Admittedly at first glance the most impressive thing about the Remember Me demo at this year’s PAX East was probably the Nilin cosplay walking around taking pictures with anxious gamers. Capcom does tend to have a history of putting together an underwhelming show floor presence; a little more promotional work and even some theatrics never hurt anyone. This is the exterior however; those who allow themselves into the heart of the booth can find hidden treasure. Lately Capcom has been putting up new IPs that are beginning to soothe the wounds of one franchise’s gradual demise (Resident Evil), and bolster another’s lingering prominence (Capcom fighters, i.e. Street Fighter/Marvel). Last Year Dragon’s Dogma surprised many gamers by being an impressively charming and coherent hybrid of western RPG and throwback D&D adventure and difficulty. This year gamers should keep an eye on Remember Me, Capcom’s next breakout waiting to happen in the genre of science-fiction.
While the demo had an intended beginning and a set end point, Capcom’s booth set-up is very drop-in drop-out. When picking up the controller at any given station you are essentially taking over where someone left off unless choosing to restart, which will typically bring gamers into a menu with a choice of scenarios to play through; just a handy tip for convention goers who may have been slighted by the lack of structure. Remember Me was fairly open ended however. Almost immediately you are able to navigate around Neo-Paris with Nilin. Traversal controls are simple and familiar; like Dragon’s Dogma Remember Me incorporates many tried and true gaming elements already introduced and seeks to make it their own.
There are subtle yet effective prompts when needing to leap gaps, climb structures, or need help with direction. Much of this “adventurer” style of movement is necessary as it appears like Neo-Paris has no streets; at least that’s how it seems you can play it. The city’s design reflects a very well realized regressed societal cyberpunk feel; most of the architecture sports scrap metal décor with neon signs, hovering drones, and original advertisements for alternate sources of everything from sports drinks to transportation. Hidden passages above the crowd are plentiful and Nilin moves through the shadows quite frequently. Of course there are moments where you can take the more traditional path, but where only the walkways of Neo-Paris can take you is not where’s worth being. Very few ledges, billboards, and buildings cannot be scaled in some form.
Combat is the very definition of free flowing, but is somehow effectively contained by a strict combo system. Nilin can seamlessly move between enemies while mixing up punches, kicks, and multi-directional dodges. Successfully carrying on a combo and gaining the bonuses involved however relies completely on your pinpoint timing of hitting the next button at just the right time. This will eventually become easier once you get your sense of timing down, but it can be particularly punishing once a new combo is learned or if focus is split between waves of foes. Many will appreciate the challenge involved in this, and it is quite satisfying to see the fruits of your efforts. Power-ups will also become available throughout gameplay including temporarily increasing speed, attack, defense, and special abilities to add to your offensive repertoire.
Remember Me’s soundtrack is simultaneously subtle and definitive. The minimalist approach to creating a mood through music has been a popular one in the past and must be done with care to succeed. The sound design shines through as a result as well; footsteps on metal grating and the groans of the less fortunate citizens that litter the alcoves of Neo-Paris are never missed. Crackles in the air around electronics give the atmosphere a very techy feel. The only time the music really picked up into the foreground was during encounters where Nilin was thrust into combat; a situation where one’s mind is otherwise preoccupied with laying the smackdown as opposed to enjoying the ambiance.
Little is revealed about the story or about Nilin as a character through the gameplay portion of the demo, though constant contact with your partner in crime Edge accompanies you through much of your time running around the city. If you are ever stuck, chances are Edge has a tip for you. Her memory-jacking style of assassination we have seen in past trailers was not available to experiment with, but we are reminded of its presence in the compilation shown at the demo’s end.
Everything about the game we have seen through cinematic implies that Remember Me will break down doors for itself and push into the elite of this year’s already generous triple A offering. The gameplay gives the experience a more humble and scaled down feel, leaving me to wonder how well the two worlds will clash when the final product is released. Nilin and company could be hot on the formula for creating another brilliant hybrid experience which will truly be memorable; or the game’s title could be a pre-emptive plea to the industry should Capcom’s ambitious approach fall short. I for one have found my faith newly restored in the developer that defined much of my younger life’s gaming memories. Lately Capcom has found a shortcut into gamer’s hearts without the tedium of grandeur. Don’t disappoint us now.