An incredibly well-made and entertaining game with excellent world-building, narrative, and atmospheric audio that is sadly let down by psychological horror that borders on harassing. It’s not for the faint of heart.
Voice acting is impeccable
Atmospheric audio is suitably terrifying
World-building is thorough
The horror can overstep the mark
At times frustrating physics
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Platform review: PC
Available on: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PC
Release date: June 6 2023
Amnesia: The Bunker is not for the faint of heart but even with its insatiable thirst for terror Frictional Games manages to provide a well rounded world full of secrets, horrors, and tragic stories.
Unlike previous titles, The Bunker doesn’t beat around the bush as Frictional Games sends you straight into the heart of WW1 trench warfare. You navigate the bloody and sodden trenches through a hail of bombs and even toxic gas as German soldiers shoot down at you from the ridges above. While it doesn’t do much to scare you, as this sequence feels straight out of a FPS game, it’s a great chance to familiarize yourself with mechanics in a situation that is adrenaline-filled but not terrifying.
Having the freedom to roam above the trenches was a brilliant way to set up the claustrophobic setting of The Bunker. Seeing the cloudy grey sky or hearing a soldier's guttural scream for aid brought a strange comfort as I knew I was not alone. Having the freedom to roam around the trenches at will and the ease of simply shooting enemy soldiers stripped away so quickly made my first entrance into the dark tunnels all the more jarring.
After getting caught in enemy fire while dragging your shredded and almost lifeless friend out of the mud, you wake up alone in a medical bed in a subterranean facility somewhere in the western front. There's no explanation for your solitude; you only have a faint clue that this isn't somewhere you want to be.
Apart from a few deranged letters scattered around the tunnels, the only human contact you get is an injured soldier lying in the foodhall. Mortally wounded and fearful for what else inhabits the bunker, this poor soul asks you to perform an act of mercy and put him out of his misery before the monster finds him again. Unfortunately, your one act of kindness is cut short as the creature bursts out of a hole in the wall and finishes the soldier off itself. This starts an awful chase sequence that leads you to the safe room, and here lies the beginning of Amnesia: The Bunker.
Confusion, claustrophobia, and isolation are brilliant ways to start the newest title in the Amnesia series. It rips the player out of any comfort they may have from roaming around under the cloudy sky and immediately turns the tables, forcing you into a reality where you're trapped and almost entirely defenseless from the beast that lurks within the dark hollows.
Hard to forget
It can be easy for a horror game to play off its jumpscares or creepy atmosphere without committing any effort to polish other less terrifying aspects of the game. Thankfully Amnesia: The Bunker and Frictional Games didn't rest on its laurels.
I'm unsure if I was so obsessed with Amnesia: The Bunker's world-building, mechanics, or audio effects because they were genuinely fantastic or if it gave me something else to think about other than the growling and ghastly bone-ridden beast that plagued me. I like to think both reasons can be true.
The physics-based interactive environment is wonderfully reminiscent of the initial titles like The Dark Descent, promoting players to interact more intimately with the world around them. You can dislodge stuck doors, clean up planks of wood that litter your escape path and even pry open ventilation grates to sneak into forbidden rooms. It’s reassuringly familiar for old fans and a great way to get players stuck into the role of a petrified French soldier scrambling around dark hallways to find the tools needed to escape.
My final moments in Amnesia: The Bunker were somewhat unforgettable. Without unleashing any unwanted spoilers, playing duck, duck, goose with a multi-limbed monster while messing around with the physics of boxes was not on my bingo card for this psychological horror game.
This interactivity and the puzzles scattered through the bunker build the atmosphere spectacularly. Desperately trying to swing open doors, scrambling through the belongings of dead soldiers to find vital codes on their dog tags, and using objects to help navigate the world around you creates stomach-churning anxiety.
This realism also works wonders when creating an engaging narrative and a believable setting. There's hints to the past life these tunnels led left throughout abandoned barracks, a deserted foodhall, and locker rooms still filled with the belongings of the soldiers that once walked the same paths as you are now. Couple this with brilliant voice acting, and atmospheric audio and you have yourself one believable world to scare yourself in.
Overstepping the mark
Amnesia: The Bunker is a wonderful experience in interactive world-building, storytelling, and puzzle-solving. Sadly, this hard work is let down by the exhausting horror. I love horror and will gladly put myself through hours of Outlast or Silent Hill games, but when the anxiety is so taxing that you find yourself trying to get from A to B as quickly as possible with your head down, staring at the floor, some of the joy is drained from the experience.
Right at the beginning, you see the monster demolish a fellow soldier, cementing the fact that you can share that gruesome fate from this point onwards. The only way to keep it at bay is by feeding the generator with the fuel you find throughout the tunnels and keeping the lights on. There's also your wind-up flashlight, but the time it takes, coupled with the noise it generates, means that sometimes this tool will do more harm than good.
This concept would be brilliant if it didn’t mean that every time the light faded, the beast would plague you incessantly growling. This next-level horror will be a wonderful and refreshing experience for some. However, it’s important to note that Amnesia: The Bunker isn’t for the faint of heart, and to many, it isn’t something that will welcome you back for a second playthrough.
Amnesia: The Bunker is a perfect refresher for the franchise that builds off the original fear of the dark and loss of sanity that previous titles are known for which makes it a strong contender for our best horror games list. However, the high-stakes and paralyzing atmosphere may be too much for some to handle.
Unfortunately, there aren't a whole lot of accessibility features to marvel at in Amnesia: The Bunker. While there are ways to change graphics and audio settings the bit with the most customisation seems to be its subtitles settings. In these you can switch subtitles and closed captions on, change the size, and select animate or distance fade options that’ll reveal subtitles as the words are said and let the subtitles fade off screen as you walk away from items and letters.
How we reviewed
This playthrough of Amnesia: The Bunker took seven and a half hours to complete on the recommended normal difficulty level. While you can go back in and play on Hard mode to ensure a different experience this level is not recommended for a first time play through. I didn’t complete it on this difficulty level and nor did I pick up every letter that came my way but that was more for my own sanity than anything else.
Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications.
Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.