The Bunker: First Impressions

The Bunker

With the UAE’s propensity for tall buildings, few people living in the country would be used to the idea of a basement. Structures tend to go up over here, not down. Playing live-action interactive video game The Bunker provides an experience of living underground. That is, If you grew up underground in the mid-1980s UK following a nuclear apocalypse.

The Bunker
Good times in a post-apocalyptic nuclear bunker

You direct John (played by Adam Brown, whom you may have seen in The Hobbit films). Like most hobbits, he seems an affable lad, something remarkable considering the first 30 years of his life have been spent adhering to a strict routine of radiation testing and baked beans in an underground nuclear bunker. In Essex. He spends his days self-testing for radiation and updating various inventories (14 years, three months and 11 days of food left). You start by going along with John on his routine. It’s interesting at first, but the banality seeps in immediately on day 11,110.

Thankfully, something goes wrong and the routine breaks.

The Bunker
John, our protagonist. He’s a stickler for routine – until fateful day 11,111 in the bunker

When I say direct, I mean in a film-making sense. There’s a cursor on the screen you control with the L3 stick; move it left or right and John follows with his head. Tap X on various objects or areas and you’ll see him interacting with that thing or walking to that spot, which triggers a new camera angle. Cameras in hallways are old-school VHS-quality CCTV. It’s similar gameplay to Heavy Rain, though you can’t control individual steps the protagonist takes.

The Bunker
Claustrophobia: don’t live underground if you suffer from it

John isn’t a perfect human being. He has severe mummy issues. He also has a filthy habit of eating his meals – all of them – while sat on the toilet. He’s also completely alone, for reasons that the game will make clear as you go.

The Bunker
Mummy issues: they only get worse when you’re trapped in a bunker

The Bunker is a modern take on the classic full motion video game (FMV) concept, where pre-recorded movies display the in-game action. The addition of a cursor brings a more natural point-and-click element to the narrative, as does the movement of the characters head towards the cursor.

The Bunker
Yes, that’s a Commodore 64. All scenes have been filmed with real-life actors in an actual decommissioned nuclear bunker in Essex

Developed by indie studio Wales Interactive, The Bunker is banking on the storytelling expertise of writers from vaunted titles The Witcher, SOMA and Broken Sword. It’s also hoping an accomplished cast of actors can pull off working in a new, experimental medium.

The Bunker
Crackly CCTV cameras often frame your perspective

There’s a reason FMVs aren’t really a thing anymore. They’re associated with 1980s arcades, Laserdisc and the Sega Mega CD 2, which you may remember had a 1995 example of this genre with Fahrenheit. Then again, given that this game’s Wikipedia entry isn’t even 350 words, you might not. Actually, you’ve probably not even heard of the Mega CD 2.

Will The Bunker be doomed to be a brave but financially unsuccessful experiment, or herald a new age of interactive storytelling that sees a brilliant synergy of cinema and gaming? Time will tell.

We’ve only played about an hour so far, but stay tuned for a comprehensive review after the game’s done. The Bunker came out today and is available on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Mac. Check out the trailer below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1h7U4wwhWk