The Bunker Review
The Bunker Review
I played The Bunker in a single sitting. It was simply too good to walk away from.
Posted: 09/20/16 | Category: Review | Developer: Splendy Interactive | Publisher: Wales Interactive | Platform: Playstation 4, Windows, Mac

Genre: Adventure, Full Motion Video (FMV)
Release date: September 20, 2016

Note: Not to be confused with Bunker - The Underground GameLife in Bunker or Archie Bunker  

Video Comes of Age
 

Splendy interactive is a U.K. based indie game developer with the tag line “Where Movies and Video Games Collide.”  In The Bunker , they take on the daunting task of developing a game using film rather than computer graphics. They teamed up with Wales Interactive (another U.K. based indie development group) and the result is an outstanding experience.

I had some concerns about The Bunker based on my past history with full-motion video (FMV) games. Typically, they were implemented as a blend of video cut scenes and computer-generated imagery (CGI) for the interactive sequences. The seams were readily apparent and less-than-stellar acting often detracted from the game itself. Example titles that come to mind are all from the late 1990s and include Sierra Entertainment’s Phantasmagoria and Take-Two Interactive’s Ripper and Black Dahlia.  These games attempted to follow the adventure gaming paradigm of the time that required a story, a quest, inventory, and puzzles.

Roll forward to the present. With the entry of many talented and visionary independent game developers, I’ve been forced to rethink how I define an adventure. For me, the acid test has become how I feel during gameplay and whether or not I am still reflecting on a title after completion.

The Bunker caught me completely by surprise. I started playing and it was so compelling that I entered the alternate gaming dimension where you lose your sense of time. I suddenly realized that I had not moved from my chair for hours. When the outside world disappears completely I know that I am playing an extraordinary game. Who would have thought that a film-based game could be so engrossing!?

And Then There Was One
  

The game begins in 1986 when England is hit with multiple nuclear strikes. You're underground in an RGHQ bunker with 58 military and government personnel. As the story opens, a woman gives birth to a baby boy. Skip ahead 30 years and the boy, John, is now a grown man and the sole survivor of the original group. He's been living in the bunker over 11,000 days (and counting). His mantra is “As long as I stick to the routine, I’ll be safe. As long as I don’t go outside, I’ll be safe.” His routine is suddenly disrupted by a system alarm that requires him to step outside of his comfort zone and take action. The game follows John as his world expands and his history is revealed through flashbacks.

Splendy and Wales Interactive invested in top talent for all aspects of this title and the result is better quality than many full length movies. Although John’s flashbacks involve a supporting cast, The Bunker is essentially a single-character story. Holding audience attention in this genre requires writers to be highly creative when it comes to dialog and plot as they don't have a lot to work with. If one thinks of predominantly single-character movies, some are amazing (Will Smith in I am Legend) and some are not-so-memorable (Robert Redford in All is Lost). Bunker falls into the amazing category. Despite being the only guy in town, John’s character is developed with such skill that I never lost interest. His current story coupled with his past are part of an intricate plot that will keep you guessing until the final scene.

All filming was done on location in a real nuclear bunker in England and the entire adventure is presented in video, without any computer-generated scenes. John is played by actor Adam Brown, whose movie credits include The Hobbit trilogy. His portrayal as the last man standing is flawless. You feel his panic and his anxiety. You truly experience his mental anguish and physical suffering. His heart is pounding, his breath is ragged, and he talks to himself as he provides his own encouragement. The soundtrack captures all of this against a backdrop of bunker noise and original mood-setting music by composer Dominic Shovelton. To fully appreciate Bunker, quality headphones are a must!

You are There
 

For this style of game, a primary challenge is to keep the player fully engaged. To avoid The Bunker becoming a movie with click-points, the development team implemented on-screen icons that require regular player interaction throughout the entire game. You click to move through the bunker and to examine an environment that includes computers, tape recordings, maps, books, and equipment. You solve real world puzzles such as following a systems procedure manual, finding specific places or items, and opening locked doors. In some cases, you're required to respond to icons by dragging the cursor, holding the cursor down, or clicking on a targeted spot. If John is attempting to perform an arduous task, the player participates by rapidly clicking to emulate expending energy. There are a few scenes that require specific and immediate responses by the player in order to avoid a negative outcome. Luckily, the game is forgiving and provides an opportunity to restart the failed sequence without too much replay.

bunker1

My only complaint (albeit small) is that it took me awhile to understand the various on-screen icons and what's expected by each. At regular intervals you're presented with a still frame and must scan the screen to find the hot spot icons. Some are obvious, such as footsteps to walk or a hand to interact. But others were not so intuitive.

Early in the game, I was presented with a door handle. The screen had an overlay of a small white circle with points and a large black circle. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. As it turns out, the door handle is operated by clicking on the white circle and dragging the cursor down to the black circle. I also initially missed a number of timed click points as I was unsure which action to take. However, I quickly learned the proper action by trial-and-error. With 20/20 hindsight, perhaps throwing the player into The Bunker with no instruction actually adds to the story, as John is experiencing most of the environment for the first time and is operating in a world of unknowns.

bunker2

I played The Bunker in a single sitting. It was simply too good to walk away from. For those who wish to take a break during gameplay, your position is auto-saved on exit and you have the ability to pause and resume. Depending on where you are in the story, exiting or pausing may result in a (sometimes lengthy) repeat of previously played sequences.

By adventuring standards, this is a fairly short game that can be completed in under three hours. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. There is so much content and emotion packed into your visit to The Bunker that the experience transcends actual play time. I can only describe it as an incredibly entertaining and engaging game that I would highly recommend. Even if story-driven games are not your first choice of genres, this is still a title worth playing.

 


 

Note:  To avoid any possibilities of spoilers for those who choose to play The Bunker, I have been deliberately vague about the story and have only included screenshots from early segments of the game.

 

 Grade: A

 
+ Compelling tale, stellar acting, and an immersive sound track
+ Story-driven experience that will leave you thinking about John long after the game is finished
+ May be enjoyed by those who are not computer gamers at heart
 
- Slight learning curve as one becomes acclimated to the interface
- Save points may require repeats of previously completed sequences with no option to skip ahead
- Those who prefer more active gaming may grow restless with this format.
 Logo 
 
Trailer:
 

 

System Requirements
 
MINIMUM PC:

OS: Windows 7 64-bit 

 

Processor: Core i3 / AMD A6 2.4Ghz

Memory: 2 GB RAM 

 

Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 / AMD Radeon HD 5750. OpenGL 3.3
DirectX: Version 11 

Storage: 5 GB available space

 

 

 

 

 

 

RECOMMENDED PC:

OS: Windows 7/Windows 8.1 64-bit 

 

Processor: Quad Core 2.3GHz or equivalent

Memory: 4 GB RAM

Graphics: Direct X 11.0 compliant video card with 2GB RAM (NVidia GeForce GTX 750 or AMD Radeon HD 7850)

DirectX: Version 11

 

Storage: 5 GB available space 
Specials from Digital Download
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