Indie game development has its fair share of solo developers, and they conjure up ideas of something a little more visually modest than Chinese developer Zeng ‘FYQD’ Xiancheng has managed to do with Bright Memory: Infinite. A first-person shooter made with Unreal Engine, the title looks astonishing and could proudly stand toe-to-toe with a Call Of Duty campaign requiring hundreds more people and costing hundreds of millions more.
Just how much of the game was actually made entirely by Zeng himself is open to debate – certainly elements such as voice acting and music have been outsourced, while it’s also being marketed and published by Playism. Nonetheless, at the core, it’s a fantastic advert for what can be achieved with Unreal, from its Blueprint Visual Scripting system, which means you don’t even have to know how to code, to the abundance of high-fidelity assets in UE Marketplace.
While that’s all fascinating context when looking at Bright Memory: Infinite, those of you picking up a AAA-looking game at the budget price of £7.19 / $9.99 (that’s the price of its predecessor Bright Memory on Steam, whose owners can get Infinite as a free upgrade on PC) would just want to know if it’s too good to be true and if it’s actually any good. The simple answer is that you get what you pay for.
Which isn’t to say that Infinite is any regular FPS. Indeed, it compresses a ridiculous amount in its fleeting runtime, mixing in melee combat and counters along with its gunplay, as well as an impressive suite of abilities and upgrades. Keeping up with the lightning-fast action are visuals that look truly next-gen, with full support of ray-tracing and DLSS, while the environments, largely inspired by real rural provinces in China makes it distinct from the hellscapes of Doom or the browns and greys of a military shooter.
That said, Infinite lacks its own cohesive identity, often more like a jumble of ideas thrown against a high-textured wall to see what sticks. A plot that sees a storm creating a mysterious blackhole in the sky feels like something pulled out of Fortnite in the ‘anything goes’ stakes, a way to explain why you’re not only fighting against a heavily armed terrorist militia but also ancient soldiers from another era wielding swords, shields, and bows, which also gives the game a few decent boss fights. It feels a bit like a re-tread of the previous game yet also completely unrelated, which is weird given how the predecessor is considered as ‘Episode 1’ and ended in a way that you assumed this game would follow on from.
It might be better to call Infinite an enhanced and expanded remake, though the two campaigns aren’t really the same at all and even feature different characters apart from protagonist Shelia Tan who’s had an upgraded character model but still comes off as a dead-eyed Asian Lara Croft. But to say that one has been enhanced or expanded over the other is debatable, not least because Infinite has jettisoned the Devil May Cry-inspired combo scoring system, perhaps a sign that Zeng did try to rein in a couple ideas after all.
On the other hand, what you get instead are some inconsistent attempts at variety, like a terrible stealth section, as well as a few other isolated insta-fail moments (a couple which turn out to be quicktime events but the unclear UI makes it look like a prompt). A later sequence is rather absurdly over-the-top like something out of a Bond film, though the spectacle also makes for fairly on-rails interactions.
Fortunately, get back to the focus of a shooter and it’s fine. The gunplay of automatic rifles, shotguns, pistols and sniper rifles work like you expect, and feel better optimised for controller users than the previous game, while each gun can also make use of more powerful secondary ammo, sometimes granting a new function altogether like a grenade launcher.
Chances are that you’ll find yourself relying less on aiming down sights and more on your melee options, which includes a hack-and-slash Light Blade and a punchy Exo arm that can also grab enemies from afar, the only reason you don’t just use these all the time is because they rely on a meter that needs time to recharge. Nonetheless, melee often feels like the most effective option considering how often you can get close to your enemies, while it certainly feels necessary to break through spongier defences with a well-timed parry and counter.
On the flipside, first-person melee is a double-edged sword. Besides feeling like you’re just mashing buttons (although there are other skills, such as charging up the blade that turns into a move that juggles the enemy for an air combo), there are times you come out of the attack a bit disoriented, sometimes facing another direction or losing sight of your target. It’s not helped that Infinite has just a bit too much visual noise going on, including the splashes of blood from slashing enemies, that make it tricky to parse your environments or where enemies are firing from – perhaps the most irritating moment came from getting blown up by a grenade in front of me I didn’t see.
And just when you’re getting to grips with all the mechanics, suddenly it’s all over. If the first Bright Memory, which could be finished in under an hour, was meant to be a demo that would lead to an expanded finished product, then Infinite is longer, but not by much. Of course, many AAA FPS campaigns aren’t typically lengthy affairs either, but while I’m all in favour of tightly scripted games you can finish in one sitting, the ending in Infinite is so abrupt it’s like you’re waking from a vivid dream thinking what the hell just happened, unsure if the game simply ran out of gas or time, with the only incentives for replaying in order to unlock a few costumes for Shelia (the more revealing fan-service options are paid DLC). Ultimately, it’s like you’ve just played a glorified tech demo, or perhaps the best calling card for its developer to move on to bigger things – at the very least, with improved scope and direction, Zeng surely has a bright future ahead of him.
Bright Memory: Infinite launches for PC on November 12. An Xbox Series X|S release date is to be confirmed.
On the surface, Bright Memory: Infinite is a phenomenal showcase from FYQD Studio of what can be achieved with Unreal and that indies can look just as terrific as their big budget counterparts. But in trying to throw so many ideas together into such a brief runtime, it feels more like a montage of cool gameplay moments rather than a great game as a whole.
- Looks terrifically next-gen, handling ray-tracing and smooth performance flawlessly
- Some cool set pieces and an aesthetic that’s different to other FPSes
- Lightning-fast gunplay with a dose of melee combat
- It’s over before you know it
- Visuals overwhelm to the point it’s hard to parse what’s going on
- So many ideas but lacking in coherence, consistency or spark