Amnesia: The Bunker review (PS4)

After pioneering a new type of horror experience in 2010’s Amnesia: The Dark Descent, developer Frictional Games hasn’t shown much desire to create something completely original all over again. Two series followed on from the revolutionary original – with a few years of production set aside for SOMA – but with a few gameplay tweaks to separate them, this new third follow-up had to make some tweaking. Amnesia: The Bunker is undoubtedly a better game than its predecessor, Amnesia: Rebirth, and while it doesn’t completely ignore that “been there, done that” feeling, it feels like a better direction for the series.

Just like the previous three entries, Amnesia: The Bunker is still about hiding in the shadows and creating distractions rather than engaging with the enemy. A junk control system allows you to pick up and interact with almost anything in the environment, opening and closing doors (of which there are many) is still a chore, and one wrong move could potentially lead to your demise. This may sound familiar to veterans, but there’s enough here to set it apart. One such example is the great setting: the bunker itself.

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The game takes place in an underground bunker during the First World War. After waking up to find yourself abandoned and trapped inside, you have to find a way out while avoiding a wandering monster. Narrow, barely lit passages connect each section of the bunker, highlighting the unsanitary conditions the soldiers had to live in during the first decade of the last century. These passages are fired into living quarters, kitchens, and machinery designed only to aid war efforts where human life is left in vain. It’s a pretty awful place, and Frictional Games has captured that brilliantly.

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Even without a monster on the loose, the lair is just as scary as its dark, damp, and shabby place. This is a painful and uncomfortable situation that keeps you on edge at all times – even in the seemingly safe haven of the management office. With the eerie sound and creepy atmosphere heightened, just walking the main lanes is a task for which you will have to relieve yourself.

What makes things more difficult is that you are not entirely guaranteed to complete the objectives in the light. Main character Henri ClĂ©ment is equipped with a wind torch, but turning it on creates a noise that attracts the monster that stalks the hallways. Separately, the cellar has its own lighting fixtures, but whether or not they are powered is entirely up to you. Next to the main hold room is a generator that requires fuel to operate the overhead cranes. You have to go out into the cellar to find this gas and bring it back to maintain a reasonable level of visibility. With very limited inventory space, you’ll quickly start to wonder if you should deal with the mechanic and instead try to thrive in the dark.

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In all respects, it’s a wonderful backdrop that really leads to the appalling conditions of a WWI bunker, from its dingy and dingy rooms to the efforts needed to keep the lights on for a few minutes. It’s horrible, amnesia: The Bunker celebrates it. What weakens it is the gameplay, which is not developed enough in places.

It’s impossible to get away from how dated the game is at times, from its high-performance controls to the essential loop to hiding away from a creature when you’re on patrol. Particularly on the PS5 pad, the inputs feel quite heavy; Again, especially when it comes to doors. It’s really easy to forget which button does what as there are all kinds of functions assigned to the controller, and they never feel very good in the first place. PS5 players will also want to note that there is only a PS4 version available, so features like adaptive triggers and haptic feedback won’t activate.

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What keeps the package from being a retread of past amnesia experiences is a more open approach to completing objectives. While you will be handed tasks to move the story forward, your main task is always to escape from the bunker. The game allows you to take on this duty in any way you like – to an extent. There are usually multiple ways to place your hands on an item or different ways to maneuver yourself around the room. The gun can play a huge role in this, if you want to. Despite the fact that you’re in a WWI bunker, ammo is very limited – having more than two bullets is a luxury. As such, you should use them wisely. The monster can be shot when it gets too close, or the firearm can create enough of an explosion to blow off a door lock.

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It’s these dynamic choices and different means of entry that elevate Amnesia: The Bunker above its predecessors, but it’s not enough to see the stellar entry reach the stars. The game still gets bogged down by outdated gameplay design, with those cumbersome controls and dated gameplay loops to hide away from the monster guarding the lair. As good as the game may be, it will need to completely break away from what came before it to really start making waves again.

Graphically, the title makes little impact other than accurately capturing the outrageous living spaces of World War I. We only have the PS4 version here (it runs on PS5 via backwards compatibility) so there weren’t any expectations of graphics greatness, but The Beast in particular looks pretty bad when you go head-to-head with it. Additionally, one or two issues arose throughout the gameplay, such as the map completely disappearing when trying to view it in the admin office.

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Conclusion

Amnesia: The Bunker is very close to what Frictional Games has been doing for over a decade now, but with a freer approach to gameplay, the team is back on track again. Besides the excellent setting, Amnesia: The Bunker is a huge improvement over its predecessor. You will still face the same old obstacles, but this horror experience is recommended.

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