Bright Memory: Infinite Review: Blasting Reality Aside

Gunplay, swordplay, and force pulls—what more could you want in an action first-person shooter? Bright Memory: Infinite is a passion project developed by a single person, promising cinematic thrills and phenomenal visual design. While the effort is commendable, other aspects end up in suspect quality.

Bright Memory: Infinite Review: Blasting Reality Aside Cover

With the rise of genre staples like DOOM, Halo, and Call of Duty, FPS games have seen unprecedented growth in the gaming industry. Chances are that if you pick a random household containing a modern game console, they’re likely to possess a couple FPS titles. Such popularity likely encourages developers from all over to try their hand at capitalizing on an enduring presence. Or they simply enjoy what first-person shooters offer on a cinematic level. Bright Memory: Infinite, developed by a one-man studio, is a notable example of a riveting project that feels both indie and AAA.

Personally, the prominence of FPS titles has slightly turned me off from indulging in the genre too frequently. Always a Nintendo-clad fanboy at heart, Metroid Prime is the closest I’ve come to committing everlasting love to a game of that type. Still, there’s always some pleasure to seeing smaller studios (or a single developer in this case) taking on a game of this magnitude. With visuals that are at least on-par with modern titles, developed by huge studios with financial benefit, it has that as a selling point. Other aspects, however, may not appear with similar sheen.

Bright Memory: Infinite is available now on PC via Steam and GOG for your regional pricing. An Xbox Series X port is planned at some point in 2021.

【Official】Bright Memory: Infinite - PC Release Trailer

Story – Unexplained Circumstances

According to the synopsis, it’s the year 2036. Scientists have discovered strange phenomena occurring within the skies—like rifts in dimensional stability. Agents from the Supernatural Science Research Organization (SRO) have been dispatched to investigate, but a larger danger looms that few are totally prepared for. This game’s protagonist, Shelia, is thrust into the action quickly.

Hopefully you got all that, because the game does not explain this in much depth whatsoever. Really, it doesn’t explain much at all. What occurs throughout the main campaign is something of a vacuum; things happen to Shelia as her superior barks orders at her and the aforementioned phenomena continues to wreak havoc on her situation. Things like “context” or “development” are not important here. Just enjoy the variety of things that happen and be intrigued by how everything (and I mean everything) is veiled in a thick cloud of “mystery.”

For reference, there is a sort of “prequel”(?) to this in Bright Memory, which features some of the same characters and story to the Infinite rendition. I can’t say whether this is necessary to play to get a better grip on what’s happening here, but given some within the reviews section state that it’s only 20-30 minutes of gameplay, I doubt it. More likely to say that the scope of the story is simply too large for the scale of the project.

Shelia is on the case!

Shelia is on the case!

Speaking of length, this could also be a reasonable theory as to why the story is so underdeveloped. Bright Memory: Infinite, depending on skill level, can take one between 2.5 to 4 hours on initial playthrough. (Including unskippable cutscenes.) That’s not much for a game that tries to combine gripping drama and atmosphere with condensed set pieces of baddies and cinematics. In the face of trying to release something of a fulfilling journey, it seems gameplay finesse (and graphical fidelity) was given higher importance. If you’re playing this for its story, you will be disappointed.

Gameplay – Foundational Fun

This is an FPS game. So, naturally, what one can expect is a lot of first-person shooting. But what fun is simply shooting people without any other sort of flavor? Fortunately for intrigued players, this game goes beyond what it could to provide a more invigorating adventure.

Features

There’s a heavy attention to making this narrative vacuum into a streamlined, memorable trek of situations. One stage you’re shooting, another you’re stealthily sneaking past adversaries. A car chase, boss fights, platforming / parkouring, and loot-searching all make this a little more than a basic run-and-gun. A steady supply of different elements of combat and exploration allow for higher replayability and strategizing. Despite how short the full campaign is, there’s a commendable amount of detail to gameplay that is bereft of dull sections.

Don't bring a foot to a sword fight.

Don’t bring a foot to a sword fight.

Perhaps the most distinguishable features are the reflexive-minded capabilities that Shelia possesses. Swordplay that can reflect bullets and melee attacks, swift dodges that shoot Shelia back considerable distances, and a force-pull / push that can stun larger enemies and one-shot normal ones. The implementation of these elements give a faster pace to Bright Memory: Infinite. Particularly against boss fights, it’s an exciting amount of player input that makes one crave more of what’s to come.

If that’s not enough, you can even upgrade the weapons and abilities by collecting reliquaries. Acquired by picking them up within the environment or defeating certain enemies, you can stack them to upgrade specific things to make them stronger and / or unlock new attacks. My personal favorite is the sword upgrade that shoots energy out of slashes—t’was a substantial help against bigger enemies. Though it’s beneficial to always keep an eye on your reliquary count; with the game’s short length, you’ll be collecting quite a bit as you progress.

Gunplay and swordplay remain a pleasurable experience, and getting used to wielding all the abilities at one’s disposal keeps the options open. Unfortunately, the combat and maneuverability is most of where the gameplay hits its stride. As previously mentioned, upgrading tends to come a little too easily due to the game’s overall length. As long as you’re actively perceptive, finding reliquaries is no issue whatsoever; they’re rarely hidden. Ammo and other goodies are never withheld much, either (and this is on the default difficulty). It’s a casual, almost careless implementation of an item-loot system to make exploration a tad more inviting, only it ends up feeling unfinished.

Oh, whoops. Stumbled upon the sixteenth one of these by accident.

Oh, whoops. Stumbled upon the sixteenth one of these by accident.

Platforming / parkouring is similarly clunky, and not often utilized. For the most part, stages progress at a rather linear pace, not necessitating a lot of extraneous traversal tactics. Platforming, specifically, never feels confident, as jumps are weighted and stiff. I died a few times throughout because I had forgotten that parkouring was even an option. Like with item-looting, implementation is light and infrequent, resulting in further underutilized tactics that paint a primary picture of throwing things at a wall to see what sticks.

Performance

I decided to dedicate an entire section to this, because my experience with the game’s stability is worth noting. Specifically, the cracks.

Over the course of three hours, my game crashed four times. Playing on mid-to-low settings on a decent-though-not-great laptop, the game stuttered semi-frequently and had some framerate drops. Occasionally, trying to pick up ammo would not occur until I moved back and re-entered the pick-up range. Trying to pull in enemies wouldn’t work half the time, so I rarely tried. These albeit minimal issues (except the crashing, obviously) all added up to make this a hot-and-cold playthrough, leading to some random deaths and extended time in certain parts of stages.

Execution scenes got a wee bit repetitive.

Execution scenes got a wee bit repetitive.

Should one be looking into diving in, they should heed this humble warning: it’s not totally polished. Bright Memory: Infinite is developed by a single person, so it’s easy to assume the task of ensuring a finely-tuned product is a grand one. Nevertheless, it’s a bumpy road along the way, with every crack a risk of causing your game to explode. 

Graphics & Audio – Impressive Feats

Likely the most astounding success of this game is its visual majesty. For one person to make this? An incredible feat that should not go unsaid. Bright Memory: Infinite has the makings of an identity that rivals that of major-studio titles, with tons of materials in-use. A dreary, rainy world with lush forestation, abandoned ruins, and past-world imagery aplenty. And lots of explosions and cinematics.

While slightly stutter-y, its ability to stabilize all sorts of explosive scenes and giant targets (that are certainly frenetic) is almost mind-blowing. Boss battles have a chaotic intensity that embody the “epic” vibe that it strives for. The entire campaign, short as it may be, is packed with action-oriented content that would make Call of Duty blush. Environments are generally clear with their intentions—you just have to remember their purpose. Accessible enough and easy to navigate, the level structure should ensure one isn’t lost at any point.

Bosses are fought in an arena-style area.

Bosses are fought in an arena-style area.

Sound design also has some good elements to them. Of course, shooting with guns is already an impactful, booming element on its own. Including all that has previously been mentioned, you have a whole mess of auditory feedback coming your way. Vrooms and air suction; bullets flying and blood flow; failing machinery and metal clanging. So much to absorb along with the visuals keeps things engaging and fun.

The soundtrack overall, though, isn’t terribly phenomenal. A general collection of ambiance and high-stakes cacophony that is prominent with FPS games of a particularly serious nature. Frankly, I don’t remember too much from it, less than 24 hours removed from the game. The visuals and gameplay prospects (that exceled) are what keep the adventure riveting.

Bright Memory: Infinite was reviewed on PC via Steam. A review key was provided by Stride PR.

Summary
They call it "Bright," but it's more of a "Sufficiently Visible" memory. The crowning achievement of Bright Memory: Infinite is that it even exists. A one-person studio working with creating the work from top to bottom, with only minimal help from outside sources. While flaws certainly show themselves at an alarming rate, the core idea is satisfying fun. Still more for those already engrossed with the everlasting FPS phenomenon, it's nevertheless commendable just for the attempt.
Good
  • Gunplay and swordplay are constant fun
  • Visual elements are hugely impressive given the solo developer
  • Sound design keeps things impactful
Bad
  • Story is laughably underdeveloped
  • Not a totally stable product
  • Certain gameplay features feel underutilized
6.5
Fair
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