Do you love the BioShock series? Missing Half-Life? Have you just finished scanning every item, object and enemy in Metroid Prime Remastered? If not, the as you’ll learn in this Atomic Heart review, this game probably isn’t for you. Much like The Callisto Protocol wearing its heart on its sleeve when it comes to a love of Dead Space, so too does Mundfish’s debut have a passion of story-driven exploration FPS games.
The game begins with a pleasant journey along a beautiful canal in a near-utopia driven by AI and robotic workers. Anyone with a predisposition for sci-fi can tell that it won’t be long until things go bad. The player character, P-3, receives orders from Dr. Sechenov to head to a laboratory. Transport is waiting, and you must go immediately. So much for an idyllic day in the city.
The game’s BioShock influence is obvious from the very beginning. Most notably, BioShock Infinite. However, it’s in that comparison that the scope of Atomic Heart is also very obviously limited. While the cloud city of Columbia elegantly immerses you in it’s seemingly idyllic world before slowly showing the cracks, Atomic Heart simply offers a short tour before the carnage. It’s a very quick descent into the dark and grim.
Despite this rather abrupt opening, Atomic Heart actually takes quite a while to flesh out its gameplay loop. Once the game begins in earnest it has you spending far too much time crawling through vents, tackling annoying unlocking mini-games and yo-yoing across uninteresting rooms . Too less time is spent engaging in any meaningful activities. Even P-3 himself regular admits his own dismay at the tasks being set. It’s almost as if the developers are toying with you; doubling down on the torment of their lack of creativity. Once the plot is established, controls are learnt and you have a few abilities/weapons at your disposal, the game finally opens up.
But, when it does, you’ll be wondering why.
There’s an open world element to Atomic Heart that seems wildly out of place. It’s not a case of pretending to be open while funnelling you down predetermined corridors in a fashion similar to Metroid Prime or Halo: Combat Evolved. Yet, in the same regard, it’s not as meaningful as Halo: Infinite or even Dead Island. What you have instead is an open area to traverse with seemingly very little reason to do so. And yet in your way stands a tonne of enemies and cameras, all with annoyingly quick regeneration after death.
While the world design and gameplay loop leave a lot to be desired, the combat can actually be quite fun. The player has a bunch of different weapons that can be upgraded in a number of ways, and some abilities (read: Plasmids) that include the likes of shock and ice. There’s also a handy dodge mechanic, which you should learn to get the hang of very quickly. This is because – despite the fact that near-every enemy likes to charge and get you into melee combat – there is no melee option unless you have a specific weapon equipped. No pistol whipping or shotgun butt to the head here. This does mean that often you’ll be relying on your axe more than you perhaps should.
Of course, no Atomic Heart review would be complete without mentioning the visual quality of the game. It is true that it’s one of the finest looking games of this era. A true showboat for the eventual current-generation hardware. However, we’re passing over this quickly as the beauty is a pale reward for having to endeavour the beast.
So why would we even mention such legendary series in the opening to this Atomic Heart review, you may wonder? Well, it’s certainly not because the game will take pride of place amongst them. No, instead, it’s the simple fact that Atomic Heart does try to emulate them. While it may well have turned out to be less than the sum of its parts, Atomic Heart is the closest we’ve come to a new BioShock, Half-Life or Metroid Prime title in many years. Diehard fans of those franchises may well find some value here. For more casual FPS adventure fans, you’re better off looking for a classic on the backwards compatibility lists.