Atomic Heart Review
- Story And Setting
- Visuals And Performance
While the narrative leaves a lot to be desired, Atomic Heart is nonetheless a great FPS set in a beautifully realized Soviet setting.
- Developers: Mundfish
- Publishers: Mundfish, Focus Entertainment, 4Divinity, and VK Holding
- Release Date: February 21, 2023
- Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X & Series S, PC, and Xbox Cloud Gaming
- Tested On: PC with GTX 1660TI
- Fantastic Combat
- Solid Enemy Variety
- Amazing Sound Design
- Mick Gordon’s OST
- Great Art Direction
- Boring Narrative
- Minor Performance Issues
When I first saw that incredibly uncanny reveal trailer for the game all those years ago, I never imagined that I would actually be able to play and write the Atomic Heart Review for our website. It just seemed like one of those titles that never manages to live up to the hype behind it, or even sees a release date for that matter.
But after having played through the entire game, I can say for a fact that we were right to keep a close eye on it. Set in an incredibly unique world, backed up by Mick Gordon’s goosebump-inducing OSTs, and a solid gameplay foundation, we can say with complete surety that this game is worth your time.
Story And Setting
Right from the very beginning, the game surprises you with its alternate Soviet Union setting, which is a supposed utopia for humans. It is a technologically advanced society, and that fact is visible in everything from the way people dress, the architecture of the buildings, and the very unavoidable fact that there are robots everywhere.
The solid opening sequence also deserves some praise as it successfully captures your attention from the get-go. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that It is so strong that it sets the tone for the entire game, and acts as an excellent primer for the rest of the experience. It completely invests you in the world and begs you to explore more of this supposed utopia that humans have created.
The beautiful art design and next-gen graphics make their presence known from the very beginning, and the entire sequence is further amplified by Mick Gordon’s music, which gets even better later in the game during gameplay sections.
And in this world, you take on the role of Sergey Alekseyevich Nechaev, who is a Major in the Soviet Union. The story follows him as he makes his way to research facility 3826, when he is attacked by malfunctioning robots on the way. His job then is to defeat these robots and find a way out of the facility.
You probably won’t get pulled in by the story initially since it is quite cryptic at the start, but the gameplay does play a major role in retaining your attention for the majority of the runtime. The main character also has really corny dialogue that will not sit well with most players, but it can be charming in its own way. I just wish it wasn’t so relentless and frequent.
Atomic Heart really shines in the gameplay department from the very start. It’s a first-person shooter at its core, with a number of really satisfying melee options to make use of as well. It’s a much faster experience than anything we’ve seen from the sub-genre in a while, and you’ll constantly need to stay on your toes if you want to have a chance at surviving.
And to help you in that endeavor, the game has a dedicated dodge mechanic that you can use to evade basically all attacks in the game if you can nail the timing. The game even gives you a visual indication to tell you when to dodge at the perfect time, so that you can counterattack on top of that.
Enemy variety in the game is also great, and you face at least four different types of robots during the first two levels alone. There are many mutated enemies as well, that are controlled by a parasite and resemble more traditional zombies. Where the robots are a bit more hive-like and unrelenting, the organic enemies are a bit slower and squishy.
Bosses are also very well-designed, with a variety of movesets that encourage you to learn the patterns like in a Dark Souls game. Many of these are incredibly spectacular setpieces that take all of your focus and attention to get past.
There are a plethora of weapons to choose from in the game, and each and every single one of them can be used to brutal effect against the robot hordes. However the game is pretty slow with giving them out in the starting hours, and players will mostly play around with the axe, shotgun, and two different pistols during the first level of the game.
There is even a form of RPG-style inventory management system present in the game that makes it so that you can carry a limited number of weapons, heals, and ammo at any time. At the top right of the Inventory menu, you can also see a bunch of icons for materials that you can find in the game. These are gained from killing enemies, looting containers, etc. These resources are essential for crafting new weapons, upgrading older ones, and making ammo in the game.
Thankfully, the looting system is also really solid, and you’ll only have to press a single button to loot all of the chests and dead robots in an area as the resources literally fly toward you. So this eliminates the hassle of having to manually search every single container.
Combat isn’t restricted to simple ranged and melee weapons either. The main character has a robotic glove that gives him special powers like telekinesis, the ability to freeze enemies or even fire off electricity to damage foes and open various doors. There are many different powers that you can use by utilizing the glove, but we’ll avoid discussing all of them to maintain some of the surprise.
There are also various skills that you can unlock for the different glove powers, and you even have additional basic skills for your own character that increase physical attributes. Nothing beats the joy of upgrading your powers and being able to freeze a strong robot and then smash it to bits with a powerful melee attack.
These upgrades can be purchased at the various safe rooms that are spread across the levels, and this is also where you can save your game. These are quite reminiscent of the Resident Evil games, and a soothing soundtrack also plays when you’re inside one to signal that you are out of danger.
Speaking of the music, Atomic Heart’s soundtrack is not only great by itself, but it also kicks into high gear at key moments in the game. Different OSTs play during combat and exploration, and the smooth transition between the two is perfectly timed. The music slowly changes its tone from a light beat to an almost heavy metal-like rhythm when you enter combat.
Visuals And Performance
Visually speaking, the game offers some really stunning and breathtaking environments filled with art direction that complements a Utopian Soviet Union setting. Every time you’re exploring outside in the overworld, the game keeps surprising you with its level design and next-gen graphics.
Even inside various facilities, the designs of simple hallways and robot manufacturing plants makes for some of the best horror moments in the game. The lighting is simply amazing inside these facilities, and the Russian music playing softly in the background in certain sections amplifies the whole experience.
Atomic Heart is a game built with Unreal Engine 4, and that engine is infamous for bad PC ports or performance issues. However, the performance of this game really surprised us, and this is without any day-1 patch applied. We were able to get a stable 60 FPS at high settings on a GTX 1660TI.
The framerate was pretty stable and smooth for the most part, except during some combat sections where it would dip to around 45. However, such instances were rare and only happened thrice during the entire time I was playing. Additionally, there is a weird issue where the game doesn’t let you toggle V-Sync from in-game settings, and we had to do it from the Nvidia Control Panel manually.
If you’re struggling with performance issues, then try reducing the quality of the shadows. Our testing showed that these had the most impact on performance, so lowering them can give a nice boost to your framerate. Basically, the game has pretty normal performance issues and we believe everything can be ironed out with a Day 1 patch or a future update.
Atomic Heart is an excellent addition to 2023’s gaming lineup and a sure contender for GOTY this year. It’s a fun FPS with a gameplay system that doesn’t get boring, and a setting so unique that it will have you hooked from the very start.
You know a game is solid when the only flaws you can find are minor performance issues and the narrative being not interesting enough, yet that too is a bit subjective.
Where the game falters, it is carried back up to the top with Mick Gordon’s legendary music which will leave you in awe alongside the game’s art direction, level design, sound design, and general gameplay.
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