Friday, 23 September 2016 00:00

The Bunker Review

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An intriguing concept that bridges the gap between filmmaking and video games, creating an interactive movie-like experience.

In the early 90s, developers experimented with full motion video (FMV) in place of expensive 3D rendering; at the time, that was the way to introduce realism into an otherwise pixelated universe. The end results weren't all that glorious: games like Dragons Lair, Mad Dog McCree, and many others featured some of the cheesiest acting in video game history, despite representing the pinnacle of what technology could offer at the time. 20 years or so have passed, and FMV has largely fallen out of popularity for 3D rendered animations.

The Bunker, however, made the technology their tour de force, and complemented the visual style with a complex plot written by agile writers behinds big titles like Broken Sword, The Witcher, and SOMA, They didn't stop at story-telling either. Much like movie producers, they valued an expensive cast. To draw you into The Bunker world class actors Adam Brown (The Hobbit), Sarah Greene (Penny Dreadful), Grahame Fox (Game of Thrones), and Jerome St. John Blake (Star Wars) lead the cast.

The Bunker is a psychological thriller, with choose-your-own-adventure mechanics.

You take on the role of John, born in a bunker simultaneously with the city's first bombings that devastated everything outside of its shelter. 3 decades later and much like others apocalyptic premises, John finds himself as a lone survivor, to aimlessly follow a lonesome existence.

Until the lower levels of the shelter warrant signs of changes.

John’s journey takes him deep into the darkest recesses of his mind, and bizarrely, the bunker's, as he tries to restore its order and make sense of his own purpose in the process. As John delves deeper into its dark corners, he will be faced with haunting memories of the past, which he’s fought hard to forget but can't avoid, the truth revealing itself, shedding a light on his condition as the last man standing.


Essentially, the Bunker is a point-and-click adventure á la Myst, with an environment that wasn't coded but filmed in a very real but thankfully decommissioned nuclear bunker. Combined with The Bunker's impressive visual effects and its stunning photography, filming created an ominous environment that will spook you beyond your most psychological aspirations. What a daring and, ultimately, outstanding product. The Bunker succeeds where so many others have failed using standard tools in game development. Immersion works, and before you know it, John’s situation will be yours.

Like movies, The Bunker is a short-lived experience.

Plan for 2 hours to complete. That may be insufficient to some, but you ought to take the purchase as a movie outing with, oddly enough, game mechanics. If that even makes sense... Yes, $19.99 at retail price is asking too much for such a short flight into the psychological horror, yet frankly, if you're into story-rich subtleties, there is enough in emotions and human interactions to justify your expense. Note that this is not an action game, and traditional triggers are few.

It's an interactive film, with gaming twists.

To encourage exploration, The Bunker features collectibles such as notes and toys. They add an incentive to discover each area a bit closer, they don’t influence the story and they don’t provide reason enough for a second playthrough. There are 2 endings though, worth experiencing, especially since the game is only a few hours long.

Though the recipe as a whole is a success, minor issues with FMV should be noted. The first few scenes drag on, as you are to watch John’s unexciting routine. Once the story picks up, interaction feels to few. Every aspect of had to be filmed and edited, which explains the sense of limitation comes the player's impact on their environment. In fact, the majority of gameplay is limited to mashing a button as quickly as possible or clicking on a circle within some time limit. On the other hand, it's done well and transitions are seamless. The Bunker has a natural flow to it, and avoids the clumsy scenario almost inherent to choose-your-own-adventures, you know, that feelings that progression is the result of some Frankestein-like thread because of the options you picked.


The Verdict

The Bunker is a heart-pounding journey through the mind of a lone survivor as he struggles to come to grips with a complicated past. It does an excellent job at drawing attention to what many have cast off as a forgotten genre in gaming. It's unlike any other experience you'll have.

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Mark Klink

Mark is a self-proclaimed nerd who has an undying need to take anything and everything tech related apart at the seams and break it down to the basics. His interest in video games reaches all the way back to his early days of playing Road Rash on the Sega Genesis. Games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Unreal Tournament only fueled Mark’s desire to get his hands dirty in video game design by offering in-depth level editors and a budding modding community. But alas, Mark was never a very good programmer, so when he’s not playing video games, he delves into information security and network engineering including Capture the Flag Tournaments and writing on current cyber security issues.


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