When we think about the future, we typically wonder what video game consoles might be like 50 years from now. But after an hour of hands-on time with Remember Me, an upcoming sci-fi action adventure by new developer Dontnod Entertainment, we can't help but ponder the inevitable evolution of society as a whole. If Remember Me's fiction is any indication of the future, social networking will completely take over--to the point where we'll allow corporations to access our most private memories in exchange for the ability to digitally download and share them with others.
Remember Me follows an elite memory hunter named Nilin, whose memory has been wiped for reasons unknown. Nilin is very special in that she has the unique ability to completely change the memories of others. Our hands-on session included Arkham-esque battles, grandiose Uncharted-like set pieces, and a slew of awesome memory-altering cinematic puzzles. If you're not already excited for Remember Me, you should be--it's one of our most anticipated games of 2013 for good reason. Here's everything you need to know about Nilin, Neo-Paris, and the cyberpunk future of mankind.
Memory sharing is all the rage
In Remember Me's 2084 Neo-Paris setting, mankind has willingly adopted the use of neural implants, called sensation engines, or "Sensen Machines." Anyone equipped with a Sensen Machine (which is pretty much everyone) has access to a virtual HUD of the real world, and is marked by a strange icon that hovers just above the nape of their necks. More importantly, Sensen Machines allow memories to be digitally recorded and shared with others. But the consequences of doing so paint a harrowing dystopian picture, where beggars plead to borrow happy memories to subvert their loneliness and those who indulge in a few too many memory cocktails become crazed empty shells with no grasp on reality.
There's also another unfortunate side effect of memory sharing: Memorize, the company that owns Sensen Machine technology, is privy to all of our deepest secrets. Some folks--namely the Errorists, a resistance faction dedicated to ending such a massive invasion of privacy--aren't too keen about this, and openly oppose the surveillance state mandated by the use of Sensen.
Nilin joins the Errorists in hopes of recovering her lost memories
Our demo opened in the dank ruins of the abandoned Nation metro station, home of the Leapers. These humans-turned-psychopaths bear a striking resemblance to BioSock's Splicers, and are utterly creepy in the way they pace back and forth and murmur to themselves. For reasons unexplained, a host of coffins washed up on a nearby shore, each with a corpse inside. Some were even still alive--new Leapers, freshly declared brain dead.
But one of the coffins held a different surprise: Nilin. She awoke to a small crowd of Leapers infuriated by her presence. That's when she was contacted by Edge, the leader of the Errorists, who instructed her on how to take on the violent monsters.
Combat is similar to that of the Batman: Arkham games...
Nilin's memory wipe apparently didn't extend to muscle memory, as she's an incredibly talented martial artist. The battles we played were mostly small encounters with groups of three to five enemies, and they focused on nailing attack combos in conjunction with dodging telegraphed enemy strikes. They often reminded us of encounters with thugs in the Arkham titles, though the fights in our preview build weren't quite as polished as Batman's bouts.
The battles were flashy, as Nilin utilizes a variety of punches and kicks in her melee arsenal, and the way she dodges enemies is contextual based on your distance to an attacking foe. Nilin rolls out of the way of ranged attacks and avoids close-quarters punches by flipping over an opponent's head. Watching her vault over an enemy was an amusing spectacle that made each battle feel like a choreographed dance.
...and you can create custom combos
Most action games present you with a limited number of combos to keep fights from becoming too repetitive. But in Remember Me, you'll have to build all of Nilin's combo attacks from scratch via the Combo Lab. This is done through the use of Pressens, which are essentially attack modifiers that can be equipped to each strike in a combo chain; in addition to imbuing each blow with a special bonus, they'll even change up which face buttons are required to complete a chain.
Some Pressens, for example, are power attacks, while others allow you to replenish some health upon landing a blow. Best of all, you can edit these combos mid-fight to tailor them to
the situation at hand. During one boss battle, we had to make use of the power Pressens to penetrate the otherwise unbreakable guard of a powerful enemy. Each time you level up through battling enemies, you can unlock an additional Pressen for building longer combo chains.
You can inject memories into the minds of enemies to short circuit their brains
Once we got the hang of building our own combos and dodging enemy attacks, we were downing enemies like it was nobody's business. That's when we stumbled across a delightful surprise. As Nilin recovers bits of her memory, she unlocks powerful abilities that you can use during battle to increase your chances of survival.
One of these was a special attack called Memory Overload, which allowed Nilin to plunge her hand through the glowing interface of an enemy's Sensen Machine and flood his brain with memories until he dropped dead. We're not sure what triggered this finishing move, exactly, but holy mother of pearl was it awesome to behold.
It isn't all about the action, though
After putting down the Leapers with Edge's aid, Nilin was tasked with escaping the slums of Neo-Paris to meet up with a contact of the resistance. To ascend the dumpy, hostile landscape, we had to do a lot of climbing and platforming.
Ledges that could be climbed were clearly marked via the Sensen interface, which acted as a HUD of sorts. The climbing animations looked like a cross between Uncharted and Assassin's Creed; each step was calculated, but Nilin would occasionally leap for distanced surfaces. There were plenty of cinematic moments, too, as drainage pipes and other seemingly stable bits of the environment would crumble under her weight. These moments kept the tension high during moments that would otherwise feel uninteresting.
Neo-Paris has a cyberpunk vibe
After exiting the gloomy slums inhabited by the poor (and the Leapers), we finally found ourselves on the streets of Neo-Paris. The attention to detail here was astounding; surrounding buildings were of current-day design, but adorned with the all sorts of video screens and futuristic propaganda.
The backdrop was filled with street vendors selling all sorts of goods--the Sensen implementation here was really neat, displaying the type of product each vendor sold in an electronic pop-up interface--while storefronts advertised memory-selling services straight out of Total Recall. All of this was purely aesthetic. You can't actually buy anything from these merchants, but their existence lent a bit of personality and palpability to the setting.
Memory manipulation plays a huge role (and is awesome)
At one point in the demo, Nilin is captured at knifepoint by a bounty hunter--apparently, someone knew she was alive and wanted her dead. This is where Remember Me's most novel mechanic, Memory Remixing, came in. These events are cinematic puzzles in which Nilin dives into someone's subconscious and alters a specific memory to her advantage.
Each memory starts off as a cutscene, displaying how things really went down. From there, you can rewind the cutscene in real time in search of "glitches," which indicate something can be altered. Changing the correct combination of events results in an entirely new memory--but if you alter too many things (or not enough), the Remix can fail, presenting tertiary situations that, while game ending, are still immensely fascinating to watch. In the case of the bounty hunter, performing a Memory Remix turned her from foe to friend, and Nilin escaped her clutches alive. The whole setup totally recalls Inception.
As Dontnod's freshman offering, Remember Me is poised to impress. It's got stylish combat, a unique build-your-own-combo system, and plenty of cinematic exploration. What do you hope to see from the game? Are you excited? Let us know in the comments below.
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