24 September 2023

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Atomic Heart a mixed bag of feelings

Atomic Heart isn't necessarily a bad title. It's as full of positive things as it is of bad things. Combat is fun but becomes frustrating, as are the platforming sections, and so is its entire narrative.

The feeling I had when I finished Atomic Heart was… mixed. Between happiness, for finally having finished the game and laughter for the way in which his story effectively culminated. The first contact you have is undoubtedly impactful, the clash between a vintage aesthetic and a futuristic world full of robotic carcasses, mixed with vibrant colors and surprisingly strong situations is fascinating, to say the least.

Atomic Hearts takes inspiration from other titles like Bioshock, Fallout, or even Wolfenstein and mixes moments where even the world of Super Mario is present? Yes, it is definitely strange. The story begins after the Second World War, when the forces of the Soviet Union were victorious, and with that power, they developed a very advanced robotic technology, which consists of the concept of controlling a robot with the human mind, in order to control the entire world. However, something did not go as expected and the plan went down the drain. It turns out that all the robots created so far began to indiscriminately attack all the humans they found along the way. The player will enter the troubled mind of P-3, an elite soldier tasked with investigating the mysterious cause of this robotic problem.

Equipped with an arsenal of creative weapons, P-3 thus holds the fate of humanity in its hands. I confess that my favorite weapons were the Zvezdochka Axe and the Electro pistol, which shoots a kind of electric shots, without the need to use bullets, since it uses energy. The player will also have a glove that is much more than just a decorative element. The glove holds powers, such as magnetic fields that raise enemies, the possibility of creating a shield around you, among others. Without wanting to reveal too much, the glove plays a tremendously important role in the outcome of the story, since in addition to everything I mentioned earlier, it also features its own artificial intelligence and it is with which P-3 will have most of the interactions. Another important mechanic is the possibility that the glove has, when scanning enemies, to present the strengths and weaknesses of each one, thus allowing the player to have a different approach at each moment of action.

Although all the weapons have a retro look, their animations are quite catchy and mixed with P-3’s agility and his quick dodges with the simple press of a button, it gives the player a superhero aura. Still, nothing that has not already been seen in other titles.

Although the gameplay is one of the main features of this adventure, it can become repetitive and tremendously frustrating. There are times when the character gets trapped between enemies and a wall or an element on the floor, and the premise of having small robots that are always reviving other downed robots over and over again, makes the exploration aspect a somewhat complicated task. There are ways around the situation, such as applying an electrical discharge to the spawners of this specific enemy or waiting for the spawner to effectively stop producing them. The problem is that each spawner scattered across the map can send the robot even over great distances. In this sense, it is not only important to keep an eye on what is happening on the ground, but also to destroy these flying enemies.

I confess that I didn’t explore the map more precisely for this reason, which did not allow me to acquire all the available weapons throughout the 17 hours of gameplay. To produce each weapon, apart from the initials, it is necessary to find a blueprint. Later it is possible to assemble, if you have all the necessary elements, in a machine. Regarding upgrades, I felt that putting points on the character was the right option since each weapon upgrade did not present a significant change compared to the other option.

The confrontation against Bosses are quite satisfying and sometimes even complicated. The important thing will be to learn the attack pattern and wait for the right moments. Despite my need to replay some combat, there were no behavior changes for movement patterns or random attacks.

Unfortunately, the way the dialogue plays out is pretty weak. The way the character interacts with everything around him, the constant repetition of phrases when something bad happens, leaves much to be desired. Even the machine where it’s possible to upgrade the arsenal, named Nora, is a very different machine. It presents itself as a very “excited” machine with a carnal desire, for lack of a better term. At first, it was fun, I even managed to let out a laugh or two, but over time, it becomes an old joke. To make things even more difficult, the presence of elements against Ukraine, records that compare the population of Ukraine to pigs, among others, is at least deplorable…

Atomic Heart isn’t necessarily a bad title. It’s as full of positive things as it is of bad things. Combat is fun but becomes frustrating, as are the platforming sections, and so is its entire narrative. The end result for me was a mixed bag of experiences that I still haven’t been able to discern. Even so, it is important to mention that this is the first title from this studio.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game for PC provided by Focus Entertainment.]