Remember when first-person shooters were simple? No drawn out cut scenes, no over-the-top mechanics, no dramatic gut-wrenching stories about the cost of war or what not. When the plotline could be summarized as “Here is a gun. Go kill the Nazis/Zombies/Werewolves/Robots/Combination of the Aforementioned”? If you long for the days of straightforward shooters with spunky characters and the simple goal to kill everything in sight, Bunker Punks is worth trying out.
Bunker Punks is currently in Early Access on Steam, and despite being in its very early stages, already has a lot of content and potential. You are a team of rogues called the Zero Sum Gang out to thwart the evil capitalist dictators by stealing their bunkers. To do so, you equip yourself with a lot of guns and storm their various buildings, destroying the many droids and defenders that stand in your way. The unique factor in play is that, rather than simply starting over when you die, you are instead allowed to upgrade your own bunker and unlock new characters with “tech,” and then start a new game with these upgrades. You keep playing through as far as you can before you die until you’ve mastered the game and unlocked enough to make it to the final building, the headquarters.
Currently there isn’t much more to it than that. You start off with one punk (Molly Pop) and a simple handgun, then fight through the level finding more equipment and guns. Each building has a certain number of floors, with each floor specializing in a certain type of equipment or currency. After you complete every floor, you can then visit your own bunker where you can purchase upgrades on nearly every facet of your characters using “credits.” Later (after you die) you can use “tech” you’ve collected to unlock new characters and slots, new rooms for your bunkers, and new weapons and equipment.
The characters in the game all have their own specializations, as well as a unique design and personality, though you don’t see too much of it. The only time you see the character of whoever you picked to gun down robots is in their occasional one liners. However, their personalities are so exaggerated that you don’t need much else. Not that it matters since most likely, your punk preference is going to be based on their weapon specialty (I went with Cleopatra Rex most of the time, because I like assault rifles and because I am actually the Queen of Egypt, so it just fit).
Now, while all this simplicity makes for some great fun, there isn’t (as of yet) a lot of diversity to it. Of course you can unlock some new stuff, but most of the differences in characters are in unseen statistics, and while higher levels do introduce new enemies, there aren’t enough to really break up the grind. It becomes easy to get into a mode of just playing chicken with a droid, step in and out of cover to get in a shot until they go down. You get used to the mechanics so quickly, and since none of the characters actually function any differently outside of the increase in damage, eventually you might get a little bored. It doesn’t help that all of the levels look the same. It doesn’t matter what type of floor it is, or what the difficulty level is—every level has the same aesthetic and design. Even though they’re procedurally generated, once you get into it every level starts to feel the same. Once you hear the same one liner fifty times, it starts to lose any flavor it once had.
This could be changed later, as the game grows (currently it is still on version 0.116, so obviously very early in development) and I hope they do, because the core of the game is excellent. It’s a great testament to games that don’t necessarily need deep and complex mechanics or stories in order to be good. Sometimes all a game needs is fun. What it may also benefit from is the potential of co-op or multiplayer; however, this seems far more unlikely, though not impossible (pretty much the entire thing was apparently created by one guy, save for the admittedly awesome soundtrack and sound design). Graphics wise, everything has a retro pixel style, which fits well with the attitude of the game—it gives it a feel similar to Doom or Quake, but everything is a lot more polished so it still feels relatively modern. The main issue is the lack of diversity in the content—even a super fun game can get boring if you feel like you’re playing the exact same levels no matter how far you get. Still, there may be more to it coming later, and for what it is, it is definitely entertaining to play.
Bunker Punks is available as an Early Access on Steam or in The Humble Store.
Bunker Punks was provided by the developer and reviewed on PC through Steam.