Atomic Heart Review: From Russia without love

Bioshock has never looked so good! A game heavily inspired by the beloved trilogy, Atomic Heart is a new style of open-world steampunk exploration. Brimming with loaded landscapes, fetch quests to complete and some beautiful graphics that developer Mundfish have crafted that looks great on the surface, but lacks any real substance. There are murderous robots and a bounty of weapon choices that allow for some creative kills. The story regrettably feels a little short and contributes to this feeling like a bit of a let down. While the world is large and there is plenty to do, keeping your attention is something this game struggle with. In the current crowded game space with some big titles coming out, Atomic Heart doesn’t do enough to stand out from the crowd.

The Story

Atomic Heart is set in an alternate reality in which Russia wins World War II after Doctor Sechenov developed Polymer, an all purpose technology that is the central part of the story. You play as Russian Major Sergey Nechaev aka P-3. The American-accented character traverses a city full of automated robots which leads to, surprise surprise, a robot uprising in a floating city (VERY Bioshock Infinite). P-3 receives instructions from his superior Sechenov to locate the origin of the uprising with his AI companion, the gloved Charles, who crash lands on a massive airborne island. Together they must battle through hordes of murderous AI robots and find Viktor Petrov, the supposed instigator of the uprising. 

The story follows all the usual tropes, it has a Bioshock meets Wolfenstein (the recent ones) vibe and doesn’t do much to differentiate itself. There is an action film feel which is further fueled by the steady stream of banter between P-3 and his AI Charles. It is innocent enough at the beginning, but as it turns sexual, it honestly just falls flat and is a little weird and off-putting. Clocking in around 15 hours, the main story attempts to discuss the whole AI argument that so many other games and films have done in the past, with much better results. This feels like an AI robot uprising for fast food junkies. All calories and no substance.

The more you progress, the more weapons and powers you acquire. In this game it is the attacks from your gloved Charles and their strength that come into play here. As you unlock and strengthen machine control (including the most nonsensical door unlocking mini game possibly ever made) you can also get upgrades for shields, damage and speed. In the beginning of the game, you are encouraged to sneak around and surprise attack enemies for the quickest and most effective kill. The more weapons and ammo you acquire, the more you can blast your way through situations a little too easily.

Let Me Upgrade You

Scoring upgrades comes quickly as you play through the open world. Melee weapons are easy to find (regardless of the difficulty chosen), offering a Dying Light style of combat that doesn’t feel as effective as it should. Killing a single robot is satisfying, whether sneaking and surprising or blasting your way through. The problem arises when there are multiple enemies – it can be quite frustrating and janky. Hopefully this is something that might be able to be fixed with a future patch. Navigating around the open world is easy enough, but lacks activities beyond repetitive fetch quests.

Visually, this game delivers the goods. The sheer beauty of the open world and the detailed robotic metropolis islands are simply stunning to look at in both cutscenes and gameplay. While this could have been a spectacular setting for gameplay, it is regrettably a wasted opportunity that hopefully will fare better if given the chance for future instalments in this series. The soundtrack from Doom Eternal composer Mick Gordon is the perfect accompaniment to the lush visuals, offering a solid-rock soundtrack that pumps in when the robots attack.

Final Thoughts

Atomic Heart has all the bones of a great game, an interesting premise and well-designed world that could have been so much more than what was delivered here. Regrettably, a bland story and uninteresting characters left this game feeling severely under-cooked. There is an attempt to mix up the gameplay with RPG and stealth take downs, however it all gets old a little too quickly, leaving Atomic Heart feeling like a missed opportunity.


Highlights: Gorgeous visuals, A thumping soundtrack and open world
Lowlights: An extremely underbaked story with forgettable characters.
Developer: Mundfish
Publisher: Mundfish, Focus Entertainment, 4Divinity, VK holding
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC.
Available: Now

Review conducted on PS5 with a release code provided by the publisher.