Remember this - is Capcom's new IP the last of a dying breed?

Dontnod's debut Remember Me is smart, stylish and quite possibly the last of its kind. 

Towards the end of last year, Oli wrote an impassioned tribute to the double-A game, speaking out for the "dozens of great games that end each year as cultural flotsam on the beach of indifference."

"Solid, characterful, double-A genre games like these used to be the staple of an entire industry," he said in a piece cunningly disguised as a tribute to Asura's Wrath, one of our games of 2012. "But as the market for boxed console games shrinks and publishers get more gun-shy, there are fewer of them every year. You'll miss them when they're gone."

It's probably a bit early to talk about Remember Me, another title being published by Capcom, getting washed up on the beach of indifference, and a couple of hours in its presence suggests it certainly shouldn't be: a brilliantly stylish third-person action game that takes the colourful future chic of Mirror's Edge and wraps it around Uncharted-esque exploration and slick combat, there's a lot to admire here. As a boxed game that's not realistically shooting for Call of Duty numbers, it's probably fairer to point out that this could be the last of its sort, and it's the kind of thing we'll certainly miss.

Not that Remember Me is diminutive or modest in its ambitions, The whole game's shot through with a confidence that belies the fact that this is developer Dontnod's first game, and a confidence that's embodied in creative lead Jean-Maxime Moris, one of the founders of the French studio.

"I definitely want it to be at the top of the charts," he says of his expectations. "It's one of the most anticipated games of this year, and we're coming out in a fairly good release window - there is The Last of Us, but at least GTA's been postponed. I want to see it at the top of the charts - but my responsibility is just to make it into a good game."

It's a confidence that's carried Remember Me - and Dontnod - through a protracted and, one can assume, at times painful development (and it's also a confidence that compels Moris to insist that Remember Me's a triple-A title - though he admits the definition of that term is fuzzy at best). First born as a PS3 exclusive, the game - then known as Adrift - was dropped as Sony cut a number of its internal projects.

"There were times when we thought, how do we bring it out in the open by our own means? How do we do this independently? But for this type of game, with a triple-A budget, we knew we had to find a publisher. And we always believed we'd find a publisher. Failure was never an option." Finding a publisher, for a studio with the swagger of Dontnod, turned out to be surprisingly straightforward - having read that Capcom was looking to strengthen its presence in the west, the studio sent an email and within mere months of being dropped by Sony a deal was done.

"There were a few months that we spent alone," admits Moris. "It was terrifying and at the same time extremely positive for us - it was like going back to the lab, and every choice we were making we needed to be 100 per cent sure. We had no outside view on the project. Of course at first it was a negative, but it turned out for the best because we were able to refocus."

The downtime was spent retooling the sci-fi world of Adrift, concerned as it was with global warming and the tearing apart of the environment, and turning its gaze inwards, placing an emphasis on memory and its fallibility. "We wanted one key theme," explains Moris. "And just like every good cyberpunk game or movie, there's one technological innovation that drives the theme of the game. In Deus Ex it's transhumanism, in Remember Me it's memory digitisation and the future of social networks."

Remember Me's theme is channelled through central character Nillin, struck down at the outset by a wave of amnesia. She crawls through it, though, and Dontnod pull themselves out of a potential pit of cliché by weaving the memory theme through every part of the game: it's in the stuttering soundtrack that glitches and falls over itself, in the isolated puzzle sections where memories are scrubbed through like a worn VHS and subtly remixed, and in the combat that gradually gets more complex as move after move is remembered and slotted into place.

Indeed, if Deus Ex leans on the sci-fi world of William Gibson, then Remember Me owes a certain debt to the twisting realities of Philip K. Dick - a debt that Moris is more than happy to acknowledge. "Anyone who sets out to question identity in a sci-fi world is in one way or another following in Dick's footsteps. So that was a huge influence of course to all of us."

There are other reference points throughout the game - set in 2084, and within the confines of an authoritarian regime, there's a peppering of Orwell too - but it's an influence Dontnod has been reluctant to acknowledge that's the most welcome. There's something unmistakably French about Remember Me, and even though lead character Nilin's clumsy English accent does its best to obscure the future Paris backdrop, it can't hide the impact the imagined worlds created by Jean "Mœbius" Giraud and Luc Besson have had.

"We always believed we'd find a publisher. Failure was never an option."

"It's something we were afraid of in the beginning. We were afraid of being labelled with the French touch - and that's been often seen as negative by publishers because of past experiences, especially in the '90s, when being French meant great ideas but not great execution.

"We were afraid of that, but it was the fans, when I saw the reaction, it was like the Americans, the English or the Japanese, they wouldn't be afraid to reference their own country. That's when we realised it's true - everything in the game is French. We're drawing from Dick and Orwell, but also from philosophers who theorised the evolution of authoritarian control. And the art style's very French."

As too is the attitude of the developer, though again that's no bad thing. There's something a little archaic about a studio being set up at the tail-end of a generation to create a game like Remember Me, and you have to wonder whether, with hindsight, Dontnod would set out its stall in the world of high-budget boxed action games, if it had the chance to do things again.

"Yes, we would," assures Moris. "But times have changed, and the definition of a triple-A game has maybe changed as well. I'd start a company to make a game like Remember Me - but I think more and more people, when they hear triple-A they expect what we called where I worked before quadruple-As - four As. More games like Red Dead Redemption, Assassin's Creed, GTA. Those games - I wouldn't want to tackle those monsters."

But is there a future for console games that aren't those monsters, and aren't something else entirely? Moris certainly believes so, and is already making plans for a sequel. "It's dependent on how well Remember Me does, and it's dependent on Capcom's will," he says. "But we already have the ideas to bring it to life - they've stated in previous interviews that they've interest in turning Remember Me into a long-lasting franchise."

Can Remember Me have enough of an impact to live on into the next generation of consoles? Without knowing Capcom's own expectations for the game it's impossible to say, though it's hard to imagine Remember Me setting the world alight come its release in June. It's easier to imagine, though, it being embraced by people eager to play smart, stylish action games with an identity of their own. There's every reason to think that Remember Me can succeed in that regard - and hopefully prove that there's still life in the kind of production that the next generation will likely be doing its best to leave behind.

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About the author

Martin Robinson

Martin Robinson

Features and Reviews Editor

Martin is Eurogamer's features and reviews editor. He has a Gradius 2 arcade board and likes to play racing games with special boots and gloves on.


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