In terms of creativity, particularly world-building, I find that the game developers that nail those the best are the Japanese and the French. So it comes as little surprise to see big Japanese publisher Capcom sign small French developer Dontnod and their debut action-adventure game, Remember Me. What is surprising is how instantly risky the game looks, though not necessarily because of creative ambition. Rather, does Remember Me even fit the label of “Capcom game?”

I’ll touch on that soon enough, but let’s start with that world-building. Remember Me is set in Neo Paris in the year 2084, when society is overrun by a megacorp, Memorise, that has everyone’s memories digitized. You play as Nilin, a “memory hunter” who’s had her memories wiped by Memorise, who she used to work for and has now marked her wanted for arrest. Nilin works her way through the city to piece her memories back together, though being on the lam means lots of sneaking up and around the alleys of Neo Paris by climbing and leaping onto anything that’s bolted down. With some pretty impressive detail packed into the city and story sequences punctuated with orchestral flourishes, Remember Me could just as well have worked as a sci-fi movie.

Neo Paris is a dingy, broken-down shadow of its former self, but everything is contrasted with the game’s cybernetic overlays; repeated splashes of Helvetica and secondary colors that serve as the UI and any other directional prompts that pop up. It works well in conjunction with the futuristic tones, as it’s assumed we’ll all have our brains jacked into Google that will bring up restaurant reviews in our eyes as we look at the thing. It’s also absolutely the kind of game you’d expect to be coming out of Ubisoft rather than Capcom. (Another non-surprise: a significant part of Remember Me’s development staff came from Ubisoft.) That’s not necessarily a bad or even troubling thing, but it’s what puts Remember Me in an uncomfortable place. It’s just odd to see a Capcom game that doesn’t outwardly possess a Capcom “voice.”

Of course, Capcom can make and publish whatever it wants, and will probably market the heck out of Remember Me to get people interested regardless of the logo in the corner of the box. But the mere presence of Remember Me in their catalog still sticks out like a sore thumb, even when you may not be thinking about it, because us 21st-century humans are engineered to develop perceptions of brands. Again, it’s about voice: Capcom’s most successful franchises don’t integrate modern graphic design into their looks, instead going for roughened, visceral approaches intended to drop jaws from the get-go. Even at the Capcom press event that gave way to this preview, Remember Me was stationed at a table surrounded by Monster Hunter, DmC and Resident Evil; the other fingers, in other words.

Maybe none of that is a big deal and has no bearing on the final product. No problem; I don’t doubt that’s what Capcom or anyone else reading this would say, anyway. But then, that knowledge of those great Capcom action games continues to sidle up against Remember Me. Panache aside, the way the game handles combat is through a weirdly forward-reaching feature. Nilin can build a list of fighting moves called Pressens, which naturally correspond to certain buttons and combinations of those buttons. As Pressens are pre-set patterns, you’re encouraged to learn and use them whenever enemies come in for the kill.

While there wasn’t a ton of time to play with Pressens in a meaningful way for the preview, I nevertheless can’t remember a time anyone thoroughly enjoyed customizing combos in anything that wasn’t explicitly a two-on-two fighting game. And in a story-driven action game, the feature sounds even more out of place. This doesn’t need to be DmC, but if the combat is going to be that layered, it should still look and feel good, and whacking my way through enemies only to be later told my combo was “broken” only serves to remove the instant gratification of landing hits and clearing out danger. And that’s an indicator that whether or not Remember Me’s voice is in sync with Capcom’s other releases, it has other challenges to face when it’s released towards the summer. Let’s just not go overboard on any “remember” puns, OK?

By Ray Barnholt