Launching a AAA video game title in today’s market is no small task for publishers and developers alike. In a market glutted with sequels to venerated franchises, it can prove a sometimes Sisyphean task for new IPs to break through and actually make it to the marketplace. Such is the challenge faced by Remember Me, a futuristic action-adventure game coming from Dontnod Entertainment and Capcom on June 4th. Set in a dystopian cyberpunk vision of Paris, aptly called Neo-Paris, in 2084, Remember Me‘s core conceit revolves around probably-up-to-no-good mega-corporation Memorize, which has invented a new brain implant called the Sensation Engine (a.k.a. Sensen), enabling 99% of the population to upload and share their actual memories on the Internet, something akin to as if Isaac Asimov had designed Facebook.
Obviously, this level of control over the populace, coupled with corporate greed, leads to the creation of a surveillance state and, in turn, the rise of rebel groups known as “Errorists” determined to take down Memorize. Much like we’re glued to our cell phone screens today, this new technology has the unfortunate side effect of creating Leapers, memory-addicted humans who have absorbed and downloaded so many memories that their own Sensation Engine has degraded, mutating them into mindless subhumans living in the sewers of Neo-Paris. And unlike the mutants of Futurama, these memory Morlocks are anything but friendly. Sounds pretty grim, right? Don’t worry – it gets worse (or better depending on how you look at it). Remember Me places you in the formidable shoes of Nilin, a memory hunter under Memorize’s employ, specializing in stealing or altering memories. Well, that is, until Memorize decides to wipe her memory. Now, Nilin is on the run, and finds herself allied with the Errorists in a life-or-death battle against the malicious Memorize in a last ditch effort to recover her memories and save the world.
After getting some hands-on time with the game, I found myself quite impressed. Playing like a mixture of Assassin’s Creed-style parkour, Metal Gear Rising-esque kinetic action, and DmC‘s combo-oriented combat, Remember Me feels at once familiar and brand new. In no time, you’ll find yourself backflipping and roundhouse-kicking your way through throngs of memory-addled mutants in the sewers of Paris, which look prettier than any sewer system I’ve been in recently. The game commits hard to its gritty, Orwellian cyberpunk aesthetic and pulls it off rather well. Remember the feeling you had when you saw Los Angeles in Blade Runner for the first time? It’s a bit like that.
On a superficial level, the combat system consists of your standard X- and Y-based melee attacks and dodging, but the combo system is a horse of another color entirely. Revolving around a feature called the Combo Lab, the system lets you customize and create up to four different combo moves of varying length, which will have different effects and results depending on what types of moves you string together. Despite its “easy to learn” appearance, the Combo Lab packs a surprising amount of depth. Starting with three-movie combos and a handful of attacks, the player will gradually unlock more varieties and options as you gain experience points and defeat enemies. With four types of moves to choose from – power, regen, chain and cooldown – this system could prove intensely addictive for those of you out there obsessed with the minutiae of min/maxing.
Our play session took place near the game’s outset, so unfortunately we weren’t able to experiment with some of the Combo Lab’s more robust options, and the combat felt a little button mash-y at times. That being said, it was still a blast to play, as the fluid, responsive controls had me jumping around and laying the beatdown on lurking Leapers like a disgruntled Cirque du Soleil performer. Although I quite enjoyed my time playing the game, I found myself with some leftover questions, so I reached out to Dontnod’s creative director Jean-Maxime Moris to talk about the challenges inherent to launching a new IP, the original controversy surrounding the game’s protagonist, and crafting Remember Me‘s distinct visual aesthetic.
Nerdist: In a market glutted with sequels to existing franchises, what are some of the challenges in launching a new AAA title like Remember Me?
Jean-Maxime Moris: Releasing a new IP brings with it both challenges and opportunities. Certainly launching towards the end of a hardware cycle means you will be vying for attention against established franchises, but the onus is then on the developer to deliver something fresh and interesting. With Remember Me, we have a number of things that we feel make our game stand out from the crowd – a very strong visual style; a unique setting; a combination of combat, exploration and memory gameplay mechanics; and a compelling narrative that explores themes we believe will resonate well with gamers. The other advantage we have launching now is that, as developers, we have had over seven years to come to grips with the hardware and can really realize their full potential, plus there are a lot of consoles out there, so more people to potentially purchase Remember Me.
N: What can you tell us about the world of Remember Me?
JMM: Remember Me takes place in our vision of 2084, and specifically the city of Neo-Paris. Neo-Paris isn’t your typical cyberpunk world with dejected, downtrodden citizens living in a monotone city, but that’s not to say all is well in the world. In Remember Me, all citizens have an implant known as the Sensen, which records all their memories and then allows them to be shared, sold or traded with others. At the head of this new memory society is Memorize, a corporation that holds all this data and, with it, great power. The majority of Neo-Paris‘ citizens don’t care about how their innermost thoughts and experiences are being exploited, as the “cool” benefits outweigh the perceived threat to individual freedom. However, there is a group known as the Errorists who are fighting back against Memorize, and players will get to take on the role of Nilin, a former elite memory hunter, as she attempts to take down Memorize and, in doing so, recapture her own memory.
N: The game has a very distinct cyberpunk-influenced look. Tell us about the design process and crafting the visual aesthetic of the world of Remember Me.
JMM: As previously mentioned, while Remember Me has cyberpunk elements, it is not completely typical of the genre. Our guiding principle in creating the look and feel of Remember Me was to ensure that Neo-Paris was firmly rooted in the here-and-now while at the same time delivering futuristic elements. Looking at the city itself, you will see familiar Parisian landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and typical Haussmanian architecture alongside all new elements to create our vision of Neo-Paris in 2084. This approach is also replicated with the game’s characters, so if you look at Nilin, you will see she wears a contemporary pair of jeans and a jacket but we combine this with futuristic gloves and boots.
We feel that this mix of the familiar alongside futuristic elements will help introduce players to the world of Remember Me and the story we are telling.
N: I understand that publishers originally balked at the game due to its female lead. Why was that the case and what’s changed?
JMM: Some publishers feel a male protagonist is more suited for an action adventure title. At Dontnod we believe that there are only two types of characters: good ones and bad ones. Gender is absolutely irrelevant. When we met with Capcom, it wasn’t an issue for them, so this open-mindedness was a relief.
N: The game features fairly robust customization options in terms of how you build and structure combos. What was the impetus behind putting so much control in the player’s hands?
JMM: We wanted to elevate the combat and make it one of the key elements of the gameplay experience, not just a simplistic button mashing system, so we spent a long time experimenting before we came up with the Combo Lab. The Combo Lab provides a second layer of depth to the game’s combat system, with the goal of encouraging players of all abilities to experiment with different combinations and find the best combo for each combat situation.
Remember Me comes to PS3, Xbox 360 and PC on June 4th. What do you think of Remember Me? Let us know in the comments below!