If you haven’t been following Bright Memory: Infinite’s progress, you may be surprised to learn that it’s the work of a solo developer. FYQD-Studio’s founder Zeng Xiancheng has spent the last few years mastering Unreal Engine 4 to create a technical showcase that can go toe-to-toe with just about any ‘AAA’ title.
It’s a brilliant example of what’s achievable by indie studios nowadays, and it certainly gives the PS5 and Xbox Series a good workout. But at the same time, it also provides a very good reason why big-budget publishers shouldn’t be worried about a second indie uprising.
When an ominous black hole darkens rural China, special agent Sheila finds herself duty bound to investigate. Armed with a sword, a quartet of firearms and recently discovered physic abilities – as revealed in the prologue demo – it’s a case of slashing and shooting rival agents while following a linear path leading to the source of devastation. This journey mostly comprises of quaint Japanese fishing villages, with the occasional detour across mountain ranges and flooded woodland.
The raging storm, caused by the black hole, leads to a mixture of alluring environmental effects. Trees and tall grass sway in the wind and rain, fires erupt and spread, and lightning can be seen in the distance. This makes for a feast for the eyes; a smorgasbord of just about every effect UE4 can muster. Realistic water effects are about the only omission, with Infinite’s rivers and streams a touch too ‘shimmery’ to be considered lifelike.
Sheila’s quartet of weapons (pistol, assault rifle, combat shotgun, and a sniper rife) pack a punch, generating particle effects that add further spectacle. The shotgun’s flame rounds dazzle in particular. Locked at 60fps (with a toggle 120fps mode for TVs that support it) the framerate never falters, while the ray-tracing mode (also toggleable) adds another layer of sheen, improving reflections found in puddles and other pools of water.
Weapons can be coated in different skins, and each is useful in different circumstances – the rapid-firing pistol, which feels more like an SMG, isn’t the default but rather added earlier on. Secondary fire (shrapnel bullets, sticky grenades, etc) are unlocked via a skill tree and can make quick work of bosses, especially on easy mode. The feed of new arsenal is contrived, however, with the snipers duly showing up on the battlefield mere seconds after Sheila discovers a discarded sniper rife.
As mentioned, Sheila carries a sword too. Her physic abilities allow for a combo of pulling enemies through the air and slashing them into chunks. On harder difficulties, it’s vital to send enemies airborne to temporarily lessen incoming fire. The sword can be used to deflect bullets, which somewhat weirdly, doesn’t call for timing and precision – simply walking around with the sword raised will deflect incoming fire. A missed opportunity for extra nuance, further affirming that this is a thoroughly gung-ho experience.
The pace is fast-throughout, adding a sense of urgency – Sheila is determined to reach ground zero as quickly as possible, letting nothing stand in her way. Comms talk is direct but never snappy; there’s no time for small talk. Even the presence of mythological monsters – summoned by the black hole – doesn’t faze Sheila’s fellow agent in command. “Thanks, I’ll let the others know.”
Sheila’s grappling hook makes traversal swift, propelling her from one location to the next. Due to the game’s linearity can only be used at set locations, so cast aside hope for Halo Infinite shenanigans. A slower-paced stealth section – handed surprisingly well, using an on-screen visibility/proximity gauge – provides a reprieve from mindless blasting, but unlike the prologue, there are no puzzles – Sheila is merely ushered from one area to the next in a hurried fashion.
It’s fair to say the fundamentals are well grasped. Controls are fluid and responsive, and Sheila is incredibly agile, able to slide, wall run, and dodge incoming fire. The only thing preventing the controls from being wholly intuitive is having to cycle through weapons via the d-pad, which leads to some fumbling during boss battles. It’s also a little strange that upon dying, the assault rifle is selected as default instead of the combat shotgun that soon overshadows it.
On the subject of minor grumbles, the AI occasionally behaves oddly, such as failing to react to your presence. We’ve certainly seen worse AI in bigger budget games, though, and we imagine this aspect was one of the bigger development struggles. Bosses act furiously and move swiftly, always providing a fair fight… ignoring that they can regenerate armour. That’s your cue to bring out the health-bar whittling flame rounds.
Now here’s the clincher. Bright Memory: Infinite’s credits roll in around two hours. One location; one continuous mission – and no side-quests. When you consider that the prologue was an hour long and offered greater replay value by featuring arcade-style scoring elements, it’s all a bit anticlimactic.
Upon being abruptly thrown back to the title screen, you’re encouraged to try the harder difficulties and improve your ranking, but outside of mopping up achievements/trophies there isn’t much incentive. Collectables feature, but they aren’t well hidden, and neither is an exact amount to find provided.
Seeing a typical FPS campaign lasts around 5-6 hours, spread across different locations, I think most players will be surprised to see the credits roll so quickly. To brand Bright Memory: Infinite a failure would be way off the mark, however – Zeng Xiancheng has created a system showcase that’s more than just a tech demo. A two-hour thrill ride of carnage and gore, with picturesque scenery and impressive boss battles that add further spectacle.
Like a two-hour CGI-filled movie, the first viewing is a treat – but with every subsequent rerun, it loses that little bit of lustre. It’s perhaps damning to say that it’s too short for fatigue to settle, but there’s some truth in that too.
Bright Memory: Infinite launches July 21st on PS5, Xbox Series and Switch.