Previews

Capcom's Remember Me - hands-on with cyberpunk's Arkham Asylum

A punch-happy voyage through neo-Paris

Amnesiac leads are as plentiful as hydrogen atoms in videogames, but it's rare we bump into one who's still in the process of losing her marbles. When the curtain goes up on Remember Me star Nilin - a strapping, nimble lass with exciting polychrome hair - she's rolling around on the floor of a whitewashed post-modern Bastille, screaming in agony as her very identity gushes out of a holographic valve at the back of her head in a swirl of butchered jpegs.

In Dontnod's take on the year 2084, the mind can be digitised and beamed through data networks as easily as photos and videos. Nilin was once a "memory hunter", a hitwoman specialising in the abuse and erasure not simply of human beings, but of their brains. Now, for reasons unknown, she's being treated to a full "reboot" by Memoreyes, a corporation (sinister and unaccountable, natch) that is to the personality what today's cosmetic industries are to abs, boobs and bums.

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Fortunately for our heroine, help is at hand in the form of the uncreatively named Edge, leader of a far left terror sect known, a little more creatively, as the Errorists. Following his earpiece directions, the near-catatonic Nilin manages to bust out of the Bastille before Memoreyes can suck her dry. Ensconced in a futuristic coffin, riding a wave of sewage to the bowels of Paris, she's informed that she used to be one of Edge's top agents, and that the only way to restore her past is to bring down high corporate society one fogged-up office facade at a time.

I suspect there's more to the story than this - Edge has "it was me all along" written all over his invisible forehead - but it's a solid enough reason to roam around some beautifully styled environments, inflicting a more traditional form of cranial trauma on a sizeable range of enforcers and crazies.

Remember Me's most immediate asset is its art direction. The underlying principle is a familiar one - that old cyberpunk trick of blurring the glisteningly, improbably high tech with the old and grubby, an amplification of the social schisms visible in the average London backalley. But this is the first videogame treatment on the theme which takes place in Paris, a city I know slightly enough to recognise a few of the architectural styles that cling on beneath the game's glitter.

You'll see tangles of iron filigree, fat curves of antique masonry and jaunty retro-styled motors, juxtaposed with holograms and the gleam of robot chrome. An hour or so, down the line anyway. Nilin's first sight on climbing out of her burial casket turned vessel of rebirth is a trashed underworld of corrugated metal populated by Leapers - former clients of Memoreyes, twisted into hunchbacked ghouls by one too many change of mind.

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They're none too pleased to see her, and Nilin is obliged to draw on her latent combat skills - wiped along with almost everything else, and painstakingly rediscovered over the course of the game in the form of unlockable Pressens. These are attacks that can be bolted together to create an enormous range of combos, all performed by way of the same, fixed selection of inputs.

The basics of combat are comparable to Arkham Asylum - you pinball around the insides of groups with the aid of a loose automatic lock-on, looking to break the mob up so you can treat each of its components to a sustained beatdown. Folding in different categories of Pressen gives Remember Me its own feel, however, that's perhaps a little closer to a technique-driven brawler like Devil May Cry 3. Besides the damage-dealing variety, there are Pressens that heal you up (while still interrupting your opponent's form), Pressens that double the effects of the previous attack, and Pressens that siphon away energy to blow on apocalyptic S-Pressen specials.

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