Remember Me has been received with relatively mixed reviews. Many praise the game’s story and ingenuity while criticizing its mechanics and features. That’s all well and good but what many critics are neglecting is that Remember Me is an iconic (and likely to be the neglected) step for the cyberpunk genre.
You may be asking yourself, what is cyberpunk? It was a word coined by Gardner Dozois to describe William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer. Neuromancer is often regarded to be the archetype for most cyberpunk work. The genre focuses on high technology, such as information technology and cybernetics, wrapped around conflicts among hackers, AI’s, and mega-corporations that potentially bring a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order… but you could’ve looked all of that up on Wikipedia and found the same thing, so why am I telling you this?
Remember Me fits perfectly into the archetype of the cyberpunk genre. The main character, Nilin, is an alienated cybernetic ‘mind hacker’ who has been manipulated into a situation that she is forced to see until the end. With her mind almost completely wiped clean, Nilin works with the ‘Errorists,’ a group of rebels, to discover who she is/was and to bring down Memorize; a megacorporation that virtually controls Neo-Paris with their memory sharing/erasing network.
Cyberpunk protagonists are often tailored as a lone hero fighting injustice but in most cases, the protagonists are not heroes (that’s where the ‘punk’ part comes into play). They are forced into their current situation without choice and do not necessarily come out any better than they were before when all is said and done.
Nilin fits perfectly into that archetype. She manipulates or ‘remixes’ another person’s memories to her will. She has the ability to control, steal, and alter memories that can utterly transform an entire persons personality, mindset, and way of life into something more suitable to her cause. In most instances, she forces individuals to face the painful and false memories that she creates that not only can change who that person is but also can kill them or make them kill themselves. To make a more clear correlation to Gibson, she is even crippled of her abilities (as is the protagonist in Neuromancer) and must regain them as she works to unravel herself and the truth.
Without giving away spoilers, Nilin embarks on a journey that even mimics the Gibson archetype for cyberpunk plotlines. The story brings about an atmosphere eerily similar to film noir. Cutscenes of Nilin stopping for an inner monologue about her powers, actions, and choices are consistent throughout the game. She works against a megacorporation that inflicts immense control over the citizens of the dystopian Neo-Paris with the technology used beyond what the creators intended it for (aka Nilin’s ability to remix memories). Check out the interactive journal on the game’s website to get a full understanding of the world and narrative of Remember Me.
So why does all this matter? What’s the big deal about Remember Me fitting into the genre of cyberpunk?
The big deal is that cyberpunk is becoming a rather popular genre; in fact, I would go as for to say that it is potentially defining the next-generation of gaming. With the immense anticipation for games like Watch Dogs, Tom Clancy’s The Division, Titanfall, Killzone: Shadowfall, Mirror’s Edge 2 and even the blatantly titled Cyberpunk 2077, the cyberpunk genre has taken a strong foothold in the gaming community. Remember Me is the perfect first step towards the big leap into cyberpunk games, albeit, the game does not come without its flaws.
The story may be a riveting tale of cyberpunk goodness but the mechanics of the game can be a bit frustrating. The combat system works similarly to that of Batman: Arkham Asylum/Arkham City. Remember Me mixes up the gameplay by including the Combo Lab which always players to customize combos based on health regeneration, damage, combo chaining, and for cool-down periods.
With over 50,000 possible combinations, the combat system can be an in-depth adventure towards Nilin’s abilities; however, this can also cause a player to find a set of combinations and utilize nothing else but those combinations. The game does attempt to mix up enemies to force you to try new combos but, in most cases, it’s not hard to stick with your original development
The game also utilizes a climbing feature similar to that of Assassin’s Creed or Tomb Raider. They are like any other platformer where there’s a predetermined set path of obstacles and ledges that are highlighted for your gaming convenience.
The issue isn’t necessarily the linear path of ledges but the camera angles. The game sticks heavily to the cyberpunk nature of stylizing gameplay, combat, and the environment but the cinematic and awkward angles can confuse player controls and make it a disorienting and frustrating experience.
The benefit of the exploratory platforming feature is the overall exposure to the environment. Advertisements, signs, noises, buildings, and everything else you can imagine really enhance the experience. Heck, even the fighting has its own artistic pleasure. When Nilin is low on health, the screen begins to glitch, fragment, and become static-like until the player has regained health. Not to mention that alongside combat, exploration, and even dialogue there is a killer and distinct musical score happening alongside everything.
To be fair, Remember Me is a hidden gem that has most likely been lost in the haze of blockbusters and next-generation announcements. It may not be the perfect game (mechanics-wise) but introduces gamers into one hell of a cyberpunk experience. It is honestly a strong title for the genre and it certainly deserves more recognition than it’s been given.