Courtesy of Mundfish

March 20, 2023

“Atomic Heart”  — Unpolished, But Still A Gem

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When the first teaser of Atomic Heart was dropped back in July 2017, the first impressions of the game appeared to show great potential — a Bioshock-esque, charming role playing game of another apocalyptic world, filled with wacky but cool retro-futuristic technology and hostile killer robots (because who doesn’t love fighting killer robots?) With every trailer that the developer, Mundfish, released, the more the hype around the game grew. From a fairly barebone alternate universe RPG, the trailers began to show a game rich in lore and world building, teasing jaw-dropping sceneries of a futuristic-looking Soviet Union and fascinating, uniquely designed robots. When the game finally released on Feb. 21, the hype was at an all time high. But now, nearly a month later, what happened to Atomic Heart?

The game is set in an alternate universe in the midst of the Cold War, with the protagonist, military investigator P-3, sent on a mission by the Soviet Union to discover what went wrong at the secret experimental Facility 3826. Set in 1955, the game is filled with everything one would expect from developers that were heavily inspired by the Bioshock series, and boy does it deliver — the Soviets, in a burst of technological advancement, created “Polymer,” a liquidized programmable module, as well as a network of artificial intelligence called the “Kollektiv 1.0” that connected a massive population of service and labor robots. It is during the launch of an updated network, the “Kollektiv 2.0”, that everything goes awry.

Atomic Heart is undeniably brilliant, albeit a little unpolished. The graphics are amazing, just absolutely stunning. The different environments look incredible, but the futuristic city in particular is an experience of its own, and if you own a GeForce RTX graphics card, the game is downright uncanny with its realism. Customization within the game is plentiful, with a ton of different weapon mods and choices, so players are guaranteed variability and near endless amounts of exploration. The boss fights are fun and different, with each of them possessing unique fighting styles and robot designs, so you can stare at each of them with awe as they brutally charge at P-3. The best feature of the game, however, is the main gameplay feature of  Atomic Heart — a glove on P-3’s left hand with an AI partner installed within it. Not only does the glove utilize polymer technology for various combat abilities, but the looting mechanic of the game is by far the best out of all the games that rely on loot to progress. Instead of having to dig through drawers and bins by interacting with them or clicking on items individually, the glove uses telekinesis to vacuum all the lootable items in its vicinity directly into your inventory. This not only relieves players of having to perform the arduous task of looting in every room, but also provides a fun interaction every time you do it.

That said, Atomic Heart definitely has some drawbacks. Particular models of regular killer robots are very common, and as result they can be a nuisance at times. Certain gun modding mechanics are also somewhat poorly designed, with an unintuitive user interface making it very difficult to find the menu to attach the modifications — thankfully, they’re not super essential to the gameplay. The dialogue at times is also very, very cringey; to keep things brief, Atomic Heart would have benefited greatly by having a silent protagonist. Furthermore, the open world aspect that many looked forward to was almost great, except for one detail: cameras and drones are everywhere, and every couple minutes P-3 gets chased by a horde of robots with no way of stopping the continuous onslaught. While yes, this is definitely a very realistic and immersive experience, it would be nice to explore the map a little more without being engaged in combat almost all the time.

Aside from the base game, Atomic Heart is a playground for modders. Although it is still a very new game, players can expect great replayability as netizens put out new third party content, and people who were disappointed that the game lacked a very particular six hour cutscene can be rest assured that someone out there will undoubtedly make it sooner or later, making your $59.99 well worth it.

Brian Lu is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].