Atomic Heart is a single-player first-person shooter developed by Mundfish and published by Focus Entertainment, releasing in 2023. Set in the alternate Soviet Union of 1955 at Facility 3826, you play as Agent P-3, a WWII veteran with memory problems.
In 1936, scientist Dmitry Sechenov developed a liquidized programmable module called the Polymer, sparking massive technological breakthroughs in the fields of energy and robotics in the USSR and freeing much of the populace from manual labour. When World War II broke out, the Soviets quickly gained the upper hand, but just before Nazi Germany was defeated in 1942 they unleashed the Brown Plague virus, leaving millions dead and creating an international demand for Soviet robots to compensate for the resulting worker shortage. As part of the Soviet Union’s post-war reconstruction programme, Dr. Sechenov created a wireless, networked artificial intelligence called “Kollektiv 1.0” that linked his robots together for greater efficiency.
Most recently, Sechenov developed the THOUGHT neuroconnector, a device that integrates Polymer into the human body and allows humans to remotely interface with robots. THOUGHT is to be released alongside Kollektiv 2.0, and Sechenov boasts that it will usher in a true post-labor era for the entire world. However, Kollektiv 2.0’s official launch goes awry, plunging Facility 3826 into chaos. Your goal as P-3 is to find out what happened while evading the unspeakable horrors within.
The combat consists of shooting and slashing with improvised weapons. A wide variety of enemies are featured. A crafting system allows the player to piece weapons together from metal parts that can be detached from robots or taken from household appliances. Weapons can be upgraded via a mechanic. Ammo in the game is scarce, and there is a stealth option. The player wears a Polymer Glove, which grants powers such as telekinesis, freezing, and electricity to defeat foes. Its powers can be combined with both melee and ranged weapons.
The first time I became aware of the existence of Atomic Heart, it became a highly anticipated game for me. For one thing, there’s the glaring similarities to Bioshock. Secondly, the eccentricity oozing from all of the trailers got me all sorts of excited. Was it worth the wait?
Firstly, right off the bat I’ll mention how the game looks pretty damn good visually. I’d say it’s rough around the edges in places but you won’t likely hear many complaints about that area of the game. The opening segment blew my mind, it certainly had me remembering Bioshock Infinite which is a huge compliment from a massive Bioshock fan.
I know some out there didn’t enjoy the English voice work within the game as the original is in Russian. Personally, I played in English and found it to be well done. P-3 has some funny one liners and often commented on certain aspects of the gameplay in ways that I was thinking.
In basic terms, the story is pretty simple. I love the concept and how detailed everything is, a lot of thought has gone into it. However, I found that it is delivered in quite a convoluted manner. You’re constantly being beaten over the head with new information. It’s all this person did this and that person said that, it gets a bit much at times. Still, the story certainly takes a few interesting twists and turns with an ending that will definitely surprise you.
Combat is satisfying and always feels like a bit of a challenge or something that you’d rather avoid if possible. Certain sections generate a very creepy atmosphere with some enemy types having you feeling like you’re playing a first person Dead Space or something. I found the weapon variety to be poor because there isn’t really any incentive to use melee weapons over something like the shotgun. A gun like the standard pistol felt completely useless to me.
Additionally, the game is unbelievably generous with resources. I had a storage box filled with endless ammo and healing items which hurt the game because I was never worried about not having enough at any stage. There are a few boss battles that feel unique but they all diverge into having you emptying rounds into some kind of vessel.
Let’s talk about the open world sections of the game. I’ll be honest in saying that I wasn’t really a fan because the pacing of the story is hurt. Other than resource gathering and the optional training grounds, it feels like padding more than anything. The game really could have benefited from side quests. The open world isn’t bad at all it just feels empty and like filler to pad out the game. It’s so much more enjoyable during the more focused sections. I wish that they had left out the open world sections all together. Considering the game is fully aware that it’s inspired by a game like Bioshock, I wish they had looked at what that game managed to do with a location like Rapture.
The game has bugs but nothing game breaking. Achievement hunters beware, you wont get through this game without an achievement or two not unlocking when it should or even at all.
Also, traversal in the game can feel cumbersome. Sometimes you’ll jump to something you know you should grab onto and for some reason you won’t and you’ll fall. Still, the resource gather mechanic is amazing and should be in every game.
Overall, Atomic Heart is a game that is filled with a lot of great ideas but it really could have benefited from a more focused, condensed approach. The quirky and eccentric vibe of the game is what really helps it stand out as something worth playing. It was worth the wait but that doesn’t change my thinking that it is a flawed experience. With it being on Game Pass, it’s a complete no-brainer to give it a whirl.
The Final Score - 7.5/10