Video Games

Atomic Heart is a Smart Shooter Packed Full of Surprises

Atomic Heart wears that influence on its sleeve. It’s a graphic first-person shooter packed with superpower-like abilities and heavily inspired by the classics of the genre, Bioshock and Half-Life. But that doesn’t mean the original ideas and surprises are hidden in the same sleeve. Having played a decent amount of Mundfish’s debut game, I know there’s a lot to get excited about.

Atomic Heart immediately takes you into familiar territory, albeit in a very unfamiliar world. Its opening takes an obvious cue from BioShock Her Infinite’s brilliant introduction to Columbia, slowly traveling through a peaceful alternate history Soviet city. Thanks to the big brains of the fictional Facility 3826, robots are integrated into society and help relieve people from everyday stress and labor. But the silence is short-lived, the AI ​​inevitably becomes less friendly, and the game begins in earnest. From there, I jumped to a few different points in Atomic Heart to feel right at what it had to offer and was constantly amazed at what came next. It’s not a straight-up hallway shooter as some might imagine, or a vast open world full of nooks and crannies to explore, or a puzzle-filled brain teaser. More than that. The scope of Atomic Heart is impressive, and seems to unfold and build as you make your way through many unique and massive sci-fi complexes over the course of the 20+ hour campaign.

The closest structural analogue to Atomic Heart is likely Halo Infinite. It’s an open world littered with hostile mobs and dungeons with a linear story to enter and exit. These dungeons are where most of the main missions reside, and consist of learning more about the facility, the people behind it, and what went wrong there. Fight through sections patrolled by rogue AI units before facing off. Atomic Heart isn’t reinventing the wheel in this regard, but it definitely adds its own flair to the mix.

One of the first things that struck me about Atomic Heart was its completely unique art style. A gorgeous game filled with lush forests, striking architecture and all manner of wacky gadgets. When it comes to driving, ziplining, swimming, and escaping killer robots, it’s frankly hard to make sense of it all at once. All of these robots are visually pleasing, but razor blades, electrical pulses, and flying kicks are hurled with terrifying regularity, so you’re rarely given the chance to do so. They each emphasize the “intelligence” of their AI and are not afraid to shy away from battle or show off their various weaponry. Of course, both linear story sections and open-world arenas are rife with larger-scale enemies and boss battles. They often offer equal parts challenge and spectacle as they unleash devastating attack after devastating attack while shaving huge health bars.

A gorgeous game filled with lush forests, striking architecture and all manner of wacky gadgets.

Atomic Heart isn’t afraid to switch between combat, frequently hopping from desperate firefights against an oncoming horde to slower, more cautious melee duels. It’s an exciting way to keep you on your toes, and a testament to the work Mundfish has done to maintain balance. We have. These range from a constantly chattering AK-47 to a heavyweight RPG. Then there’s the more experimental end of the spectrum. This is reserved for guns that detonate electric bombs into what can only be described as large metal rods that fire spiral blades that chop up the enemy before returning to hand. It’s also competent, and sits somewhere between the rustic feel of Fallout and the light-hearted shootouts of Call of Duty.

Speaking of your hands, a key part of the Atomic Heart Kit is the gloves. This is sci-fi gear that grants elemental power. It’s a lot of fun to play around with and adds layers to combat as you learn combinations of weapons and abilities. Using an electrified Shok to stop a mechanical foe in a stride before following up with a bullet lunge is a surefire way to cause a fatal circuit malfunction. Ka is great to wield as it lifts groups of enemies into the air and then sends them back to the ground with a thunderous sound. There’s always a good chance to freeze your enemies before smashing their fragile metal shells with your giant axe.

A good example of hand-to-hand combat is one of the early missions in Atomic Heart. You are thrown into the deepest depths as you are taught how to survive in the dark corridors of the facility’s many underground laboratories. Atomic Heart is not an easy game. It’s designed as a hardcore shooter first and foremost, with difficulty options, but you can take a lot of hits and kicks from the mustachioed android and you won’t die. Precise timing and reading of enemy movements are required to avoid and know when to attack. Thankfully, more powerful charge attacks are indicated by a glowing red ring just before impact. This indicates something that should be avoided. However, if you miss it, you’ll end up hitting the floor asking for a health kit.

This kind of patient back-and-forth melee combat is familiar to anyone who’s played nearly every action game in the last decade, but nevertheless, see it come to life in first-person shooters. is a surprise. Rather than relying on flurry of hits to get out of sticky situations, rather than the generosity and quick strikes of Dying Light or Far Cry, it makes each heavy swing meaningful. , a moment from the aforementioned early levels leans into this. , an oppressive silence broken by the sound of breaking glass. I did.

Another Valve game, Atomic Heart, looks to be inspired by Portal. This is not because of its robot design, but because of the surprising revelation that puzzles play a very important role. The test site is a puzzle box that takes 15 minutes to an hour for him to complete. They are essentially abandoned lab facilities where you must put your combat skills to the test of your brain. The puzzles I tried weren’t terribly difficult, but they welcome a change of pace and come with the added bonus of granting valuable upgrades upon completion.

Weapons and abilities can be changed and upgraded throughout. This is an essential process for defeating many threats. The robot is controlled by a central AI that is watching you all the time. Ways to combat that glare include avoiding the camera, either by disabling it, or by throwing objects around as a distraction, with the glove giving the best gravity gun impression. The higher the alert level, the more enemies will be sent from the production line and attacked, so if you make a mistake, you will be overwhelmed by the enemy in no time. It really evokes the feeling of confronting an intelligent and aggressive global ecosystem that works as a unit rather than an occasional pocket of activity.

The time I spent with Atomic Heart made me crave more. An immersive world with dynamic combat and inspired art and enemy designs. I have some doubts as to whether the main story provides a story worthy of such a great location. However, I can’t say that these complaints were enough to completely weed out all the exciting things I found myself involved in along the way. Time will tell, but it certainly makes a very strong first impression.

Simon Cardy thinks we should stop trying to build robots that might turn their backs on us.Follow him on Twitter. @CardySimon.

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