Back in the ’90s FMV games were all the range. It was a new and exciting form of gameplay that blew people’s minds. Titles such as Ground Zero: Texas and Night Trap were at the cutting edge of technology and made you feel like you were the actor and controller of the action or horror title. Fast forward to now and we have FMV games like Her Story and Late Shift; critically acclaimed games that threw FMVs back into the playing field.
Now we welcome The Bunker, a horror game developed by British company Splendy Games and published by Wales’ own Wales Interactive. Would they prove that FMVs are back with a vengeance? Or is it just a fad that has already had its time?
The Bunker begins with panic; its frantic office workers running, clambering for paperwork, scrambling through information. A screaming woman on a hospital gurney is being wheeled down a narrow, florescent lit hallway, being led into the maternity ward. Bombs are dropping overhead, loosening the very ceiling above them, sending dust and debris onto the floors below. You are born into this world and it’s not a pretty one. Atomic war is now.
Fast forward 30 years to Day 10,998. The bunker is completely void of life apart from you, John, and your dying mother. She is on her deathbed. She breathed her last breath and now you are truly alone.
The bunker is all about routine, as John says, “As long as I stick to the routine I’ll be safe, as long as I don’t think about outside, I’ll be safe.” You go through your daily routine, vitamins, dosimeter, radio, radiation check, food, mother (yes, she is dead and yes, it’s weird). Stick to the routine.
One day, 11,111 to be exact, the routine is disrupted. The routine is everything John knows, there is a system error during his radiation and systems checks and now he must investigate further.
As John investigates the Bunker, we get flashbacks of what life used to be like; a bustling place filled with workers and other inhabitants. This is where the story does genuinely get interesting, as we see the bunker can’t cope with the amount of inhabitants it has, and they don’t have enough rations to go around. What do they do? It’s a little predictable and there aren’t any “shocks”, but the premise of The Bunker is well executed.
Sadly, though, the acting is appalling. There seems to be little emotion from Adam Brown who plays John – you’ll likely recognise him as a Hobbit from the Lord of the Rings franchise. You’d like to think that the character who you spend the most time with has some likeable quality or even just some kind of appeal. The main aspect of this game is wanting him to survive this harsh bunker and get through any turmoil or events that seem to get in his way, but when you don’t relate to him or feel any kind of emotional connection, you don’t really care if he lives or dies.
The game is represented as a horror, but this definitely isn’t one. The acting when the threat is near is abysmal. The numerous other actors during John’s flashbacks never seem to show fear, pressure or any sense of urgency. It’s very mundane and, dare I say it, amateur. Whenever danger is apparent, the actors read out their lines with no enthusiasm and the game just booms out piercingly loud minor keys and sharp notes to signify dread. But making things loud doesn’t make them scary. It’s not the way to a horror fan’s heart.
The quick time events are also unbelievably frustrating and, with it being a point and click game, that’s a bit of a red flag. Throughout The Bunker these quick time events always require you to point your cursor at a certain point of the screen with some urgency, so then why the hell have they made the cursor sensitivity so low?! I lost count of the amount of times I missed the cue because my cursor was off the screen, due to me not wanting it slap bang in the middle of the TV the whole time. When I went to move it towards the target, it was all too late. Please, just give an option to change the speed of the damn thing!
The Bunker is essentially comprised of dozens of frustratingly staged set pieces and snippets of action. They are extremely short and choppy, meaning the game itself really doesn’t flow very well, and it’s jarring to the senses when you step in and out of slow cinematics, point and click moments and then “horror” elements. It tries to comprise itself of a few different genres, sadly, not pulling any of them off well.
The Bunker’s only real draw is its setting. It’s a genuinely believable nuclear bunker with a war room, run down hospital ward, weary occupants and dated technology that has clearly lasted them years. It’s unique rooms are filled with old papers, food and medicine and there are a few things to interact with, but never enough that deviates from the story. It always seems to keep you on a very linear path. Always stick to the routine, you might say.
The Bunker’s length is around that of a movie, two hours or so, so it’s definitely best played in one sitting. It’s filled with clichés and, in all honesty, nothing surprised me. The premise is there and it’s tried to bring back the glory of FMV’s of old. In today’s day and age I expected a higher budget, more believable acting and just more to do. Don’t get me wrong, I love games like Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture where all you do is walk, interact with a few things and worry about nothing more than the journey and the experiences you have along the way. The Bunker though, very sadly, falls very short.
If you have a spare bit of money and want something short, The Bunker is maybe something to consider if it’s on sale on the eShop. It’s fun to try something different but, at the end of the day, it just feels like a low budget movie with amateur acting.
Massive thanks to: Wales Interactive
Release date: April 2018
Formats: Nintendo Switch (Review). Xbox One, PS4, PC