Atomic Heart Review

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Atomic Heart Review

Atomic Shock... 

For what I would constitute an amalgamation between some of gaming’s most established first-person franchises, including; Bioshock, Portal, Wolfenstein, Fallout and STALKER, Atomic Heart sets out to give its own take an alternate timeline within the strain of the Soviet Union’s power struggle. Cyprus based development studio Mundfish, first formed in 2017 with an idea in mind to create an open-world first person role-playing action game, to which we first saw previews of back at E3 2018. Atomic Heart’s foundation takes hark to minor facets from the aforementioned gaming franchises, while capitalising on design choices that aren’t entirely unique, but are presented in a bold new way. While its campaign is shrouded in blood thirsty mechs looking to tentatively tenderise and carve our protagonist into mince meat, the heart of the story’s setting is unequivocally controversial given the state of the world in 2023.

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However, Mundfish’s efforts in creating this excessively bold take on first-person shooter genre, should be applauded. A dictated utopia that promulgates its civilians into living under conformity always delivers a rather uneasy feeling. It may look, safe, clean and uniform, but the truth about the wayward complex of Chelomey, has deep and dark secrets to which its lead scientist Dmitry Sechenov may had partially divulged. The Polymer was a technical marvel that was set to take the Union by storm, with breakthrough’s of artificial intelligence becoming a top priority to the Soviet’s, classing the network the “Kollektiv”, with all robots connected a hive-mind. Sechenov refined the core project of the Polymer, aiming to integrate the technology into humans, naming it the “Thought” – a way for humans to relay information to a cultivated Kollektiv 2.0. In short, mistakes were made and chaos ensues.

Shredding Metal...

The campaign takes place within Facility 3826, one of the most notorious research labs in the USSR. From the 1930’s scientists were set on advancing society ten-fold, with fast innovation that would eventually go wrong, with the Kollektiv 2.0 launching mechanical warfare within the enclosed laboratory, not before all mayhem spreads across Chelomey. Our protagonist, Major Sergei Nechaev, is classed psychologically unstable and is primed as perfect lab testing material. Known to peers as P-3, the commanding officer is tasked with maintaining any order possible within the overrun vicinity, after being biologically altered with the “Thought” injected into his palm. The failed experiment leads to more psychological issues, but has left him with an ever declining mental state. While anatomically enhanced, the “Thought” is loaded with software known as CHAR-les, a characteristic AI that sets fourth on this insane journey while guiding P-3 along his unorthodox escapade.

The gameplay entails a lofty banquet of baddy bashing weaponry, that isn’t restricted to holstering an assorted ranged arsenal. If anything, Atomic Heart embarks on an onslaught of utilising a mixture of mechanics, encouraging the player to switch their loadout on a frequent basis. With ammunition becoming second nature, almost sparse across the entire open-world, it becomes apparent that you’re going to need to work in tandem with CHAR-les to create unique offense combinations, rather than going all out-guns blazing. Hacking down a frozen robot with an axe in one hand, while freezing them with your Polymer is a lot of fun, but not as fun as crushing an oncoming enemy like an aluminium soda can. Various bots come in different shapes and sizes, which call for different forms of offensive strikes and respective utilities to attack with.

An abundance of QTE’s (Quick Time Events) do no favours here however, slowing the pace of any intense altercation that may have been exciting to encounter at first, but ultimately falls flat with the cinematic mechanic taking control of key segments. Upgrading your arms, including elemental offense used with your glove can be accessed through the “cassettes” feature, that is more-or-less the game’s skill-tree. The crafting system allows players to dissect their weaponry, albeit your guns or elemental attacks, while saving progress in the “attend room”, a secluded safe house for players to take a break. Cartridges can also be used on guns to deal different types of offense such as fire or ice, even whilst performing close ranged melee attacks against a hoard of creepy moustached androids.

POINTS SO FAR

✔️ A great melding of many established series.

✔️ A unique take on the FPS/Action-RPG genre.

✔️ Combination offense is fun when utilised properly.

❌ QTE’s stagger what would be an exquisitely expeditious pace.

❌ Campaign’s narrative leave’s a lot to be desired.

While I’m not entirely sold on the campaign’s narrative thus far, its gameplay is quite impressive to experience. The smooth, fluid nature of switch loadouts, while zanily zapping a robot, or swinging a spiked bat that would put Negan from the Walking Dead to shame, has its moments of mindless energy dealt. But its hard to overlook the story’s lacking focus, and how this plays in part with its almost unrelatable protagonist. P-3’s personality fluctuates in a hyperactive manner that erratic isn’t quite the term to describe it. The nature of his predicament seems too forced within this world, and his implanted sidekick may possess more personality than he does.

Atomic Heart’s saving grace right now is the incredible talents of one Mick Gordon, with his apropos heavy metal music backing the merciless intent dished out on the once utopian, now war torn environment. Guitar shredding while shredding metal is a marriage made in heaven, keeping the momentum high while carelessly carving through sheets of shining armour. But again, its not without fault to a staggered pace that interrupts the experience. Atomic Heart has a lot going for it, but with everything compounded into one cumbersome campaign thus far, it may have been better buried beneath Facility 3826.

Unrefined refinery...

I’ll preface this paragraph by noting that it has been a few days since I wrote the above as a Review-in-Progress, and looking to finalise this review, my thoughts and opinions remain intact, if anything I’m confused. How does a game feel refined, yet unrefined simultaneously? Bearing its weight on a lofty dependence in narrative structure that ultimately comes out somewhat cumbersome, Atomic Heart doesn’t bring anything extraordinary to the table, but rather satiates the yearn for another Bioshock. I appreciate the efforts that have been put in place by Mundfish, but to put it simply, its comparisons toward it will remain its legacy. It’s not a bad thing to seat yourself beside some of gaming’s greatest FPS-RPG’s, but it certainly doesn’t help the cause in its lukewarm delivery. In its near 20 hour campaign, I was enthralled by its mindless rush of altercations that left me wanting more by the time I had finished.

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It honestly felt as if I was delivered a half-bag of promises and some borrowed filler to fluff it. More and more QTE’s bottleneck Atomic Heart’s action and pacing which in-turn, slows the intensity and palpable energy that is within its aura in the opening minutes. Again, its a deep mixture of unlikable characters everywhere, a comparable gameplay loop that would be considered done to death by numerous franchises, and while it tried to amalgamate it into one action-packed blockbuster, it fell flat due to some questionable creative choices in its fundamentals. Atomic Heart still caters to the hardcore fan of the subsequent genre’s, but its not without its faults. Without noting its controversies, it should have been one of this years biggest titles to stun people from a small development studio, but rather, it pays for it in some very questionably unorthodox ways.

Atomic Heart Review

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Atomic Heart is an upcoming FPS action role-playing video game developed by Mundfish and published by Focus Entertainment and 4Divinity. The game is planned for release for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.

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Story
5
Gameplay
7
Presentation
7
Sound
7.1
6.5

6.5

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