After being founded in 2017, Mundfish is making a strong first impression with its debut game, Atomic Heart. This single-player first-person shooter envisions an alternate reality where the Soviet Union was home to a secret program involving advanced robots and artificial intelligence that goes terribly wrong. It’s an excellent shooter that’s supported by some unique and creative gameplay elements.
Heart on ice
Atomic Heart puts players in the shoes of Major P-3, a Soviet intelligence agent tasked with getting to the bottom of what caused the USSR’s robot companions to lash out and wage war against their human creators. As you attempt to figure out who’s responsible, the mysteries of the secret project unravel over the course of the game.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that 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.
Atomic Heart reminded me a lot of the Bioshock franchise with its alternate historical setting. The world is deeply fleshed out, and its anachronistic blending of advanced technology in the mid-1900s made for a truly unique setting. I often found myself stopping to examine the environment, listening to audio tapes, and everything else it took to learn more about the universe.
This atmosphere is also bolstered by an excellent soundtrack from Mick Gordon. There’s a wide range of music featured, and it only improves the experience whenever it kicks in. The tunes give a cinematic feel to battles, and make the quiet moments eerier.
No love lost
While Atomic Heart would have been perfectly fine as a serviceable shooter, I was impressed by how amazing the gameplay was. Shooting feels impactful, and there are a variety of weapons to be discovered and crafted, each with its own unique feel. While it’s a shooter first and foremost, 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.
With ammunition being a scarce resource, I often turned to my axe to dispatch enemies. I love that it actually matters how and where you swing the axe. A well-placed swing can knock an enemy’s head right off their shoulders. There is also detailed dismemberment, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I got a laugh out of hacking the limbs off of enemies after clearing a room.
In addition to melee and ranged weapons, Major P-3 is equipped with a Polymer glove that lets him harness electricity and telekinesis powers. I felt like a god when I was able to use all of the weapons and abilities at my disposal in tandem, taking out enemies before they were even able to land a hit on me.
Tools of war
Playing on Normal difficulty, Atomic Heart’s combat was pretty challenging overall. There were several sequences and boss fights that I had to redo multiple times, but it felt rewarding when I got into a good rhythm and overcame my foes.
Atomic Heart also has a pretty intricate crafting and upgrade system. As recipes are unlocked, you can craft new weapons and ammunition for them. These weapons can then 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. Atomic Heart also 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.
While adventuring through Facility 3826, there are a lot of locked doors and restricted areas. I was continuously impressed by the various puzzles that Mundfish threw at me as I attempted to open doors and disarm security systems. They felt like actual tests of pattern memorization and skill rather than the repetitive chore that puzzles can become in other shooters.
Although I found the robotic enemies to be creepy and formidable foes, I wish there was a bit more variety in enemy type. These humanoid robots make up the vast majority of the adversaries you face, and there isn’t much deviation from them.
The truth comes out
Atomic Heart is undoubtedly one of the best first-person shooter campaigns I’ve played in years. In addition to rock-solid gameplay, the game offers an intriguing mystery and a robust upgrade system. It’s even more impressive when you remember that this is the first game from Developer Mundfish. Outside of controversial themes and a lack of enemy variety, it’s hard to point out any glaring issues with Atomic Heart.
This review is based on a PS5 copy of Atomic Heart provided by the publisher. Atomic Heart releases on February 21 for PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, and PS5.
- Satisfying gameplay
- Clever puzzle designs
- Intricate upgrade system
- Intriguing story
- Lack of enemy variety
- Pro-Russian themes will make some players uncomfortable
Donovan Erskine posted a new article, Atomic Heart review: Rage against the machines
Another review here - timestamped to the conclusion
Says it's pretty bad. Bullet sponge enemies, no way to spring and walking is slow, kind of a mess overall and absolutely horrible writing, as if Claptrap was the main character (your character).
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