Slight disclaimer to start with: I didn’t realise Bright Memory: Infinite was a sequel/reboot. Furthermore, didn’t realise that our own Andy reviewed the first one this time last year. Completely passed me by. However, Andy reviewed Bright Memory on console with issues, I’m running on a decent enough gaming PC, and [hopefully] should be a different experience.
It’s hard to be innovative with first person shooters nowadays. DOOM and Wolfenstein broke the mold, Half-Life made it a thinking man’s game and Crysis… well, we all know the meme. So in regards to originality, it’s going to be hard to top it. Bright Memory: Infinite, thankfully, isn’t trying to push that envelope.
Instead, it’s just content with hitting familiar beats that we can all sing along to. It’s resplendent with lush visuals outside of a CryEngine game, nonsense plot from 90’s shooters, and gun/swordplay straight from a whole host of games that have made that their craft.
And you know what? Sometimes, that’s all we need. But will this one-man passion project pay off, or do the cracks and short run time hinder the experience? Let’s find out…
What’s That Plot Device In The Sky?
There are times when I write a plot synopsis and I have to do my best to describe it without spoiling it. Fortunately, I don’t have that issue with Bright Memory: Infinite. There is one, don’t get me wrong. It’s just so insubstantial that it acts more of a framing device than, say, something to get invested in. It also serves as a recap of the first “episode” of Bright Memory, as Infinite is essentially a soft reboot and continuation of that story.
Players slip into the unrealistically tight catsuit of Shelia, a Joanna Dark-esque secret agent. Working on behalf of the Supernatural Science Research Organization (weirdly abbreviated as SRO though), Shelia’s sent to investigate some sort of disturbance on a nondescript Asian island. There’s some naughty general type there named Lin, with what looks like a full army, after a mystical macguffin that will help him control the world. Or something, you know how it is.
But after Shelia lands, there’s a bigger issue. Namely, a supermassive black hole in the sky slowly devouring the landscape, like the awful version of Galactus in the second Fantastic Four film. That, and Shelia flits between taking out waves of bad guys and ancient warriors… is about all you’ll get in terms of story.
I’d love to say that there’s some super secret mystery to unravel, but sadly, there isn’t. However, don’t write that off as a negative, as the gameplay more than makes up for it.
Out of the Shadows, Warrior
If that header wasn’t subtle enough, Bright Memory: Infinite draws inspiration from first person shooter/slashers. Namely, and I’m sure there are more obvious ones but this came to my mind first; Shadow Warrior. Not because of the Asian setting, mind. I’m not that unimaginative.
Shelia’s gun and swordplay can be switched up on the fly, much like Lo Wang’s can. Gunplay is simple enough; shoot with the right trigger, aim with the left. Ammo counters are on your gun, which even show when you’re checking down the sights, so you know when you’re running low. Thankfully, ammunition is plentiful (places of worship are known for stocking heavy artillery), so there isn’t too much conservation to worry about. Guns have a secondary fire, like the assault rifle’s homing ammo, or the already-meaty shotgun firing miniature grenades.
Swordplay, thankfully, is also simple enough. Tapping the Y button (on an Xbox controller via PC) will set off a single hit or combination. There’s a block with the right bumper, which if timed right can break an enemy’s posture (thanks Sekiro), opening them up for a slash. Projectiles can even be bounced back, as well as some enemies requiring a guard break to allow Shelia to hit them. For fans of spectacle, there’s some nifty Deus Ex-style executions too.
There’s also a wrist mounted EMP/leash system reminiscent of Bulletstorm’s: pull enemies in for a slap, or fling them off of ledges. Or both, if you’re feeling saucy. Or pull them in, launch them upward and pull some Devil May Cry aerial moves on them. The choices are… well, not endless, but at least numerous.
And it looks good, too.
A Visual Feast Of Bullets and Beauty
It still staggers me that Bright Memory: Infinite was made by one man. I have trouble focusing on creating a Skate 3 skatepark, let alone build a competent level. Let alone building a full game, not least one that looks as beautiful as this does. And without being too technical (because PC builds are a foreign language to me), I don’t have a high end rig. Yet this still looks stunning.
The landscapes look lush, as does the draw distance and skybox throughout. Foliage looks wet and reactive to the rainfall, as do the ancient temples and cobbles that Shelia progresses through in linear succession. Rickety walkways collapse, or more likely blow up, in showers of splinters and debris.
Fire effects woosh about with the wind and rain, and even Shelia’s combat actions carry weight too. Gone is the Half-Life “hit them until they collapse” attitude, this time enemies will react to where they’re shot. Players will sometimes even get a little Spec Ops: The Line slo-mo flourish on a headshot kill too. Ancient warriors will look aghast when the futuristic spacewoman’s weapons blow about their shields, which is a nice touch.
For you fiddlers, there are varying degrees of control to be had over the performance too. Ray Tracing can be fiddled with, as can the degree of detail, motion blur, all that jazz. Again, I won’t attempt to be technical. Have a play, see what works best for you. That’s what I do, and I muddle through.
One Cannot Survive On Charm Alone
So with the combat ticking all the right boxes, and the game itself looking absolutely gorgeous, this should be a sure-fire hit, right? After all, it usually boils down to graphics or gameplay, not both, and this game has positives in both areas. What could possibly let it down?
Well, its length. Bright Memory: Infinite is staggeringly short. Which to some, I understand, is not necessarily a bad thing. There are gamers who don’t have time to put hundreds of hours into games like Skyrim, and I get that. It’s that given that this is a recap/remake of its first game, you’d expect it to expand on it and make it a longer experience, is all. The run time will set players back about eight hours, five if you’re cruising. There’s a harder difficulty to unlock, but that’s about it.
The other issues seem a bit unfair, but I’m a critic, it’s my job to tell you the negatives. For one, the voice acting is a shocker. Your operator, Director Chen, sounds painfully bored about Shelia, the black hole, or the fact that she’s randomly fighting ancient warriors. A recurring boss of ancient Asian persuasion, in full Monkey King-like armour, no less, has a suspiciously Anglo-American accent. For me, it just took me out of any immersion the tale was trying to tell me.
Which is another contentious point: the aforementioned story. It’s just all thrown at players in a kind of “Deal with it” way, no real context as to why. The explanations are flimsy, as if it’s assumed that players will have either worked it out or taken it as read that the story is flimsy. But, as a backdrop to someone’s passion project, these are just small complaints against a largely enjoyable experience.
The Future Is Bright
The takeaway, then, for this short review of a short game is pretty simple: it’s a recommendation, if you’re in the mood for something short and sweet. Forget the shambles that is Battlefield 2042 and the hype behind another farted out Call of Duty, and support the little man for once.
Bright Memory: Infinite may well, ironically, fade from my mind after I’ve finished this review. But as the work of one man, that can bring about something as beautiful and tightly packed as this, it’s worth spreading around. Does it have a few cracks in it? Sure, and the odd typo here and there, and dodgy acting.
As far as technical issues, I encountered very few. The odd bit of lag when Shelia had to zip-line across some terrain, or not hitting a contextual ledge grab when she was meant to, resulting in a fall to her death. These are minor complaints (the former could even be my PC, for all I know) that don’t spoil the overall experience.
Run and gun however you like, customise that arbitrary skill tree however you see fit and overall, just have fun. The reason I’ve used Devil May Cry, Shadow Warrior and Bulletstorm as examples are because those games are fun, too. That Bright Memory doesn’t feel like a ripoff but a companion piece to those titles only serves to highlight how much fun some simple, visceral combat can be at times.
A beautiful looking game with simple-yet-engaging sword and gunplay, it’s hard to think that this was made by one man. Yet Bright Memory: Infinite is proof of a passion project done right, even if it does suffer from a surprisingly short runtime, forgettable story and extremely linear progression system. Still, it’s better than this period’s AAA offerings.
Bright Memory: Infinite is available now on PC (reviewed on) and Xbox One and its Series S|X. Players who own Bright Memory: Episode One will get Infinite as a free upgrade.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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