Atomic Heart is Flawed But Fun

I got pretty excited for Atomic Heart almost as soon as I heard about it back in 2017. I was already a big fan of games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Prey (2017) and BioShock, so a new game in a similar vein was a slam dunk for me. I didn’t think I’d have to wait nearly six years for it, but it’s here at last! The verdict: it’s…good. It’s not great and not the successor to the above games that I was hoping for, but it still does enough right to be a worthwhile experience. As for what exactly holds it back from true greatness…well, we’ll get into that too.

Video from YouTube channel: Focus Entertainment

So, what’s “The Good” about Atomic Heart? A few things, actually. First, it does what every proper games should seek first and foremost: it provides a fun experience. It’s fun seeing this crazy, retro-futuristic Soviet science facility and the crazy things its resident scientists dreamed up. It’s fun to fight against mustachioed, drop-kicking robots and biological horrors, and it’s fun to explore all the different facilities and ruminate on the kinds of things they were trying to make. Perhaps most importantly, there is a similar level of freedom to the games I mentioned earlier. It’s not the same and doesn’t go as far, but players do at least have the illusion of options when it comes to things like traversal and solving puzzles. That’s something that’s really important.

I also rather like the music, the overall design of the world and the enemies that inhabit it. It’s very clear that Mundfish was very passionate about this setting and did its utmost to bring it to life. Mick Gordon has also turned in yet another memorable soundtrack for Atomic Heart, making any moment with some musical underscoring instantly more enjoyable. Truly, when one is in the midst of combat, solving puzzles or just taking in the surroundings, Atomic Heart really shines. Outside of those times though, the game can struggle.

First off, P-3, our protagonist is kind of insufferable (in English).His voice doesn’t match his character design, and he sounds like someone was trying to write a more foul-mouthed version of Starlord from Guardians of the Galaxy. Put simply, P-3 is annoying so you’ll be better-off changing the audio language to Russian (but only once Mundfish fixes the game’s microscopic subtitle text size). Also, don’t go into Atomic Heart expecting top-shelf visuals. This is very much a AA game, and it absolutely shows it. Everything looks fantastic from a distance and in cutscenes, but it all immediately loses its luster upon closer examination.

Also, offering only almost as much freedom as something like Prey (2017) or Deus Ex: Human Revolution can be frustrating. You’ll find yourself wanting to try creative solutions only to find that such things are usually outside the bounds of what’s allowed. You’ll still feel like you should be able to do it, which makes this sting all the more.

You’ll also wind up spending a lot of time looting. You shouldn’t have to since looting everything will quickly saddle you with too much of many resources, but not all of them. Some are rarer and are yet needed for a lot of upgrades, so you’ll feel like you need to loot everything anyway. That takes a lot of time and thus gets old pretty quick. Said upgrades also make you very OP very quickly, so you might want to consider jumping straight to the highest difficulty.

Lastly, at the time of this writing, the game suffers from a lot of jank and glitches. It’s easy to get stuck: be it behind things, on the seams of ledges you shouldn’t have been able to climb or even on enemies if things go particularly wrong. I’ve had to restart due to elevator malfunctions and the map simply not working at times too. Also, the music often comes in and out at strange times too. In short, Atomic Heart is in need of polish. It’s not unplayable, but there is a lot here capable of disrupting your flow.

In typical AA fashion, and in much the same way as Vampyr (also published by Focus Interactive), Atomic Heart gets a lot right, but it’s held back by a few things. In this case, it’s design constraints, an annoying player character, repetitive looting and some actual technical problems bringing the experience down.

That said though, there is still a fun experience to be had in a genuinely interesting world. It also helps that the music is just plain good and all the other characters (your AI glove included) are actually quite interesting and well-casted. If you thought Atomic Heart would be interesting from the previews, then you’ll probably be happy if you go out and get it. As for everyone else, I’d still recommend it, but wait for a sale.

Have you tried Atomic Heart? What did you think? Are there any other AA games you’d recommend?

Image captured from the Atomic Heart gameplay teaser

2 Comments Add yours

  1. WCRobinson says:

    I had an ad for this in the cinema once, and it gave me big PS360 vibes of a bit of a generic shooter, at least in that ad. I’m glad you enjoyed it somewhat though – it seems a reminder of the times when we got loads of these new IP shooting games.


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