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Amnesia: The Bunker (PS4) Review – All unquiet on the western front

Frictional Games has a well earned reputation of developing some of the most frightening games of the last decade. From ‘Amnesia: The Dark Descent’ to ‘SOMA’, some of the techniques and ideas the developer introduced have even made their way into other games.

With ‘Amnesia: The Bunker,’ Frictional goes the other way, and hones its already formidable formula by adding some newer ideas from similar horror games. Alien: Isolation is a clear inspiration for The Bunker, and it all melds together to produce a game that will delight, terrify, and frustrate gamers.

I have a rendezvous with death

In 1916, French soldier Henri Clement returns from patrol to find that the only way out of the titular “bunker” has been blocked off; worse, he appears to be the only survivor in what is a labyrinthine structure, which is now patrolled by a fearsome creature.

There was a battle here, or more accurately a slaughter, and the remnants of Henri’s compatriots are strewn about their former sanctuary. There’s no time to mourn the dead however, as now this sole-survivor must search for the tools that will enable his escape.

‘Amnesia: The Bunker’ employs a somewhat open world design, with several smaller areas that can be explored more or less at will. Not that there aren’t impediments along the way, because there absolutely are. Some areas cannot just be walked into, and the components you need to survive are scattered everywhere, some being locked away. Naturally, this forces players to explore, with the aim of finding the codes to unlock them.

Your revolver is dependable, but won’t kill what’s out there in the dark

There are no artificially created complications either: once you unlock one area, you must search the others for what you need. Simple enough, except you have to remember that the bunker is plunged into pitch darkness, and your puny flashlight only penetrates a few steps in front of you.

A generator is available, and you can scavenge for fuel that allows you to have a few precious minutes of light and relative safety. The beast lives in the dark, and it’s a much easier time navigating the halls of The Bunker when they’re lit up.

And lead me into his dark land

You are limited to saving in one area, forcing you to backtrack through the game’s usually shadowy passages if you want to record your progress. This adds a chilling tension, as your game is not saved automatically (or otherwise) as you travel between sections.

But even though it’s quite effective in that way, it also makes occasional crashes all the more infuriating. Once you’re in though, you’re in, and you better make good use of your wits if you want to survive.

Obstacles can be solved in multiple ways. Usually brute force is a perfectly viable option, though that’s if you’re willing to chance being discovered by the monster. And should that instance arise, you have few options.

Fire in the hole

If you can shoot the thing in the head (remember, you’re a soldier) or chuck a firebomb at it, you can drive it back. That is all you can do though, as eliminating the creature altogether isn’t possible. Also ammo isn’t plentiful, and you’d best make those shots count. This isn’t Doom, Amnesia: The Bunker is an exercise in survival.

Adding to the challenge (and frustration) too, are the rats feasting on the corpses of the dead.

A dark and lonely place

While it’s not the selling point of Amnesia: The Bunker, the graphics and sound are mostly very good. The majority of the game is spent in relative darkness, it’s true, but the overall look gets the point across.

The Bunker feels like a WWI-era stronghold, and is very nicely detailed throughout. This isn’t a generic structure by any means, as Frictional Games has created a world that feels as grounded and real as possible. As genre adherents know, that can make an otherworldly ‘horror’ element all that much more effective.

It’s particularly creepy to go from a lit corridor into a room that’s shaded in the red hue of emergency lighting, and peer out from that into a pitch black adjoining area. Add to that, that the game also sounds excellent, with creaking doors and the lonely footsteps of Henri echoing lightly as he makes his way. And when you hear something other than the sound of those boots… it can send a bolt of terror through you.

But all the same, and while most of what The Bunker offers is very good, it is worth mentioning that textures tend to pop in. That’s never a welcome thing, especially in the modern age, and is quite noticeable during loading times as well.

I shall not fail that rendezvous

Challenge can turn into frustration very easily in Amnesia: The Bunker. If the game crashes when you’ve just managed to escape the monster, you’ll be reduced to mouth-foaming rage. It doesn’t happen that often, but it occurs enough to really put a crimp in your enjoyment at times.

Nevertheless, for those intrepid enough to delve The Bunker’s depths, they will be rewarded with one of the year’s very best horror games. With patience, resourcefulness, and attentiveness, perhaps you can survive the terror of The Bunker.

Amnesia: The Bunker
Release Date:
June 6th, 2023
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S (also on Game Pass), PC
Publisher: Frictional Games
Developer: Frictional Games
MSRP: $24.99 USD

In the trenches with a beast

Premise - 82%
Gameplay - 77%
Presentation - 80%

80%

Terrifying

Amnesia: The Bunker is fairly different for the long-running franchise. While the themes might be a bit altered from what fans are used to, the game play is just as tight and tense as always, and being armed only provides brief respites from the creeping horror that's closing in. If you're looking for a summertime scare, this one's a good bet.

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