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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

‘Bright Memory: Infinite’ review: A short-lasting adrenaline spike

'Bright Memory: Infinite' is an adrenaline-infused blend of strong gunplay and classic Samurai action that ends way too soon.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Rs. 529 (PC - Steam)
Written by Rahul Chettiyar | Navi Mumbai |
Updated: December 9, 2021 1:11:09 pm
‘Bright Memory: Infinite’ review: A short-lasting adrenaline spike. (Image credit: FYQD Studio)

In 2019, a one-man development team named FYQD gained traction when he released a short, fast-paced FPS title, ‘Bright Memory.’ The game wasn’t perfect by any means, but showed great potential to be one of the better action-based experiences out there. Fast forward to this year, and he’s back with a remake that vastly improves upon the visual and mechanical aspects, while further expanding the story.

‘Bright Memory: Infinite’ first caught my eye during an Xbox showcase, where I was stunned by its clinical combat style and graphic violence. For an indie project, the game looked modern and heavily detailed, to the point where it almost rivalled big-budget studios. These factors alone were enough to get me pumped and helped decide on my guilty pleasure for the end of the year.

Bright Memory: Infinite – Story

Despite my initial impressions, when it boiled down to narrative, ‘BM: Infinite’ falls into the same cesspool as every other mindless action game. With a shallow, half-baked story that’s clearly strung together in the final stages of development, it serves no purpose beyond transporting the player from one location to the other. But I was expecting that. What I didn’t see coming, though, was its insultingly short runtime of 2 hours. In that period, the game tries to blend together sci-fi, Chinese history, and supernatural bits to deliver a weird mush that barely makes sense.

Shelia’s entire personality is based around an average tough female protagonist. (Screenshot from Bright Memory: Infinite)

Set in the futuristic year of 2036 in China, our plot follows special agent Shelia Tan as she buckles up for a mission to investigate a strange phenomenon in the sky. Upon reaching the location, we discover a giant black hole, sucking up every bit of debris within its range. Around this point, the game dumps in a rival organisation, a one-note villain, and ancient warriors that appear out of thin air. If this premise sounds absurd to you, that’s because it actually is.

The writing in this game leans more towards a film student concept pitch than a full-blown screenplay, leading to a lack of clarity and character development. Let’s take Shelia, for example. Her entire personality is based around an average tough female protagonist. There is no backstory, no shifts in tone or emotion, and she barely talks. After the establishing cutscenes, the game freely tosses you into the playing field.

The half-baked writing in this game introduces ancient Chinese Terracotta warriors as your enemy. (Screenshot from Bright Memory: Infinite)

Being a Chinese-developed game, the dialogues are subject to a lot of translation errors, with some sounding cheesy and uninspired. Subtitles aren’t reliable either since they randomly glitch out at times. But above all, what bothers me the most are the unskippable cutscenes. Regardless of whether you’re on your second or third run, the game forces you to sit through its poorly choreographed, B-movieish cinematics. This is a weird choice to make, given its frantic gameplay is clearly the stronger component here.

Bright Memory: Infinite – Gameplay

In Bright Memory: Infinite, every second is thrilling and blisteringly paced. Taking control of a sword-wielding sharpshooter, the game offers a wide-open space for you to be creative. You can sprint headfirst into your enemies, slice through their bodies, and even deflect their bullets.

If sword fighting isn’t your style, you can take the tactical approach and whip out your firearms. (Image credit: Bright Memory: Infinite)

And if that’s not your style, you can take the tactical approach and whip out your guns to deal damage from a distance. In the beginning, your loadout merely consists of an assault rifle and a sword. But as the game progresses, other firearms can be picked up from your surroundings. Besides that, you have a telekinetic ability that lets you pull foes closer or hover them mid-air.

The lightning-fast combat system runs a fine line between freeflow and challenging. It’s one of those instances where the developers make the controls easy to learn but hard to master. During your playthrough, you will encounter hordes of enemies with varying skill sets, each more taxing than the last. Sure, you might die a couple of times before getting the hang of it, but that’s part of the fun. The more you lose, the more you learn about its combos and other mechanics. Beating the game also unlocks new difficulty levels and chapters that you can revisit if you’re up for a new challenge.

The boss fights, however ingeniously executed, aren’t punishing enough to earn the “Soulslike” status. (Image credit: Bright Memory: Infinite)

But I don’t fully agree with FYQD’s claim that it’s a “Soulslike” title. The whole idea behind such a genre is that you use some of the most primitive weapons to beat difficult bosses. But here, the game allows the usage of guns, and it almost feels like cheating. With skill out of the picture, you can just run around the map, look for an opening and then chip away at your target. Which is a shame, because the bosses here are ingeniously crafted and have some of the most unique abilities, inspired by games like ‘Sekiro.’ Don’t get me wrong. They’re still fun and demanding. But, if the creators had included some kind of plot armour to render firearms ineffective, I would agree with their claims. Because right now, the only things stopping you are the invisible walls that pop in every once in a while. In short, what I’m trying to say is: The boss fights aren’t punishing enough to earn the Soulslike status.

BM: Infinite also adopts its upgrade system from the genre. Killing an enemy or breaking certain crates earns souls, which can then be used to purchase new skills or enhancements. Powers like Shock Punch electrocute your foes, while the Aerial Slash launches a sharp beam that cuts through them. My personal favourites, however, are the gun upgrades – Incendiary Grenade and Shrapnel Bomb. They are quite overpowered and deal explosive damage upon contact.

I wouldn’t recommend buying any of the outfits since the game plays from a first-person perspective. You can only see it during cutscenes. (Screenshot from Bright Memory: Infinite)

Additionally, you can unlock weapon skins and character outfits by finishing a set of objectives or buying them as DLC. And although the game is fun and has some replay value to it, I would highly recommend against paying for any of it. Since the game plays from a first-person perspective, you won’t be able to see the costumes anyway, except for during cutscenes. It’s a gimmick that simply exists to appease anime nerds.

Coming to its level design flaws, there are a few. As part of its linearly-fashioned campaign, the game features a grappling mechanism, using which you can travel over long distances or reach higher positions. However, they only work in areas where the script demands it. So, if you intend to climb onto a platform, you can only double jump, because the game doesn’t have a dedicated mechanic or button mapped for the grapple hook.

The grappling hook mechanism only works when the script demands it. You cannot use it anywhere else during gameplay. (Image credit: Bright Memory: Infinite)

Around 20 minutes in, the title also introduces a stealth-based mission, where for some reason, you’re only allowed to use a butcher’s knife as a weapon. It never really explains why the rest of your kit is disabled, and the stage as a whole feels abruptly squeezed in and slows down the pacing. In hindsight, it was probably a tech demo to showcase what FYQD is capable of.

Midway through the game, there’s a car chase battle sequence as well, where you can shoot rockets at enemy tanks. The aiming here feels extremely clunky, while the driving is far too sensitive, making it difficult to manoeuvre sharp turns. Besides that, you have your occasional frame stutters, invisible walls, and parts where your movement gets disabled for a few seconds. Sometimes, when a boss leaps on top of you, half your body gets stuck underground, which is quite annoying.

During the car chase battle sequence, the aiming feels extremely clunky and the driving is far too sensitive. (Image credit: Bright Memory: Infinite)

Since its release, FYQD has been releasing patches every day to fix these issues. And if the solo developer has devoted three years of his life to creating this game, then I’m 100 percent sure he will persevere and resolve them in time.

Bright Memory: Infinite – Graphics and Audio

In terms of visual presentation, FYQD’s triumph here cannot go unnoticed. Modelled after authentic villages in China, the rain-soaked environment feels damp and incredibly gloomy. The way light reflects off puddles and other water bodies look hyper-realistic as well, putting most big-name companies to shame.

Despite being a small studio, the creators have not skimped out on any details. Repelling bullets with your sword generates a blinding spark upon contact, while when shooting someone in the head, you can see blood spurting out. The game, overall, looks insanely good and of premium quality.

The graphics look incredible. Light reflections on puddles and other water bodies look hyper-realistic, putting most big-name studios to shame. (Image credit: Bright Memory: Infinite)

Roping in seasoned composers from ‘RE2 Remake’ and ‘God of War 3,’ the score here isn’t all that memorable. It’s quite generic and follows the overly used approach of blasting epic music in the background, regardless of context. And even if you’re into that stuff, you can barely hear it during fights. Your gun sounds and surrounding explosions drown out the tune. The voice acting, for the most part, is just “okay” and lacks emotion. At times, it almost feels like the lines were being read by text-to-speech software, taking you out of the immersion.

Bright Memory: Infinite – Verdict

All in all, Bright Memory: Infinite is an adrenaline-infused blend of strong gunplay and classic Samurai action that ends way too soon. The story isn’t all that important here and simply serves as a glue that holds together its superior, high-octane combat system. The graphics are truly beautiful as well, complementing the raw, humid nature that it’s going for. Besides the minor hiccups in regards to odd level designs and bugs that are soon to be fixed, what FYQD has done here deserves every bit of praise.

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