Within minutes of playing Amnesia: The Bunker (after the initial intro) I got scared, said “nope,” and turned it off. For your sake I sucked it up, put on a clean pair of pants, and jumped back in.
Amnesia is one of the best horror experiences around and made by a rather small team of developers; but you wouldn’t know that based on the stellar experience of The Bunker. The game does a great job of opening up different playing mechanics that you know will bite you later on. The flashlight, for example, needs to be wound up, but when you do it makes a loud whining sound. Then it only lasts a few moments before it runs out of power and shuts off. Think like those little toy cars you had as a kid where you pull it back really fast and they make a loud motorized buzz.
It’s not long into the game before you find yourself hiding in a corner of a dark room. Thinking things are safe, you crank up the flashlight ever so quickly, only to hear a groan from another room and the pounding of heavy boots storming in your direction.
This of course is the Stalker, a creature/mechanic which is very similar to other horror games such as Alien: Isolation or MADiSON. It’s an ever moving threat, always roaming about and ready to tear your head off. The Stalker is attracted to sound, any sound. Footsteps, flashlights, or firing a gun, it’s all going to attract a threat and force you to keep moving and organize an exit strategy.
This tense sound mechanic enhances the horror by a mile, and the added level of detail to all the sounds are incredible. Firing your gun in a somewhat enclosed space sends a loud blast that echoes through the room; temporarily impairing your hearing with a loud ringing sound. At one point, I needed to blast a lock off a door and had just finished escaping from the Stalker. I sat there for a good minute debating if firing the weapon was a logical decision at the time; both because of the sound reattracting the Stalker, and the fact ammo is extremely limited. Finally I decided it was for the best and—BAM—I could barely hear a thing, but through the ringing I heard a faint scream and footsteps swiftly moving my way.
My god I’ve never felt such fear in a game before.
Some of the fear can be mitigated by turning on the lights via a central “safe room” that hosts a generator. The generator, however, eats up fuel which is also scarcely spread throughout the bunker. You’re given a clock that ticks, and by timing the clock with the generator you get an idea of how much time is left on the generator before it runs out of fuel. When the lights are on the Stalker is stuck hiding within the walls instead of out in the open. So as long as you are aware of your surroundings and keep away from dark tunnels, you are moderately safer.
When the lights turn off, the bunker becomes a maze of darkness and the Stalker can lurk about freely. You could use your loud ass flashlight, but we all know what happens then.
This very simple mechanic adds a dynamic layer of fear I hadn’t anticipated. I never expected it to be so stressful for me. Running from the monster, hiding, and then taking a breath to also time the fuel is thrilling and stressful…but also fun.
This aspect also makes your approach to the game very strategic. In the safe room you can go through items you’ve collected, see what you need, and plan out an adventure. Your excursions need a purpose since you only get so much fuel and you know a monster is lurking the second it gets dark. When you come to abrupt puzzles and locked doors you need to quickly think through them. On top of that, you need an exit strategy because if things take a turn you need to find your way back to the safe room.
I honestly enjoyed the story very much. Similar to Martha Is Dead I loved the idea of exploring WWII in a different way. Instead of shooting Nazi’s (which is always fun) we are instead dealing with a soldier who has seen the horrors of war and now due to an accident is having some mental problems. The cool thing about The Bunker is that it is entirely self contained. You won’t feel lost while playing this game and it feels like a complete experience. If you have played the previous two games, however, there are a ton of hints and story related aspects that adds some additional depth to a really great story.
Unfortunately, the story is fairly easy to figure out within the first few moments of playing the game. I mean it’s a soldier with mental problems who needs to erase “the monster.” The more notes you find and clues you see, the easier it is to see where this is going. BUT that doesn’t detract from the overall story and emotional impact. It is really awesome to see games exploring this side of war, and this game is no exception to powerful storytelling.
The technical side of things is where Amnesia: The Bunker falls short a tiny bit. The game is a PS4 title with no PS5 counterpart, and it shows in overall quality. While it looks great, the game is set in small corridors and shouldn’t need the loading sequences it has. It creates a somewhat clunky experience when moving room to room, and at one point I thought the game actually froze before it slowly trickled back in.
I am also not a fan of the control schemes. The best way I can explain it is by saying the experience felt like a poorly transitioned PC control scheme to controller, it just doesn’t flow that well and needing to do several button sequences can get frustrating. One of my biggest gripes is when selecting something on screen, you almost need pinpoint accuracy to click certain objects.
Overall though these complaints are extremely minimal, and somewhat nitpicky on my part.
Amnesia: The Bunker is honestly a great horror experience that will get your heart racing. It’s a great self contained story in a horrific world of WWII. There are some minor gameplay mechanics that will remind you this isn’t a big budget title, but a majority of the time you’ll forget this entirely.