The FMV genre has had a bit of a renaissance lately. Her Story and Contradiction: Spot The Liar both released to a positive amount of fanfare over on the PC, and now it's time for the PlayStation 4 to get its own full motion adventure. The Bunker marks quite a change in scenery for developer Wales Interactive, a studio that's best known for its work on Soul Axiom - a game we weren't particularly fond of. So does The Bunker fall into the same category as its predecessor, or were we left pleasantly surprised?
You assume the role of John, a man who has was born and raised inside an underground bunker in England. 30 years after bombs wiped out the country, we gain control and witness the death of the now solitary inmate's mother. This hits John hard, but he doesn't let it affect his daily routine of taking pills, checking his radiation level, eating food, tuning on the radio, and reading to his mum. Just like the 11,000 that have come before it, the next couple of days play out like any other for John until a system error in the computer forces him to leave the only two rooms that he has ever known and inhabited. But this isn't entirely the main focus, because the story places just as much importance on the shelter's past as it does on what's happening in it right now.
John experiences flashbacks to his childhood, which is where the meat of the plot comes from. We learn of the problems that the fortification had with radiation sickness, the lack of supplies, and how the number of inhabitants plummeted from 59 to one. This wasn't exactly the story that we were expecting after viewing pre-release trailers, but in this case that's not a bad thing. The plot takes some twists and turns and remains engaging and intriguing throughout, in both the past and the present. Upon completion, we wanted even more from this alternate reality and John.
To go alongside a compelling narrative, the cast does just as good a job of making every character believable and instantaneously likeable or loathed. Adam Brown plays John, who most famously played the dwarf Ori in the recent Hobbit trilogy. His performance is easily the star of the show as he explores a range of John's emotions and portrays them on camera just like any other person would in a real life situation. You believe his cries in pain and agony, his fears of exiting his living quarters, and the desperation he feels when faced with life of death towards the game's conclusion. Brown also does an excellent job of conveying John's resentment towards the fact that he's the only one left. For example, early on John must follow a set of instructions in order to turn the power off. One of the points instructs John to make an announcement over the tannoy that the power is about to be switched off, and John does this despite there being nobody there to hear it. Brilliantly, Brown carries out the scene in the most natural way.
As well as Adam Brown, Sarah Greene plays John's mother and Grahame Fox is cast as the shelter's commissioner. These two characters form the major plot points of the bunker's past, and are carried out in exceptional manner. Initially Fox comes across as a controlling and frightful leader, who casts fear into anyone who wrongly crosses him. On the other hand, John's mother always does what's best for her son with Greene putting in a sound act that may surprise one or two people at the game's climax. Both of these roles change throughout the two to three hours that you'll spend with the game, and despite every action being justified, these are the two characters that you'll be talking about when you've finished the game. Both Greene and Fox have put in admirable performances and they do an excellent job as the supporting cast, which only helps to make this different spin on history even more believable.
While the cast is stellar, the gameplay remains true to its genre tropes. You never directly control John, instead selecting predetermined certain places for him to walk to, objects to interact with, and things to read and listen to. There's also the occasional quick time event where you're tasked with mashing the X button and a drag and drop mechanic that allows John to open doors or twist handles, but your input will never go beyond this. We didn't mind this too much because it's pretty much what we expected to get out of an FMV game, but for those looking for more gameplay-heavy experiences will want to seek them elsewhere.
As the industry gears up for another bumper holiday season, The Bunker offers something a little different. It doesn't attempt to give you a bulk of gameplay or mechanics, but it makes up for this and more in its plot and characters. Don't let this experience pass you by if you're looking for an interesting and superb story, because we think this is the FMV genre at its very best.