Rage against the machines: Atomic Heart review

atomic heart

The debut game of Mundfish, Atomic Heart, has made a strong impression since it was founded in 2017. As part of an alternate reality where the Soviet Union had advanced robots and artificial intelligence, this first-person shooter depicts a program that went horribly wrong. The gameplay elements are unique and creative, making it an excellent shooter.

In Atomic Heart, players take on the role of Major P-3, a Soviet intelligence agent whose mission is to figure out why the robot companions of the USSR wage war against their human creators. Throughout the game, you unravel the mysteries surrounding the secret project as you try to figure out who is responsible.

Atomic Heart’s heavy themes of Russian nationalism made me uncomfortable at times. While I don’t believe the Cyprus-based development studio is trying to send a message with the game, it’s hard not to wince at the USSR parades in the streets or the pro-Russian material found within the game in light of what’s unfolded in Ukraine over the last year. It’s likely that this is just the most unfortunate timing, but it’s something to be cautious of if that could hinder your experience with the game.

With its alternate historical setting, Atomic Heart reminded me a lot of Bioshock. The world is well-developed, and the combination of advanced technology in the mid-1900s made for an incredibly unique setting. When I learned about the universe, I often stopped to examine the environment, listen to audio tapes, and do whatever else I could to learn more about it.

A wide variety of music is heard throughout the game, and it improves the experience whenever it plays. The tunes give the battles a cinematic feel, and make the quieter moments more haunting.

I was impressed by how amazing the gameplay was, and I found that shooting feels impactful. There are a variety of weapons to be discovered and crafted, each with its own unique feel, and Mundfish cleverly mixes in some extra elements to combat. You have to constantly be moving and dodging in order to avoid the aggressive robotic enemies, and there are quick-time events that will trigger when your character is grappled or on the brink of death.

As ammunition was scarce, I often used my axe to deal with enemies. I like how it really matters where and how you swing the axe. A well-placed swing can knock an enemy’s head right off their shoulders. Aside from detailed dismemberment, I’m ashamed to admit that after clearing a room, I had a good laugh hacking off enemies’ limbs.

Major P-3 has a Polymer glove that allows him to harness telekinesis and electricity, as well as melee and ranged weapons. I felt like a god when I was able to use all of my weapons and abilities at my disposal in tandem, taking out enemies before they were even able to land a hit on me.

On Normal difficulty, Atomic Heart’s combat was pretty challenging. There were several sequences and boss fights that I had to re-do multiple times, but once I got into a good rhythm, I was rewarded for my hard work.

Atomic Heart has an intricate crafting and upgrade system that can be unlocked as recipes are unlocked. As weapons and ammunition are crafted, they can be upgraded with attachments to improve accuracy, rate of fire, and damage. Crafting requires parts and other miscellaneous materials, which can be gathered from drawers, cabinets, and other containers. Additionally, Atomic Heart leans heavily into its RPG mechanics with multiple skill trees full of perks that can be unlocked to improve Major P-3’s prowess in combat and stealth.

Aside from its rock-solid gameplay, Atomic Heart offers a compelling mystery and a robust upgrade system. I’ve played many first-person shooters, but Atomic Heart is undoubtedly one of my favorites. Considering that this is Mundfish’s first game, it’s even more impressive. The game doesn’t have any glaring problems other than controversial themes and a lack of enemy variety.

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