Most won’t remember an age when full motion video games existed. Originating in the early eighties for CD-Rom users, FMV was used as a way to portray action moments in video games rather than the 2D/3D models we’re used to in modern day gaming. Offering very little in the way of actual gameplay with players forced to point and click their way through a game’s story FMV thankfully died out as quickly as it had arrived, bogged down and quickly forgotten beneath a landslide of classic arcade titles. With FMV offering so little by the way of player involvement it was certainly interesting to see Wales Interactive (Infinity Runner, Soul Axiom) and Splendy Games bring the fad back with eighties horror game The Bunker, directed by Allan Plenderleith, a director with but a single credit to his name, that of the poorly received ‘The Hunting’. So what of The Bunker?
The Bunker: Xbox One [Reviewed], PlayStation 4, PC
Developer: Splendy Games
Publisher: Wales Interactive
Release Date: 23 September 2016
Price: £15.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
The premise for The Bunker is that takes place in the eighties, 30 years after a nuclear attack has decimated England. Players assume the role of John, the last remaining survivor inside a bunker where it is the player’s job once all the systems begin to malfunction to explore his environment, areas the character had once visited as a small child in order to locate the source of the problem. The Bunker kicks off in a very interesting way, beginning with the players birth. Given a quick introduction to the QTE’s function heavily featured in the game, players are told to breathe before being growing up to care for the protagonist’s dying mother, which becomes a trait throughout the game.
With the game beginning to open up, players are eventually introduced to the main character John, moments that are expertly told through the games at times well-written script, which excellently conveys just how alone the player character truly is down in the dark depths of the bunker. But more importantly than that, just how tame and boring his life is. Tasked to carry out a daily list of checking his medication and radiation dosage, reading to his mum in bed, checking the systems in the bunker while also counting the copious amounts of tinned food he had left, John’s life is certainly no picnic, more a miserable existence.
While its ideas begin strong The Bunker consists entirely of quick time event’s mixed with a point and click system. Unfortunately, because of this element the player could comfortably make it through the entire game by merely pressing the A button less than 100 times with player involvement minimalistic. Additionally, while its premise might at a glance appear simple, The Bunker‘s QTE moments can appear fast and random at times making them almost impossible to accomplish as the players cursor might be on the other side of the screen at the time it occurs, resulting in you having to slowly drag the cursor all the way across screen only to narrowly miss the QTE and fail. Of course, this makes for some rather frustrating moments as a mistimed QTE results in a black screen, pushing to player back to a previous checkpoint, forced to watch the previous cutscene again.
Aside from The Bunker‘s rather infuriating QTE system, you have The Hobbit’s Adam Brown playing the role of the games main character John. Without question Brown is a fine actor in his own right and for a percentage of the time he makes the game an entertaining one but as the story progresses the script began to grow stale, with the lead actor beginning to over-act in later scenes. For example, later in the game, John falls from a ladder which is roughly 4 foot high at the point in which he falls yet somehow he manages to put his bone through his arm after the world’s slowest fall. Brown then proceeds to pull the strangest faces as he journeys to the medical bay to fix up his arm, not to mention making some rather odd and annoying noises along the way.
And it’s not just Adam Brown that falls foul when it comes to the game’s acting. The rest of The Bunker‘s cast list fair little better with the games main antagonist, a Commissioner played by Grahame Fox ( A Game of Thrones) performance often falling flat and flattering to deceive when attempting to come across as menacing or intimidating. There is no way in my mind that someone who starred in all three Hobbit films and someone who featured in a show of the calibre of A Game of Thrones could deliver such mediocre performances without something going on, whether that be a slowly stagnating script or something else entirely.
While The Bunker‘s acting ranges from flat or too over exuberant at times it’s made all the more frustrating by the fact that the player choices have absolutely no impact on the ending whatsoever, which for me as a gamer is the most infuriating part of any game. To see my entire journey mean absolutely nothing, eventually boiling down to a choice of two simple options was truly gut wrenching not to mention wholly disappointing. Off acting performances and pointless decisions aside throughout the first half an hour of my playthrough the game hard crashed twice, resulting in a loss of in-game progression.
While The Bunker has its strong points, the game falls short in so many different ways. There is a fine line between creating a game and that game than becoming a movie, sadly The Bunker strays far too often from being an actual game and becomes more of a film with minimal player interaction. Its cinematography should be lauded and is easily the best part of the game, capturing the essence of John’s lonely life inside the bunker brilliantly however, underlying issues such as irratic acting and a frantic QTE system, it would be hard to recommend The Bunker.