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Review: Atomic Heart

From developers Mundfish, what started out as a VR tech DEMO back in 2017 has evolved. Delay after delay, hype mixed with controversy, everything was gearing up until the eventual release of Atomic Heart. Was the wait worth it? I think so.

Let’s dive into the Alt-Future setting of an ambitious, beautiful, and too-horny-for-its-own-good game. Приготовьс, comrade, this is Atomic Heart.

Welcome to the Alt-History of the Soviet Union, comrade.

As far as the opening of Atomic Heart is concerned, it does take its time. Through a mostly on-rails sequence you are shown the surroundings and world building is established. You are Major Sergey Alekseyevich Nechaev, better known by his code name “P-3”. His literal left-hand man is the Polymer Glove, housing the Char-Les Artificial Intelligence. Things kick up a notch when you are blown out of the sky and crash hard in the countryside. Robots are losing their minds, and you have to literally fight your way through the insanity that is evolving around you.

Events throughout the game take place in Facility 3826. You will fight your way through laboratory complexes, hunting down those responsible and overcoming wave after wave of rogue robot and manic mutants. Throughout you will come across many stopwatches that have voice recordings in them that tell bits of people’s lives and further expand the world-building. You’ll traverse your way through the villages, avoiding detection and alarms of the robots, or taking them all down for their parts.

P-3’s boss is one Dr. Dmitry Sechenov, the genius behind Polymer as well as Facility 3826. Beyond calling the shots to P-3 he is also guarded by the posterchildren of Atomic Heart, the Ballerina Twins. As they are referred to in game as Left and Right, they are assassin robots that have a very, let us say ‘unique’ design. Allow me to quell a rumor: The infamous Scene. It was teased, and the fire was stirred by the developers themselves. However, after hours of play and more hours of research after, I can confirm as of this moment that the Scene does not exist. If you know, you know.

What IS Atomic Heart?

Atomic Heart has a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor. The banter between P-3 and Charles is entertaining and fills up a lot of the dead air that usually plagues FPS adventures. Make no mistake, P-3 is a badass and just as much of an asshole. Every comment he makes about everything, barring Petrov himself, is one of scathing brashness and hotheaded malice. This personality is very well offset by Charles, who is levelheaded, informative, and has his own dry sense of humor that isn’t bothered by P-3’s abrasiveness. They work very well as a team, though you’d never hear Comrade Major say it out loud.

The world is full of characters that feel unique and familiar all at the same time. The Granny that you meet early on, and the hypersexual upgrade refrigerator NORA are standout characters. Outside of enemies, none of the NPCs you encounter feel samey. The voice work is extremely diverse and well-acted, the cast did an amazing job. The music is also well designed.

It’s worth mentioning that the puzzles in this game are… vast in quantity. There are several lock puzzles that serve as minor roadblocks to your progress. Then there are major puzzles that take up hours of time that boil down to ‘locked door’. P-3 makes many, many comments on this the whole time you are playing. I’m having a hard time figuring out if I find his constant griping to be cathartic that someone else is seeing the monotony of it. Or if he’s just complaining, a lot, and I have to listen to this grown man complain to a glove about locks on doors.

Time to reinvent violence

Combat and crafting go hand in hand with Atomic Heart. As you hack and slash your way through mountains of robot corpses, you will find crafting materials. You can use these to craft new weapons, upgrade old ones, and make consumables. All of this is dependent on if you have the correct patterns. These can be found while playing the game, but some you have to go hunting for. And the more patterns you have, the more you can upgrade and modify your weapons to be more in line with your playstyle.

The Polymer glove is your second line of defense, and offense. What starts as simple telekinesis to ransack your surroundings for parts soon grows into high voltage blasts and cryogenic beams. You make both weapons and glove upgrades at the aforementioned nymphomaniac refrigerator. One thing I feel I need to draw attention to is the forward thinking on the developers’ part when it comes to looting in this game. Rather than checking every box, shelf, and dead body, you just hold your hand out and vacuum all the materials to you. The amount of time saved is honestly amazing, and I think it’s pretty cool.

A diamond in the very rough

There are two endings for Atomic Heart. One is “good” and the other is “bad”. But all things being equal, and if you want to avoid spoilers don’t read ahead, they both kinda suck. While one is objectively better than the other in terms of events, neither feel satisfying. And there are so many questions still left unanswered that it makes the overall experience fall flat. At least to me, I’m someone who stayed up to 2 AM writing this because I finally finished the game and needed to get my words on paper.

Is Atomic Heart good? Yes. Gameplay, mechanics, world building and design are all superb. I thought it would end up being like BioShock and it is nothing like it, except for a few themes here and there. Should you play it? Yeah, for sure. I’d even recommend it. But the ending being what it is deals a hefty blow to the game as a whole. If DLC is ever released that added to the story or branching paths, I’d be thrilled.

Atomic Heart is available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and PC on Steam.




Is Atomic Heart good? Yes. Gameplay, mechanics, world building and design, all superb. Should you play it? Yeah for sure. I’d even recommend it. But the ending being what it is is a hefty blow to the game as a whole. If DLC ever released that added to the story or branching paths, I’d be thrilled.

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