Developed by Russian studio Mundfish, Atomic Heart is essentially a first person shooter with puzzle elements, which gives a nod to several other games in the genre. The title is set in an alternative version of the Soviet Union from the 1950s, in which after the end of the Second World War technological progress favored the birth of an advanced and militaristic society, in which droids coexist with human beings. With these premises we start our review of Atomic Heart, not without some prejudice dictated by the numerous clichés that had made us turn up our noses since the first trailer.
We also remember that Atomic Heart is included in the Xbox Game Pass catalog, so you can try it at no extra cost. Once all the necessary premises have been completed, let’s catapult ourselves into the game.
Atomic Heart: the game review
We are in the Soviet Union, cars fly (and not because they are equipped with flight systems, but because they are lifted by giant drones) and it is really not clear why our protagonist looks like a 3D version of Doomguy to us. We had promised ourselves not to have any preconceptions, but already after the first interminable three minutes from the start (in which we will be forced to admire the landscape while our character floats on a raft navigating the river that crosses the city) the desire to uninstall and forgetting everything is strong.
In the middle of this short raft trip we see a robot stuck in a tree. At this point we’ve already stopped asking questions, and the game hasn’t even started yet! In short, from the first minutes, it is clear to us that he big problem of the game experience is the pacing.
Despite this, we approach the first phase of the trailer with cautious optimism, in the hope that everything will improve: it won’t. The endless cutscenes make the very approach to the title a frustrating experience, and for most of the first 30 minutes of gameplay we will spend time admiring the landscape. A bit’ as if to underline the incredible work, which is actually commendable, in the creation of the game world. However, a video game should also and above all be fun.
The stylistic code of Atomic Heart: what are the strengths?
Once catapulted into the Soviet Union we will find ourselves in the middle of a robot uprising. A story never heard before, right? These, right during our first landing at the military base, will decide they want to kill us. We will have very few weapons available (we will unlock others as the adventure continues), but also a smart glovewhich we will be able to enhance with different abilities.
The stylistic figure of Atomic Heart, at this point, moves on three levels. On the one hand we will have the narration, which however has absolutely nothing original to offer, except the unprecedented Soviet setting. Secondly, there is the historical context, which may be the game’s only real selling point. Finally there is the ironic aspect, in stark contrast to what is narrated e which is neither hilarious nor interesting. If we really wanted to play a shooter that doesn’t take itself seriously with a glove, then we would have definitely opted for a much more irresistible High on Life (which is also included in the Game Pass).
The gameplay is a redundancy of used and abused game mechanics
To avoid succumbing to those funny robots who want to kill us, our protagonist will have to promptly create and upgrade his own paraphernalia. To do this the game offers us a satisfactory one crafting mechanics, thanks to our catch-all glove that will suck up all the elements necessary to create new weapons. The objects can be easily taken from a distance from the bodies of the enemies and from the drawers of the game settings, with an animation that, we admit, gives a certain satisfaction.
The vast open world environment allows the player to explore the areas in a free way, but one must be careful of enemy outposts and cameras to disable (Watchdogs, is that you?). You can then decide whether to approach obstacles stealthily or fighting. Difficult to choose which of the two is less satisfying, given that the fights are anything but exciting and the stealth is even worse.
Finally there are the puzzle elements, with puzzles to solve and objects to find and relocate. Again, nothing new and, once again, the line between puzzle and frustration is too thin.
Summing up: how is Atomic Heart
As you will have understood from our review Atomic Heart did not excite us at all. A “copy of a thousand summaries” as Samuele Bersani sang in a beautiful song. However, not everything is to be thrown away. The game settings are well cared for, as are the details that praise an ideal of the Soviet Union that never materialized. However playing it was frustrating, boring and repetitive. The characterization is missing, the dialogues are too much and, in general, the entertainment is missing. And if a video game lacks fun, probably everything is missing.
- It is available on Xbox Game Pass
- Crafting system
- Characterization of enemies
- Too many dialogues and cutscenes
- He would like not to take himself seriously, but he can’t
- Disastrous stealth approach
- We already have BioShock and High on Life