrist straps, loosening his oxygen mask and a few others. Your goal is to find and enact the right combination of occurrences in order to achieve your given objective. It’s a trial and error system, and along the way to the ultimate goal, you may cause some alternative events to occur (such as killing Olga instead!), but if it’s not the intended result, you will have to rewind and try again. After you are successful, Olga’s mind has been changed and she joins your cause.
Before I go any further, I ask you, what would an action-adventure game be without collectibles?! There are a few things to collect in your travels. Mnesist Memories are the equivalent of data-pad entries that give back-story into the world, its inhabitants and past events that shaped it. Errorist clues have also been left behind – digital images that point you towards pick-ups in the immediate area. Pick-ups included SAT Patches (collect 5 to receive an extra bar of health) and Focus Boosts (same deal, except it will add a bar to your Focus Meter). 90% of the time these can be found just by exploring naturally and without even looking at the clues. Finally, there are Scaramechs – weird, rotating, robo-scarab things…I don’t even know how to describe them. You will be tipped off to their presence by a distinct, fuzzy, radar blip-like sound and must dispatch of them with a few blasts from your Spammer, which is a long range weapon you acquire further down the road.
I want to touch upon a cool boss battle with one Kid X-mas (certainly a memorable name), as seen in the screen above. He has a televised show where he battles opponents one-on-one in a closed off arena, and Nilin is a surprise participant. I have previously brushed over your special moves – the S-Pressens – but one specifically becomes pivotal here. Sensen Fury is the first S-Pressen you acquire. It is a faster, automatically chained flurry that requires the player to simply mash either attack button while active. It breaks guards, does heightened damage and enables high combo streaks. It is the key to defeating Kid X-Mas, whose guard can be momentarily broken, but is deadly at both close and long range.
S-Pressens can be executed by holding ‘LT’ and selecting the move from the wheel with the left analog stick. Each S-Pressen uses up one focus bar and has their own cool-down meter. This is where strategy comes into play. Up until now, the depth of the combo lab has gone largely unnoticed and unexplored. But, with normal attacks not hurting Kid X-Mas, it’s wise to put together a combo that gives you back some health (as odds are he will hit you) while your cool-down meter for Sensen Fury reduces. He strikes in the middle of your combos, so you must constantly time dodges and jumps. He also attempts to keep you at a distance, shooting at you with his earlier-mentioned Spammer – which you take from his defeated person.
The Spammer can be used as a puzzle device (shooting floodlight controls to see phasing Leapers), to knock down jumpy Leapers off of walls or in mid-air, and can later be upgraded to shoot Junk Bolts – more highly powered shots that can break structural weaknesses in environments, break Sabre Force riot shields and significantly cripple robot enemies, such as the flying Nephilim. As for the other S-Pressen abilities there are 4 more, yet only three were attainable in this initial half of the game. They are the Sensen D.O.S (a radial blast that stuns all enemies in the vicinity), the Logic Bomb (an explosive planted on a chosen enemy that destroys riot shields, but can also be of detriment to Nilin if she is caught within its radius) and the Sensen R.I.P. (a mind control blast that turns chosen mechanical enemies into allies, before they snap out of it and self-destruct).
This is where I must cease as spoilers would ensue. Hopefully you got the general overview of the gameplay and what Remember Me is about. Personally, I came away from this preview wanting the game even more, which is the best thing both Capcom and I as a consumer could have hoped for. Remember Me is fresh and exciting. It may be a little rough around the edges at the moment (stuttering in the final cut-scene and audio bugs), but those issues will get ironed out, I’m sure. The landscape is gorgeous in that dystopian, sci-fi way and any qualms I had with the animations since its reveal amount to zilch after playing it and getting hands-on. There’s a great sense of progression, not only with Nilin and her abilities, but the enemy types and the combo lab is deep and never before seen. I can’t wait until June 6th to play the second half.