Cyberpunk Lara Croft: Remember Me reviewed

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Few games come along with the grand promises that Remember Me makes. The pitch is that, in the game’s futuristic world, everybody has a digital memory powered by something called a Sensen. This device can be used to plug in new memories, or extra old ones for safekeeping. Then there’s the company that makes the Sensen – the aptly named Memorize – which is, wait for it, an evil corporation.

All of this is established in the intro video, and within the first 5 minutes of the game. So don’t worry, nothing is being spoiled.

You play the role of Nilin, one of the world’s foremost memory hunters. In this dystopian future, it seems, memories are currency. If you can steal them, you get access to crucial information. The game has sections where you steal memories, advancing the plot as you do. Nilin also has a powerful glove that can jack into another person’s Sensen, giving her direct access to their memories. Using this, she can remix memories: make people remember things differently to how they did, which affects the psyche of their present self. For instance, making somebody they did something awful overloads them with guilt and they hand themselves in to the police. That, in turn, removes them as an obstacle in your plot for world domination.

Gorgeous visuals depict a gritty Neo Paris, the future city Remember Me is set in.
Gorgeous visuals depict a gritty Neo Paris, the future city Remember Me is set in.

Except Nilin isn’t bent on domination. Spurred on by an unknown character named Edge, who’s tapped into her Sensen, she escapes from the Memorize facility where her brain was about to be wiped. That’s when the game’s approximately – and disappointingly short – 10-hour story begins.

Playing sort of like Tomb Raider or Uncharted, with much less polish and perfection, Remember Me will be familiar to many. Instead of guns and bombs Nilin uses parkour, light stealth, and hand-to-hand combat to defeat her foes. The combo system is basic at first, allowing for only a simple three-hit attack. As you progress you’ll unlock more advanced combinations, each consisting of a sequence of X and Y (or square and triangle on the PS3) button presses. For instance, one advanced combination requires you to press Y Y Y X X X X Y. There’s an on-screen cue to help you, and executing the entire sequence is both satisfying and effective. Doing so is an exercise in frustration, though.

Enemies in the game aren’t particularly smart – defeating them is just a case of recognising their patterns – but you’ll often get interrupted mid-combo by one of their attacks. You can get hit, which breaks your combo. Or you can dodge it, which does the same. Apparently it’s possible to dodge and continue the combo, but that never happened once in a single play-through.

The combinations can also be customised – each X and Y button press can have a different move tied to it. Killing enemies acquires experience points, and with enough points you unlock Pressens – or different attacks. A Pressen could be a type of kick, a jab, or an uppercut. There are four different types of Pressen – attack, regenerative, recuperative, and chain.

Attacks do the most damage, regenerative moves will help recover health, recuperative movies reduce the cool-down time for special attacks, and chain Pressens will amplify the damage of your last attack. If this sounds very complex, that’s because it is. Even the menu screen for customising your combinations and managing Pressens isn’t self-explanatory and it takes about 30 minutes of fooling around to figure things out.

Yeah, you try figure this out in a hurry.
Yeah, you try figure this out in a hurry.

With all this tricky combat, which makes up the majority of the action, it’s disappointing that the memory stealing and remixing portions of the game aren’t exciting. Stealing memories is as simple as sneaking up to an enemy and pushing an action button. Remixing memories is like a mini-game of its own. You see the original memory play out and then you get to rewind the memory, slowly, looking for glitches – because Sensen memories are digital. Once you find a glitch you can change it – whether it’s moving a cup, or unlocking the safety on a gun. It’s not as blatant as manipulating characters, though. Well executed, but very linear. There’s only ever one outcome for a memory remix.

Much like the rest of the game, then. While the game’s premise was that of stealing and remixing memories, you can only do that to predetermined people in the plot – and there are very few remix sequences in the game. You can’t walk around screwing with the memories of pedestrians. In fact, interaction with the world is extremely limited. You can only climb certain ledges and poles. Despite augmented reality overlays showing that shops are open or closed, or selling food, you cannot wall in and buy things. The presentation is gorgeous, but misleading. Also flawed, with clunky controls and animations often forcing mistakes that more polished games wouldn’t make players suffer for.

One of the few memory remix scenes.
One of the few memory remix scenes.

Ironically, Remember Me and its 10-hour plot are ultimately forgetful. It also overreaches with its social commentary, never quite making a succinct point that leaves gamers wondering about the world. With no mechanic for multiplayer there’s no real replay value, either, unless you want to return to levels for collectibles.

It’s a fun romp, but wait for this to hit the bargain bin instead of splashing out full price on it.

Remember Me, by Capcom
Available on Xbox 360, PS3, PC
The good: Great visuals, superb presentation, interesting plot
The bad: Clunky controls, extremely linear, complex fighting combinations
Rating: 8/10

Christo van Gemert

Christo van Gemert

Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.