Atomic Heart Review - IGN (2023)

There's a lot to be said for single player games like Atomic Heart - their entire focus is on creating an intricate world for us to explore and discover for ourselves. A tantalizing blend of superpowered shooter and first-person puzzler, this is a long, hard-hitting, fantastic-looking shooter that bathes us in the blood and gear of elaborate enemies, both biological and robotic, and dispatches them with an array of impressive combat options. Granted, he's not as smart as he thinks when it comes to hand-to-hand combat or typical fetch quests, and the story doesn'tquitehold your landing, but the journey from point A to point B is a sight to behold.

Atomic Heart is an alternate history shooter cut from the same cloth as BioShock and MachineGames' Wolfenstein series. It's a kind of retro-futuristic romp that returns to an imaginary past perverted by ridiculously advanced technology; a world where science has made the supernatural a reality and robots are now on the rise. These are far from the only marksmen that Atomic Heart isn't afraid to use either. Half-Life's puzzle-solving and Portal are also clear inspirations, and there was also an attempt to spread the word about Arkane's successful brand of first-person stealth.

It's a kind of retro-futuristic romp that returns to an imaginary past perverted by some ridiculously advanced technology.

However, it would be unfair to call Atomic Heart totally derivative despite such recognizable building blocks. Certainly the idea of ​​a peaceful utopia torn apart by technology aimed at its ambitious masters is nothing new, but developer Mundfish still put together their vision safely and compellingly, and the art team truly and well understood the task.

mystery mechanical ride

The most notable element here is the excellent visual design, especially the look of these well-crafted enemies. Its range of robots is particularly strong, from their sleek and sinister terminator mustaches that charge at us without looking away to their paunchy parking meters with tubes in their mouths that make them look like they're sucking on an invisible cord on a jacket. His unimpressive ballerina bots and spindly-legged battleballs are equally memorable, the latter of which is probably best described as scaled-down Eastern Bloc imitations of those things that couldn't kill Mr. Incredible. There's even one that looks like Baymax dressed as a tank.

Atomic Heart's exceptional aesthetic also extends to its vast array of partially dilapidated laboratories, facilities, and transportation hubs, each filled with long, sinuous globules of the liquid polymer that fueled the advances of this fantastically distinctive 1950s' look. It doesn't touch' feel in these places (there's definitely a lack of destructibility; balloons immune to ax hits are probably the worst offenders), but the overall level of detail is surprisingly good.

There are some especially small touches in Atomic Heart that reek of a lot of consideration, like the way there are different reload animations for unspent magazines compared to empty ones - the latter are discarded while the former are grabbed with the same hand for slide a new one. one. Watching them play is a treat, which is why it was a bit annoying that my HUD was sometimes full of pickup notifications and health bars for mini-bosses that were no longer in the area that froze on the screen until I reloaded from a recent one. save. I also experienced uneven quality when it comes to graphical glitches while playing on Xbox Series X. The worst is some terrible strobing on some fast-moving bots running circuits in a large room, but luckily it feels more isolated for this kind of game. bots. I didn't have these problems with equally snappy (and often much larger) bosses.

The Atomic Heart is, of course, tinged with the Soviet-era iconography you'd probably expect from a land hidden behind the Iron Curtain in the mid-1950s, and it's certainly the lens through which you can see All that symbolism. The Soviet Union is a little different today in 2023 than when it was first announced and revealed in 2018. Of course, having grown up geographically isolated and politically irrelevant in the southern hemisphere, largely removed from Cold War concerns and raised in Bond, Stripes and Rocky IV movies - my reading in such an overtly Russian setting will no doubt be markedly different from someone with Eastern European roots. For their part, however, the backdrop largely disappears as Atomic Heart peels back the layers of their false utopia. At this stage, Installation 3826 and the rural Russian countryside aren't all that different from BioShock's Rapture. That is, a place more or less isolated from the outside world and where something has gone very, very wrong.

exploring exactlyWhat isWhat went wrong is the work of our character, special forces veteran Major Sergey Nechaev, or P-3 as he is always known. The foul-mouthed, amnesiac P-3 is something of a relic from games past, and his standard English voice doesn't do him many favors. He comes across as the standard American leader of every second shooter ever created.

The foul-mouthed, amnesiac P-3 is certainly a relic of games past.

However, it's the script that really does the most damage. While I'll happily admit that swearing is pretty much my second language, P-3 speaks with the enthusiasm of a teenager trying every swear word he's recently learned twice per sentence. It's a bit boring, and the presence of a lot of modern phrases doesn't exactly help keep the overall experience in the 1950s.

Of course, maybe I'm being hypocritical in demanding consistency here, because the regularly relentless, headbanger-filled soundtrack courtesy of Doom and Wolfenstein composer Mick Gordon isn't exactly a sonic trip to the doo-wop days, either, and yet the music is perfect as far as i'm concerned. Anyway, there's a Russian/English subtitles option for the purists, but I'd just prefer an English script that's more seasoned for setting and timing.

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There's over 20 hours of gameplay here in the main story thread alone, with much more available in the side objectives, some of which are crucial if you really want the best weapons. Some of it is padded, but it's a good length overall and sits well within the Goldilocks zone, not too short and not too long for a great solo shooter. There are also two endings you can get based on a single choice you make at the ending, though after watching both I found the first one anticlimactic and don't think the second one is worth reloading.

All you need is a glove

However, while P-3 is used disappointingly as a character, he is very capable and fun to play, thanks in no small part to his partner, Charles, who is a talking glove. Okay, that's a bit reductive: instead, Charles is basically an intelligent system built into the P-3 that is capable of granting him seemingly supernatural abilities, manifested by a set of tiny squid-like tentacles extending from a glove on the P-3. . left hand. This includes not only activating an X-ray view of your surroundings and throwing certain small objects in the style of Half-Life 2's iconic gravity gun, but also the ability to fire bolts of electricity or ice, levitate enemies into the air to shoot or hit the ground, or even summon a temporary shield.

Much like BioShock's Plasmids, these abilities add a major layer of more interesting combat on top of Atomic Heart's fairly typical blast and slightly clunky melee combat. There's a great feeling of heaviness when you hit a bot in the brain with an axe, and the crests that appear on their bodies in real time are a great touch, but I found the swinging weapon too slow and frustrating when you're surrounded by too many. many enemies simultaneously.

The juggling act of taking down dense swarms of robots, as well as floating blender-sized repair bots that continually descend to magically resurrect them, is a bit exhausting at times, especially on the surface. Atomic Heart's linear and underground sequences are linked by a decent-sized open-world slab where we're free to explore and fight where we want, and this zone is initially a good antidote to the more cornered corridor segments progressing through the game. story or award. us with helpful updates. However, with their long line of sight and overwhelming numbers, I often found myself running or fleeing from fights rather than diving in or trying to gain the upper hand through stealth before attacking, because it's not much fun to fight. and again. There's a way to fry all enemies within a zone for a while if you're patient, and the hordes of robots get a little less intimidating as P-3 and his arsenal get stronger throughout the story. , but this is a process that takes some time. time. time.

Unlocking and upgrading these abilities requires a constant supply of resources, of which levels and defeated enemies are usually full, even if collecting them can become a chore. The Atomic Heart is clever at keeping this process fast, allowing us to reach out and vacuum up a bunch of features like an industrial vacuum, but it still gets a bit tedious having to rummage through the same sets of slightly differently arranged desks and cabinets. in all the board a hundred different rooms.

The main character irritated for the same reason I'm not cute, is a lame excuse for poor game design.

Tedious is also Atomic Heart's overly ambitious attempt to escape responsibility by relying on some extremely banal fetch quests. Having the main character cynically complain about collecting four cans for a bafflingly unintuitive door-lock mechanism that any sane architecture committee would never approve is not a free pass to accept this. The main character irritated for the same reason I'm not cute, is a lame excuse for poor game design.

It's a shame better context wasn't crafted around these occasional fetch quests, because Atomic Heart's underground chambers feel like a ripe shot, and they feel great: weird, deadly, and almost devoid of life, unless that you count the mutant monsters with shattered skulls in fanged floral arrangements or corpses that communicate through the muddled ramblings of their fading brain implants. It relies heavily on repeating the same handful of door lock minigames that serve no real purpose other than to arbitrarily slow your progression from room to room, but I like the bespoke platform puzzle chambers and unique puzzles. , especially the clever visual puzzle you will find. at the end of your journey to an ornate theater filled with robotic performers.


Atomic Heart is a deeply ambitious, highly imaginative, and consistently impressive atompunk-inspired attempt to pick up where BioShock left off, something it does with flying colors. It certainly makes mistakes, particularly with an irritating track and a self-indulgent habit of using the same tired tropes it tries to mock, but this grim, overpowered, strictly solo shooter worked under my skin despite those flaws. . Atomic Heart hasn't always impressed me, but it definitely has the clock to punch well above its weight.

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