The Bunker (Switch eShop) Review
When I think back to the games that I enjoyed most, to the games that pulled me into their worlds so easily, I always think about FMV based games. Games where most of the action if filmed live footage using real people as actors. Stuff like Spycraft, The X-Files, Phantasmagoria and Night Trap were all FMV experiences that have arguably aged poorly but that I really enjoyed as a kid. Like all things from the past, FMV based games are making somewhat of a comeback with games like Late Shift, Her Story and now The Bunker. Unfortunately, The Bunker absolutely nails the look and feel of these games but falls flat in other areas.
In The Bunker, you’ll be playing as John. Born thirty years ago, when Britain was wiped out by a nuclear attack, life in The Bunker is all he knows. Nobody has been to the surface since the incident, but somehow, John is the only one left alive in the Bunker. As such, every day is John completing his routine to survive, living a life bathed in cold fluorescent light and trapped inside sterile concrete. It’s claustrophobic and oppressive. One morning, there’s an equipment malfunction that forces John to abandon his routine and travel deeper into the bunker, the depths of which he’s never visited before.
The story is a huge part of The Bunker and thankfully it’s well constructed. You’ll largely control John in the modern day as he troubleshoots the Bunker and slowly uncovers repressed memories as he journeys deeper into the facility. Every now and then, you’ll also be privy to some flashbacks that further flesh out John’s life before the modern day. Rather surprisingly, The Bunker remains grounded from beginning to end, with an endgame that ends things quite nicely. The story won’t shock you to your core, but it’s still a little bit of a surprise.
The performances are what really sells The Bunker, with some solid well-acted performances from the core cast of three. John himself is easily the standout here, perfectly encapsulating the look of a young and sheltered boy trapped inside an adult’s body, given his tumultuous upbringing. Most of the story will be relayed to you through John’s stray looks, internal monologues and painfully uncomfortable wide-angles of his face. And it works well, with major events of the past informing how John behaves in the present.
While the story and atmosphere of The Bunker are top-notch, as a game it falls a little bit flat. I used to love immersing myself in games like 1998’s The X-Files; solving puzzles, interviewing suspects and living the life of an FBI agent. The Bunker feels like a step back in almost every direction through – the quality of the video has obviously improved (dramatically) but sometimes the game feels more like a movie with some controls laid over it. Basically, there’s not a lot for the player to do, barely any consequences for doing the wrong thing and the whole thing is incredibly linear.
I’m willing to cut The Bunker a little bit of slack for being so linear since it tells such a nice little story, but it does feel like sometimes the game was on autopilot and that my actions and decisions weren’t really affecting how things played out. John’s isolation means there’s barely any dialogue choices to be made. Similarly, whenever I failed a QTE, the scene would either play out or just fade to black and start again. Perhaps this is The Bunker wearing its budget on its sleeve, not affording the resources to film “failure” scenes, but it does erode a lot of the tension most players would have as they head further into The Bunker.
There are some extras that most players will miss if they’re not careful that further flesh out the backstory. Files you’ll find strewn throughout the bunker provide some nice little side stories to read about, but nothing more. Similarly, John can find his “toys” that he’s left around the place which also further flesh out some of the backstories for The Bunker, but these are never explicitly mentioned in the game itself, only by a separate menu of text. It’s as if they were added after filming was completed to provide more content, but there’s a weird disconnect between them existing and the game itself. Regardless, most players can expect to be done with The Bunker in about three or so hours, potentially less if you don’t care about the extras. There are two endings, both of which are standard for a story of this type, though barely worth warranting an extra play through.
In terms of presentation, as I alluded to earlier, The Bunker does a fantastic job at setting up the tone and atmosphere of the titular facility. There wasn’t a point where I didn’t feel a little bit oppressed, or even depressed, at the situation that John found himself in. The whole experience is shot immaculately with well-crafted lighting and great cinematography, and while nothing ever explicitly jumps at you the environments are shot and constructed in a way that just adds to the player’s growing tension. Basically, almost any screencap you’d take from The Bunker could be framed, it just looks that good.
The Bunker absolutely nails the tense, oppressive atmosphere that it works so hard to build, but the limited interactivity makes it feel more like an interactive movie than a game. The story is fantastic and surprisingly grounded, but the tension the game works so hard to build is eroded by a distinct lack of interactivity and consequence.
Rating: 3 / 5
+ Strong Story
+ Quality Cinematography
+ Well Acted Performances
- Not Much Interactivity
- You’ll Never Play It Again
- Simple “Puzzles”