Thoughts on Capcom’s Remember Me
Our memories make us who we are. Day to day, we exist by calling upon electrical signals stored in our brains in order to function. What would happen if we couldn’t trust that stored data? What if it was stolen or even changed? Who, then, would we be?
“If remixing a single memory can change a man’s life, then changing a single man can remix the world.” Nilin, the main character of the upcoming game is the one quoted and she, as a memory thief, is proof that in this game world, who we are may not be as concrete as we wish.
This is the groundwork for Dontnod’s flagship game Remember Me and thanks to this incredible foundation, I’ve been going through trailer after trailer. Before I go any further, let me say that as a science fiction lover, I’m intrigued by the concept and core philosophy; as a geek, I’m gushing over the graphics and design of the setting in Neo-Paris in the year 2084; as a gamer, however, I’m a little concerned with the emphasis on story-telling.
If you were to guess who was responsible for publishing a game with this kind of basis, I doubt Capcom would be at the top of that list. The company has released some outstanding games, but very few are known for story. Gameplay, sure. Control, sure. Longevity, absolutely! Story?
However, before we get into concerns I’ll start with the good, because there’s a lot to be excited about. The setting and environment designs feel heavily influenced by Blade Runner, with a heavy dash of Deus Ex: Human Revolution for good measure; all neon lights flashing into dark alleys, seen through falling rain. Everything is both bright and dark at the same time, like only noir science-fiction can be.
In an opening scene of the game, Nilin is being helped by Edge, her brother, to break into a tall skyscraper that has gone into lockdown. However, in order to do so she needs access codes, which are contained in the mind of Captain Gabriel Trace. Unfortunately, she is found before she finds him (in a hover-copter no less) and thus the hunter has become the hunted.
Nilin strikes me as a potential flagship character. Through her interactions, you can tell she’s tough, constantly on edge and has just enough sarcasm to be entertaining. During sequences, there were perhaps one too many camera pans that focused on physical assets, but I’m still interested in learning more about her, despite the game’s desire to turn her into a pinup model.
Nilin comes across as someone used to being a predator. She clearly works in the shadows and her currency is other people’s memories. She wants to remain a hunter, and anyone who tries to turn her into the hunted seem to find themselves getting ‘remixed’, like what eventually happens to Captain Trace.
Remixing isn’t a passive event either. You, the player, get to take a direct role in changing people’s memories. Once Garbiel Trace has been eliminated, Frank Forlan takes over and seems to be stepping on your employers’ toes. Nilin is tasked to eliminate him, not with a gun, but with a special remix which will make him kill himself.
After you sneak by security, you use your ‘memory tool’ to jump into his head, and suddenly you’re a part of Forlan’s memories and it seems he has a troubled home life. The memory in question is about his girlfriend walking out on him. However, by selecting different items in an environment, like a bottle of booze or a gun, the player can make it such that Forlan remembers accidentally killing his girlfriend, instead of her simply walking out on him. Cue guilt for a loved one, and cue mission accomplished for Nilin who then exits stage left.
Remember Me has captured my attention and imagination, but there are those previously mentioned concerns. The gameplay doesn’t look bad by any stretch of the imagination, nor does it look anywhere near as dynamic or fresh as the game’s plot or design. There appears to be two general areas Remember Me focuses on. Arkham City-like combat and Uncharted-esque environmental traversal. The combat is clearly combo-based, although Nilin as far more acrobatic than the caped-crusader. She also has her ‘memory tool’ to assist her in combat. This tool is what allows her to remix people’s memories, but during a fight it appears it also allows her to turn opponents into living bombs, perform AoE stuns, and likely many more tricks. All these extra abilities are accessed by a radial wheel, much like the tools on Batman’s belt in the Arkham games.
Outside combat, her wrist-mounted tool also allows her to interact with her environment. The tool contains an electric tether which allows her to manipulate the environment, such as moving metal plates, dropping ladders, or hacking into electronics (such as giant fans). Mostly you will be moving stuff around to get further along your path. Dropping the metal plate, for example, will protect you from a hail of bullets so you can dash to safety.
Tool aside, Nilin’s acrobatic skills allow her to jump and climb her environment with ease, and it seems she will need those skills to be razor sharp. In the opening sequence of the game, for example, Captain Pierce is chasing after her with that hover-copter and shooting the entire time.
So why my trepidation? Many times during the demo, control is removed from the player to show a flashy cinematic. Jumping a ledge, for instance, can quickly transfer in a slow-motion jump to better display flying bullets, but has no direct player control.
In order to facilitate this kind of storytelling, the game will most likely be linear and scripted. I wouldn’t consider these qualities bad in the hands of other developers, but I’ve never considered Capcom’s strength to be storytelling. The company’s forte has always seemed to be the reverse: a simple and usually zany story, with deep and complex game mechanics. Yet Remember Me is quite possibly the exception to the norm. A deep and complex story, but simple gameplay that is, with the exception of memory remixing, reminiscent of other games.
However, all of these are concerns, not outright distaste. Capcom is the publisher for Remember Me, not the developer. More so, this is Dontnod Entertainment’s flagship game so they will be bringing a brand new perspective to the table. Finally, and most importantly, the game’s concept seems so fascinating that the science-fiction geek in me is pawing at a calendar, waiting for the release on all systems in May 2013.
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