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Atomic Heart Review — Shot Through the Part

Is Atomic Heart’s robotic FPS adventure worth booting up?

Jeremy Proome

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In a nutshell, Atomic Heart is basically the Russian Bioshock, but it’s also so much more than that, and a lot less. The alternate history, sci-fi shooter features some really interesting and visually captivating ideas, but it’s also bogged down by some pacing issues despite its visceral approach and design.

The robots-gone-bad world of Atomic Heart shines in its enemy design and environmental storytelling, where the robotic enemies themselves are gorgeously detailed and all have their own mechanics and functions to immerse you in a world where you believe these metallic monstrosities could exist. Protruding blades, wirey appendages, smoking exhausts, and panel-flapping vents on the enemies (and the more visually-striking bosses) all make the moment-to-moment gameplay a joy, whether you’re shooting, whacking, and throwing baddies around with telekinesis powers.

Fighting enemies that simply look dangerous is great, and some of the fights hark back to old-school ‘hit the weak point’ moments while others are a little more tricky, which is a nice combination to have. The general feel of combat is solid, and switching between melee attacks and your arsenal of firearms isn’t as jarring as some other games that try to do both, often getting one or the other wrong.

While the gameplay itself is enjoyable, the place where Atomic Heart falls short is in its story and pacing, and it’s somewhat unfortunate given how incredible and immediately captivating the set-up is. The alternate history premise of the Soviet Union remaining intact post-World War II and putting together an experimental robotics and AI program (which inevitably went South, fast) is absolutely fascinating lore to explore. But, in between the chunky bits of exposition, there’s not too much pulling the story along. Slowly finding out about the facility you’re exploring and how things fell apart is intriguing, but there aren’t really any key characters to latch onto. Having some really interesting personalities would’ve elevated the story and bolstered the experience, as the protagonist you play as, Major, doesn’t offer much besides witty banter with his sentient battle glove.

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And this ‘close but no cigar’, ‘almost there’ approach also applies to the gameplay portions as well. You’ll go from a cinematic set-piece that rivals any triple-A game out there, to a pretty dull stretch of fetch quests for a few hours, before jumping back into a harrowing but brilliant boss battle or brain-scratching puzzle sequence.

With that said, it’s good to look at Atomic Heart for what it does right, rather than what it does wrong, though. While there are some portions of the game that could’ve been cut down or some missions left out altogether, the aesthetic, universe, and para-technological design of the combat and game is great and has to be praised. It’s incredibly bizarre, the writing is campy in a weird intentional way, and the combat is fun. It’s different, that’s for sure, and is well worth checking out if you’re even slightly interested.

Atomic Heart is available on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, and PC. It is also available to play via GamePass.

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