Imagine a world set in the 50’s where the Soviet Union wins World War 2 and extreme communism alongside unprecedented technological advancements thrives – lead by a promise to a better world with humans commanding robots to do their bidding; that’s the underlying premise of Atomic Heart. This game takes the caricature of post-war futurism and brings it to life in unbelievable fashion; it’s filled with decent plot twists and amazing world building – all marred by below average voice acting and annoying technical issues. Mundfish’s first AAA title manages to exceed expectations in ways that matters and sits comfortably by the greats that inspired. Although imperfect, by the time I made it to the end, I could only anticipate their next project as Atomic Heart is one hell of a ride.
Remembrance is Key
Mundfish spent considerable time crafting the world of Atomic Heart with their convoluted plot and layered world building. We play as P3, a Spec-Ops soldier who is eager to work with the Soviet Union after rehabilitating from war injuries – which coincidentally gave him the side effect of amnesia. Scientist and engineers invent a programmable liquid module called “Polymer,” which they manage to make insurmountable strides in the field of robotics. You are there as a protective agent in time for the release of Kollective 2.0 – a neuroconnected device designed to connected into a network to help evolve humanity to new heights. It doesn’t take long for things to quickly turn sideways as all robots in Facility 3826, the central hub you’ll be exploring, to lose control and starts killing everyone. In this journey, you will be accompanied by an AI glove called “Charles” – he’ll be insight of the world around you as you progress, and help harness the powers of Polymer such as Telekinesis, Shock and Frost.
Atomic Heart’s plot is filled with twists, deceit and explosive set pieces layered in mystery waiting to be uncovered. You will find expanded lore through scattered audio logs and computers. While the game allows you to explore in a large hub, you will find many of its richness from dungeons and main plot points – more on that later. The unfortunate truth is, despite the games excellent plot, it is ultimately shattered by poor delivery in almost every aspect. Voice acting is the main one – whoever directed the voice over need major work in just general conversation etiquette; your character show signs of irrational outburst in the worst of moments, everyone interrupts each other – when emotion is meant to be conveyed at specific points, it’s never done properly. Reaction where you would expect genuine feeling is met with monotonous tone. It’s pretty awful most of the time. I couldn’t tell you the number of times I heard very cringe-worthy one liners throughout my playthrough, the insults are just all-out weird most of the time. There are moments of great pacing within dialogues, but it’s so far out and forgettable. Atomic Heart plot is thankfully good – I just hope that next time, Mundfish spend more time on directing the voice actor to feel much more human.
Facility 3826 Malfunctioning
You will be exploring a large open hub filled with a variety of robots and organic beings. Facility 3826 has several zones with different landscapes to explore ranging from desolated towns to underground testing facilities filled with materials and blueprints to gather. Mundfish managed to create a sprawling environment rich with the aesthetics of post-war futurism design. It is creepy and exalting and given the incredible depth the studio underwent in delivering a phenomenal showcase of art and technology, it is a treat this this even exist. Everything from the most intricate detail to large scale elements, Atomic Heart is a beautiful looking game. Runs exceptionally well too with the open world set to dynamic 4K resolution at 60fps and dungeons at native 4K, 60fps. I am absolutely enamored with the art direction of the robots, they’re all varied – it is very easy to see the labor of love put into this world and all of it complement each other wonderfully with incredible attention to detail.
Now, it’s also not perfect – take the mutated humans for example, there are these floral test subjects that takes deceased bodies and mutates. They are designed exceptionally well, with grotesque elements like a split head, exposed intestines and so on. Now, because Atomic Heart allows for dismemberment, it’s awesome to fight against them. But when you’re surrounded by 10 of the same creatures, you see that they’re all identical, down to the very same side the exposed intestine. The robots get a pass given their mass production property, but not so much the infected – and a lot of this sort of neglect can be seen across the board.
Use Your Polymer
At Its core, Atomic Heart will feel familiar to everyone who has played FPS games – abilities like Frostbite sends forward a blast that freezes multiple foes, shock stuns enemies and others like telekinesis can stop enemies on their tracks. All of which can be further enhanced via a vending machine. Blueprints will be found in the world to craft melee and firing weapons – both ballistic and energy, which you can also be upgraded for attachments and added elemental properties. It’s all done exceptionally well and blends itself to be an incredible experience. What makes Atomic Heart special is the level of variety within the gameplay – stuff like how scavenging for materials is seamlessly done through telekinesis, or how there’s about 6 different locks to pick, coupled with not-so-hard environmental puzzles that ultimately satisfies for “ahh, I see” moments. None of the gameplay elements is done improperly, which heightens the overall quality of this game.
And while you’re able to explore Facility 3826, all of the above ground locations serves little purpose other than forward pushing, unlocking dungeons and materials – there’s no side quest to tackle or mysteries to uncover, which given the amount of work put to the rest of the package, makes sense. But, as I mentioned before, neglect is seen often in this game – things like all vehicles you drive is a small red care, repeated interior assets used for houses and so on. I mean, this is Mundfish’s first game and a damn good one, but I wouldn’t have minded a 6-month delay to fine tune the immersive factors.
And despite the game running well, I’ve had several glitches that also halted some progress. Far too often was I having radical audio hitches that ruined nearly 3hrs of my playthrough with voice work seemingly echoing across an amphitheater, ambient sounds overbearingly loud and so on. This was accompanied by UI glitches such as materials gathered notification wouldn’t disappear same with collected audio logs. The big one, and thankfully I caught this early on but – when I stored a weapon and retrieved it, all progress I made in upgrading them were reset with the blueprints gone for good. I made so many saves after finding this out and thankfully this hasn’t been repeated. Now granted, I was playing this before the day one patch, but this almost ruined my whole experience and I urge those who decide to play this to watch out.
However, I know this section of the review sounds bad, but this is relatively mild compared to the overall; for the most part, Atomic Heart is entirely functional.
REVIEW SCORE: 8/10
Atomic Heart is an exceptional experience rich with world building, otherworldly aesthetics and exceptional gameplay experience – unfortunately it falls short of greatness due to poor dialogue delivery, UI glitches and neglected assets. Regardless, I am eager for more Atomic Heart, and I hope the developers learn from their mistakes and deliver a potential masterpiece.
For more on Atomic Heart and gaming, follow me on Twitter and other social media here