Review – Amnesia: The Bunker
When I reviewed MADiSON, just under a year ago I said that we are living in a new “golden age of horror”, and I still think that is true. For example, Signalis was my personal 2022 game of the year. Now, to top things off, Frictional Games is back with the newest installment in their long-running Amnesia franchise. The Bunker takes the series in a different direction. One that is, oddly enough, familiar, but at the same time, vastly different.
Unlike Amnesia: Rebirth‘s divisive story-driven approach, almost all of The Bunker is entirely based on its gameplay, dropping you into the game with very little context. It feels like a return to the Frictional of old. Personally, it’s exciting that they are going back to their roots despite my enjoyment of their story-driven approach in the past few games. Amnesia was at its very best when it focused on horror, and whilst SOMA may be my favourite game from the development team due to its hauntingly deep story, it’s great to see them return to form. There’s still of course a story to play her,e but will mostly be delivered in the text logs you will find scattered around the bunker.
You play as Henri Clement, a French soldier fighting in World War 1. Things aren’t going too well and you are injured during the war. Waking up in a bunker, things have gone horribly wrong. Trapped, you must find a way out, but there is a dangerous beast out hunting for you.
After a brief intro that introduces you to the core mechanics, you are left alone to explore the dark and depressing bunker. Bodies litter the floor and it’s quite clear that something is roaming the place killing everyone in sight. As you arrive at a central point, this will become safe room, a place for you to chill out and pretend that there’s nothing out there to kill you. This safe room feels very similar to that of Resident Evil games: it’s a safe place that allows you to store various items to free up precious inventory rooms, and for you to study the map and plan your next big move.
This is also the home of the generator and your only save station. By collecting fuel tanks around the bunker you will be able to power up a generator giving you precious light throughout it. An important resource as, remember, you are not alone. The Beast is rampaging throughout the bunker, killing everyone in sight, and the lights will give you more time before it begins roaming.
If you have played any of Frictional’s other games before, you will mostly know what to expect. Amnesia: The Bunker is an exploration-heavy first-person horror game. The Beast is an unkillable monster that you will need to hide from, staring directly at him reduces your sanity. For the first time though you can attack it head-on. One moment I was hiding in a locker due to shooting a lock attracting the beasts’ attention, I noticed an explosive barrel through the cracks and as the beast moved closer I swung the door open and shot the barrel scaring off the beat. Yes, I used up two precious bullets in a relatively short time, but I also stopped the lights from coming out in a particularly dangerous area. You can fight back but you can’t kill it.
The Bunker itself opts for a much more open-ended approach. A decently sized map is split into multiple distinct zones. Frictional’s choice of calling it an open world feels a bit optimistic, though, considering the scope of the map. However, it does have a somewhat non-linear structure that allows you to tackle objectives in a slightly different order with plenty of backtracking to open up rooms that were otherwise inaccessible. Each section of the map acts like a miniature puzzle with some hazards to deal with. Each playthrough will be different due to the random order of key items and the passcodes to get them, creating a decent amount of replay value.
To go alongside this the monster is also pretty dynamic. As it roams around the areas it will react to what you are doing. The more noise you make the quicker it will come out of the woodwork to actively hunt you down. It’s a truly terrifying beast. Using the Dynamo Flashlight will make a noise that can attract the beast if it’s nearby meaning you will often be slowly moving through the pitch black. Though I found the AI to be a bit inconsistent sometimes completely ignoring my presence when nearby or just locking straight onto me. Thankfully whilst death can send you back a fair distance back it never felt too punishing as I can use what I learned to move through the zones much quicker.
Amnesia: The Bunker encourages you to experiment with the mechanics of the game. With light crafting that can actually be pretty impactful. Combining a stick with cloth for example will allow you to craft a torch not only useful for lighting the area but also for getting rid of rats feasting on bodies. There can be multiple ways through locked doors or a swarm of rats that will attack you if you get close. It encourages you to think of different ways around each encounter and I found the game to do a good job of making me think and consider my actions.
Running on Frictional’s proprietary HPL Engine which is starting to show its age, Amnesia‘s physics are tied to the framerate, meaning there is a 60FPS cap which will be disappointing to some, but no big deal here. And parts of the bunker are broken up by loading gates, which are pretty annoying and can take you out of the experience. It’s also not the most visually impressive game out there.
However, Amnesia: The Bunker makes the most out of its dated tech would imply. A great amount of detail is thrown into the rich environment making the bunker feel more (what was once) lived in. The beast is genuinely scary thanks to the great effects when it’s roaming around kicking up dust. Explosions fill the room and outside mortar fire will shake the bunker. There’s also a lot of restraint here as unlike most other horror games, The Bunker doesn’t throw the monster at you at every instance it can. You will often only see a claw or silhouette but rarely see the full thing.
The silence down in the bunker can at times be absolutely deafening as you sit alone with your thoughts. Then the explosions outside kick in as the bunker shakes violently and the monster’s roars can be heard throughout. The sound design does an amazing job of immersing you in the environment.
Amnesia: The Bunker is a mix of Alien: Isolation‘s singular persistent threat that follows you around, coupled with elements of the immersive simulator genre, resulting in a horror game with a unique flavour. It’s not the most revolutionary or polished experience stemming from the developers themselves, but Frictional have done what they do best. They have delivered, yet again, a true survival horror experience, but this time around, making a few bold changes I was glad with.
The HPL engine is starting to show its age but still delivers some really creep enviroments.
The singular persistent threat that follows you throughout the bunker is terrifying but the game feels a little awkward at times.
Rough voice acting aside. Amnesia’s restraint in the sound design leads to some terrifying moments.
Amnesia The Bunker is an ambitious entry in the series. Returning to the franchise roots whilst making some huge changes to the structure.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Amnesia: The Bunker is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X and PC.
Reviewed on PC with an RTX 4070, Ryzen 5 3600X and 16GB RAM. Installed on SSD,
A copy of Amnesia: The Bunker was provided by the publisher.