Throughout most of Bright Memory’s pithy campaign, you’re likely to be wondering who its main character, Shelia, really is. Who is she fighting exactly? Who is this villain guy, Carter, who keeps talking about a primordial flood? And what is a primordial flood? While there are technically answers to those questions, Bright Memory Infinite isn’t nearly as interested in explaining itself in a satisfying way as it is with combining its handful of flashy ideas with its pseudo-cyberpunk aesthetic and making you feel like an actual badass the entire time. There is certainly nothing inherently wrong with deciding to make that trade off, as there are plenty of legendary first-person shooters that took a similar approach to great effect. For the most part, Bright Memory Infinite successfully blazes down that same path with a bit of its own style and ultimately left me wanting more – mostly in the good way.
Elephant in the room number 1- Bright Memory is largely made by a one-man studio on Unreal Engine 4, and this would be worthy of praise even if the game was mediocre, but it isn’t. So, while I won’t really factor that into my review of it as a finished product, it’s definitely worth pointing out for context. Elephant number 2- the game is insanely short for the genre. I was able to complete the game twice in just about 4 hours, and even though I adore the genre, I’m not what I would consider a master at it. I died plenty, but still managed to roll credits twice in less time than it takes to get half-way through most other FPSes. Considering that the game is priced accordingly at just under $10, I don’t think that its short length is an inherently bad thing, but again, it’s good food for thought if you’re on the fence about picking it up.
Fans of the new Shadow Warrior games or Bulletstorm should immediately recognize most of Bright Memory’s ideas. From the grappling hook that has the dual purpose of bringing vulnerable enemies closer to you and zipping you to new areas, to the wildly fast and satisfying sword slashing, Bright Memory Infinite certainly has borrowed from the best, which is the best way to borrow if you’re going to do it. That’s not to say that Bright Memory doesn’t feel like its own thing though, because it does.
"Bright Memory Infinite certainly has borrowed from the best, which is the best way to borrow if you’re going to do it."
The time-warped world that combines mythology with military technology is one that immediately grabs you from the jump and doesn’t let go until the credits. Despite only getting to see Shelia talk a handful of times, she’s a character that I feel like I can easily root for, and despite only being introduced to the main villain halfway through its unsettlingly short story, I still felt the conflict between him and Shelia’s SRO organization brewing in a genuine way. Outside of that, the story rarely moves at all until the very end, but just as the game intends, you’ll usually be having too much fun to really care.
Bright Memory Infinite plays like it knows it’s only got a couple hours to show you everything it does, which is to say it rarely feels stale. In fact, if it weren’t for one completely unnecessary contrived stealth section, I’d say its pacing was pitch-perfect. Sure, the meat and potatoes of its gameplay is largely made up of “go to the next area and kill all the bad guys”, but it’s the arrangement of said bad guys, the variety of them, and the fact that Shelia’s arsenal often gives you multiple legitimate paths to victory over them, that keep it all consistently fun. One area might be pretty straight forward, with armed guards of different types rushing you and playing to their strengths, while the next, might have some deliberate distance between you and them, forcing you to either whip out your sniper rifle and pop them from across the arena or grapple them to you and blow their heads apart like grapefruit while they’re in stasis. There’s rarely a wrong answer in Bright Memory, and you got to love it for that. Some enemies do seem to pop in right behind you with no indication other than the shots you take before you notice them, but outside of that the rollercoaster ride of Bright Memory’s combat rarely derails. You have a fairly standard set of weapons, each with alternate firing modes and all of which are a literal and figurative blast to use.
As a guy who tends to overuse shotguns in shooters, I found the shotgun here to have a nice personality to it. It has a rather satisfying thunk that makes it a bit understated, but still boisterously destructive in any situation, and the sheer chaos that it’s alternate firing mode unleashes just makes it all the more wonderful. Your grapple and punch attacks are tied to the same meter that automatically recharges after a short rest, as does your health. Outside of that, and your sword slashes which make short work of most enemies within range, your attacks mostly stay the same. There are a few abilities and upgrades to be had in the game’s very conservative skill tree, but given how short the whole affair is, and how fun your basic arsenal is to use, it might not even occur to you to mess with it.
"Bright Memory Infinite plays like it knows it’s only got a couple hours to show you everything it does, which is to say it rarely feels stale."
Enemy types range from standard SAI soldiers, to heavies that may or may not have shields, to a couple types of undead warriors from eons past that have been reanimated, capped off with a small handful of mythological-themed bosses that you’ll fight a couple times each. If this were a 10-hour game, the variety of enemies might have felt a bit lacking, but here, it’s just right. By the time I fully mastered how to reflect flaming arrows from these roman soldiers back at them, the game would throw five of them at me at once, forcing me to step up my adaptation once again. My only gripe I have with the game’s combat would be the aforementioned stealth section that feels uncharacteristically tacked-on and rushed.
Forcing yourself to slow down and engage in tedious trial-and-error while Shelia inexplicably holds her meat cleaver in the middle of the screen was an odd low-point for the game and seems to contradict everything the other 95 percent of it stands for. That said, it is over quickly, which is good, but also just underlines my confusion as to why it was even included. Outside of that, there are some great set-pieces like a battle that takes place on top of planes and a driving section that lets you blow up some tanks. Suffice it to say, any AAA developer out there working on a shooter right now should take notes from Bright Memory’s pacing, and be wary of launching their game alongside whatever this guy makes next. There are also some extras thrown in like alternate costumes and weapons skins and multiple difficulties, but even for the price it does feel a bit lacking here. A simple horde mode could have really sealed the deal, but as it is, the amount of content for the price is debatably middling.
Bright Memory is not as graphically demanding as you might think. It only requires 8 GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GTX 960 to run. But recommended settings suggest you bump it up to 16 GB or RAM and a 1060, which isn’t too demanding. Although based on my experience, where I did have multiple hard crashes despite being well above those recommended settings, I would suggest keeping the resolution at 1080 unless your rig is particularly beefy. If it is, you can also enjoy the game’s ray tracing which does admittedly look phenomenal when everything is firing on all cylinders and working as intended. V-sync is also an option that might help with stuttering or tearing, but I honestly didn’t run into much of that at all. All things considered, the game does seem to run generally okay, but given that I struggled with crashing notably more than I usually do on arguably just as intense games when coming back from a death or loading up a save file, I also think it’s pretty clear there’s a bit more ironing out that needs to occur, and I’d be derelict in my duty as a reviewer if I didn’t mention that as well as how it dragged on my overall experience. Few things bring the fun of a ferocious action game to a halt quicker than having to fiddle around with frame rates and texture options just to get your save file to load.
"While other modern shooters offer expansive open-worlds, colorful well-rounded characters, and broad multi-faceted themes, Bright Memory Infinite serves as yet another reminder that you don’t necessarily need any of that."
While other modern shooters offer expansive open-worlds, colorful well-rounded characters, and broad multi-faceted themes, Bright Memory Infinite serves as yet another reminder that you don’t necessarily need any of that. Sure, deep gameplay mechanics and profound storytelling all have their place in the genre, as do many other styles, but there’s also always going to be room for fun, bombastic experiences that burn bright and burn fast – especially when the price is right.
Having a particularly well-done set of sound effects and an appropriately heart-thumping action movie-style musical score is a nice cherry on top of it all. Despite a couple of small headscratchers and a PC version that clearly could use some more time in the oven, Bright Memory Infinite, more often than not, manages to come within slashing distance of the games it’s so clearly inspired by. Whether the friendly price balances out the short length and unpredictable performance for you is going to be for you to determine, but I generally found experiencing the game’s strengths to be more than worth dealing with its shortcomings.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Action packed campaign that stays fun throughout; Great weapons and sound design; Impressive modern graphics.
Unpredictable performance; Fairly shallow - even for the price; A lousy stealth section.