Atomic Heart has the potential to be shooter of the year, but can also fail horribly


Atomic Heart is finally taking more and more shape. For Vali, the outrageously good-looking mix of Bioshock and Control has what it takes to be the shooter of the year in 2022

I really want to play this shooter. Preferably right now. Atomic Heart already made my mouth water with its first trailer, and now the release at the end of 2022 is finally within reach. At least, if the Russian developer Mundfish and the really impressive gameplay are to be believed.

The bizarre game world, the wacky enemy design, the fast-paced shooter gameplay knocks my socks off in every new trailer. Ultimately, however, Atomic Heart must offer more than just a unique aesthetic. And whether the shooter can fulfil the high expectations remains questionable.

Here I summarise everything you need to know about Atomic Heart and explain why I have high hopes for the video game – but I”m also looking forward to the release with scepticism.

What kind of game will Atomic Heart be anyway?

The story: The story of Atomic Heart is quickly summarised, but no less exciting for that. The setting is the Soviet Union of an alternative reality in which robotics and technological progress were able to move at a completely different pace. This has resulted in an actually paradisiacal version of our world, but Atomic Heart shows what happens when everything goes wrong again.

So in 1955, in the role of the KGB special agent Nechaev with the code name P-3, I have to get to the bottom of the whereabouts of a top-secret object that has not given any signs of life for a suspiciously long time. Arriving on the scene, P-3 discovers that robots are rebelling against humans, that only machines and zombies are left, and that I have to use a lot of force of arms to get a handle on the matter.

(You don''t often see such a creatively designed game world in current shooters.)
(You don”t often see such a creatively designed game world in current shooters.)

Gameplay: In terms of gameplay, Atomic Heart is strongly reminiscent of Prey, but above all of Bioshock. That is to say: P-3 wields a weapon in his right hand and can shoot fire, electricity, ice or power with his left and make use of telekinesis. However, I can only confront the sinister monsters of machines and undead creatures by combining all my abilities – melee, hacking or sneaking as well as attacks from ambush are also an option.

There are also role-playing elements, but it remains to be seen how in-depth they will be. I”ll probably be able to improve Nechaev”s shooting, sneaking and hacking skills, or polish up the special attacks of his ability glove. In Atomic Heart you can also craft and almost everything that P-3 picks up will have a use. But here, too, details are still awaited – as are the Souls-like elements that have been hinted at on Steam.

By the way, despite its single-player focus, Atomic Heart is also supposed to feature PvP multiplayer. According to the current information, however, this seems to be optional and not mandatory for the game”s progress: There is a certain game area for this, which is specifically intended for battles against other players. By the way, Mundfish does not rule out a co-op mode.

The game world: Whether Atomic Heart will offer an open world is still questionable. Mundfish doesn”t really want to give a concrete answer. Therefore, I rather expect a map that consists of semi-open areas. I should have a certain amount of freedom as to what I explore and in what order, while enemies or puzzles potentially block my way.

Incidentally, the Netflix series Black Mirror, which aims to show viewers the dangers of technological innovations, is one of the inspirations for the setting. In the case of Atomic Heart, this is spiced up with a good pinch of retro-futurism and Soviet aesthetics; the rejection of imperialism in a communist-influenced game world is also supposed to be palpable.

The fact that P-3 does not have the best mental health should also be relevant in the insane world of Atomic Heart. Whether this has an active effect on the perception of his environment could not be ruled out – although that is actually crazy enough already.

(I already feel guilty about shooting this sympathetic colleague in the face.)
(I already feel guilty about shooting this sympathetic colleague in the face.)

The Graphics: Atomic Heart has a truly unique look and aesthetic that is second to none. Retro-futurism meets Soviet influences, the whole thing is created in Unreal Engine 4 and looks really stunning. Whether the final look of the game will remain on the same level is questionable, however, at least the system requirements are surprisingly moderate.

The Release: Atomic Heart is still scheduled for release in the fourth quarter of 2022 for PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S and also PS4 and Xbox One. There is no concrete release date, however, and it can only be hoped that Mundfish will not push the shooter back further. To be honest, that wouldn”t be too surprising.

My Shooter Hope 2022

Atomic Heart comes with a fresh setting and draws on some of the best representatives of the shooter genre: the influences of games like Bioshock, Metro and Stalker cannot be denied. The gameplay itself is reminiscent of the speed and movement flow of Doom, while a colourful assortment of weapons, abilities, skills and crafting elements could also guarantee long-term variety.

The real star of Atomic Heart, however, is undoubtedly the wacky aesthetics that run through all aspects of the first-person shooter. Whether it”s the game world, the enemy design or the atmosphere – Atomic Heart captivates me simply because of its bizarre look. At times, it”s hard to put into words what goes on in Atomic Heart.

The action released so far shows robot ladies piercing each other with their unicorns. There are transparent whales whose guts are composed of blood, oil and engines. Or spherical fighting robots that try to squeeze the life out of me with squid-like tentacles. And much, much more, which definitely looks more spectacular in video than in text.

Admittedly, I don”t really understand what is happening in the trailers for Atomic Heart that have been released so far. But that”s exactly what makes the (hopefully) soon to be released first-person shooter so much fun for me. My fascination with it hasn”t waned, at least not yet. Of course, it will be exciting to see in what condition Atomic Heart is finally released.

(I want to know at the same time, but also don''t want to know what''s going on here.)
(I want to know at the same time, but also don”t want to know what”s going on here.)

Why Atomic Heart can still fail

Picturesque graphics, powerful gameplay trailers and unique design all well and good. As promising as Atomic Heart looks right now, developer Mundfish has to be able to live up to the high expectations. You”ll also notice that many questions about the game can”t be answered even this close to the (supposed) release.

I simply cannot and will not get rid of my scepticism about Atomic Heart at this point. After all, the shooter has to play as fantastically as it looks at the moment. Moreover, we can only hope that Atomic Heart will be released in 2022. At the moment there is still talk of a release in the fourth quarter of this year, but there is currently no concrete date.

And then there are the reports about the development problems at Mundfish. In 2019, an alleged disclosure report revealed that unfocused work on Atomic Heart led to a reboot of development and mass layoffs. Not a good sign for my 2022 shooter hopes.

Conclusion of the editors

I”m also looking forward to Atomic Heart – even though I”m absolutely aware that the game may not live up to my high expectations. After all, developer Mundfish has taken on a lot and one trailer is more spectacular than the other. I can”t get enough of the game world and the enemy design in particular, and I”m looking forward to just diving into the wacky universe of Atomic Heart.

Of course, there is a risk, which should not be underestimated, that Atomic Heart will not live up to its hype. Be it because the graphic promise can”t be kept, Atomic Heart doesn”t ignite in terms of gameplay or whatever else can go wrong with video games. I, at least, would like to see the (supposedly) late 2022 shooter succeed in following in the footsteps of great titles like Bioshock or Metro. Anything but an easy task, one that much more established development studios than Mundfish have failed at.

What do you think of Atomic Heart so far: Do the trailers promise too much? Can the expectations even be fulfilled? What are your hopes for the first-person shooter? Let me know in the comments!

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