The Bunker is almost as archaic as it’s 1980’s setting. Full motion video games were a short lived fad that first appeared when the stratospheric (at the time) storage capacity of CD-ROMs allowed for huge amount of video to be used, but they died out almost as quickly as they had arrived under a cloud of poor video quality and universally awful acting and production.
For those of you who are too young to remember the genre the first time time around, imagine a David Cage game but with even less interactivity. You simply move the cursor around, select an object or direction and then watch a video play out of your choice. Nothing has changed in the intervening decades since the inception of FMV games, as you don’t do all that much in The Bunker. If you are going in expecting anything other than being able to click a few things and progress a story then your are very much mistaken.
That leaves me with the interesting task of reviewing what is essentially a short TV series show rather than game. You get to decided where the main character John goes but this is a very linear story and any attempt to deviate from it in any serious way will find your way blocked by a locked door or other impassable obstacle.
The use of video rather than computer graphics is a double edged sword. After the initial title sequence the game opens in a very sparse room which looks like a horrendously cheap set, with a young actress rather badly made up to look like an old woman on her death bed. The first half hour continues to be about as exciting as being stuck in an actual bunker, with John hunting for fuses and keys, and this section highlights just how laughable some video game tropes would be in real life.
Leave a room and John carefully closes the door being him and then stands still waiting for you to command him. His stillness is noticeably unusual, but we’d barely take any notice if he were a 3D model and not a real human. Equally, the numerous videos of John walking up a corridor whilst looking a bit puzzled start to become unintentionally hilarious as they are repeated, but again, you wouldn’t bat an eyelid of he were made of polygons.
However, when the game swings into action later on, the use of video is impressive and shocking. Adam Brown, who played the dwarf Ori in the Hobbit trilogy, brings John to life, transforming him from a timid, sad man, to someone you can root for. He’s naturally more relatable than all but the most convincing of CGI creations, so when Adam is squealing in pain and blood flows around his hands, it has a much greater impact. Similarly, a sequence full of murderous horror was so revolting I had to stop and go make some coffee to gather my wits.
If you have seen the trailers for the game then you may be expecting certain plot elements – I’m trying to be as obtuse as possible here to avoid spoilers – but suffice to say that this story unfolds in a completely different way to what I was expecting. After a slow start the game starts to explain how John became the sole survivor in the bunker by using flash backs to his childhood and the pieces begin falling to place. I really can’t say much more without spoiling the story, but it could quite easily fit into Channel 4’s Black Mirror anthology. It has the same slick, uneasy feeling that something isn’t quite right in the world and the reveal is quite a shock.
Special mention must also be made regarding the music – Dominic Shovelton has done a wonderful job racking up the tension and creating a provoking soundtrack full of quiet electronic burbles and strings.
Despite my initial impressions, I really enjoyed The Bunker. I’m never going to play it again, but for the couple of hours it lasted it held my attention and expertly racked up the tension. It is certainly not for everyone, but it entertained me for it’s duration and you can’t really ask much more than that. Grab your significant other and some popcorn and The Bunker will make a great evening’s viewing.
Version tested: PlayStation 4