Atomic Heart has looked very good in many of its previously released showcase videos, highlighting many of its electrifying abilities and explosive gameplay. With pre-orders and marketing efforts already underway, the hype train for this shooter is in full effect.
Ahead of its launch on February 21, we got to try out a good chunk of the game courtesy of 4Divinity, the publisher of the game in Asia. The demo we tried out was quite meaty, spanning the early sections of the game along with select parts that allowed us to experience advanced combat with upgraded abilities.
Admittedly, there was actually too much content to try everything out with the limited time we had, but what we saw has the potential to be a promising outing from the Cyprus-based developers, Mundfish.
First things first, Atomic Heart is not like your usual FPS title. Instead of a fast-paced boomer shooter a la Doom, think of it as something much closer to something like Bioshock and other similar games that feature more deliberate gameplay and movement throughout the world.
While playing, I was actually thinking to myself that I’m expecting some other media outlets to unironically put out some tagline about it being the Dark Souls of FPS games. I’ll actually be on the lookout for it, just for laughs.
Despite the ability to jump into various sections of the game, I started it out playing through the intro, which mostly set up the premise and setting of Atomic Heart. Set in an alternate reality of 1955 where robotics and technology have advanced greatly, the player takes control of special agent P-3, who is tasked with finding out the cause of the rogue robots that have rebelled against their creators.
A little further into the mission, I got my first taste of Atomic Heart’s combat. Using an axe and not the standard-issue pistol, melee hits were weighty and packed good heft behind it, with each swing registering visible damage on the target. Most of the common enemies players will be facing off against will take more than a few hits, so one-on-one engagements are nothing out of the ordinary.
More “elite” robots will be harder to dispose of, employing more variety in their attacks, and even having powerful yet easy-to-telegraph hits, signaled by a flashing ring, that can knock you down. Players will be able to dash in and out of battle but will have to worry about a short cooldown, making it a more tactical tool that must be managed properly.
Combat resembles a dance that will have players and enemies going back and forth, exchanging hits and dodges to take the upper hand. Atomic Heart is not an easy game by any stretch, and players may find themselves short of a healing kit or repeating certain encounters more often than they would like due to the damage the enemies can dish out, so taking every encounter with care seems like a smart plan.
Alternatively, players can choose the stealthy approach, which is more often than not a good idea due to the challenge that the enemies pose, whether solo or in a group. Still, caution must be taken, as there are many ways that the enemies can disrupt this, including sentries that can alert and call for backup along and roving drones that can resurrect fallen droids.
Atomic Heart has its own share of firearms, and we played enough to see some usual suspects like a pistol and shotgun, as well as more unique contraptions like a weapon that fires out a shockwave against your electrically-averse threats. The actual gunplay didn’t seem as polished compared to other FPS heavyweights like Call of Duty and Doom, and while aiming using a controller (I used an Xbox controller) was a bit finicky, the overall feel is good enough to merit an enjoyable time.
Another tool at your disposal will be a glove that’s equipped with a number of powers, aiding you in combat. Jumping to some of the later sections of the game that allowed us to try out more advanced upgrades, we got to see electric-based abilities that stun enemies and frost-based attacks that can stop threats in their tracks. There could be more, but these abilities really serve to set up some great combos that will be essential in surviving the later levels of Atomic Heart.
Your glove can do much more than just attack, as it can also serve as a sensor that will allow you to point out enemies and objectives in the vicinity. You can also pick up the piles of loot scattered across the area, and a nice touch that the developers have put into the game is to allow players to hold down a button to automatically vacuum these items to you instead of picking each up one by one. It’s a great quality-of-life feature, but the sheer amount of loot makes it tough to see what you’re actually getting.
When there’s loot, crafting and upgrading are sure to follow suit, and Atomic Heart has both integrated into its gameplay. Admittedly, this was something I wasn’t able to dabble in too much, along with puzzles, due to the limited time I had with the game, but what I saw proved to be promising and certainly added to the gameplay experience.
The player will also be able to choose skills to upgrade from multiple skill trees that focus on certain themes (Shok or Shock, Frostbite, Telekinesis, and more) to fit a preferred playstyle. Seeing as Atomic Heart’s gameplay relies on pulling off combos to take down opponents, these skills choices will be crucial for success.
Visually, Mundfish has also done great work on Atomic Heart, creating a world that not only looks good but is also equally as immersive. During the intro, you can hear chatter fill the streets, while the other structures and facilities really stand out with their somewhat retrofuturistic design.
Enemy designs are also quite intriguing, and while a lot of the early enemies look like unassuming crash test dummy robots, some of these designs tip the scales to 11 when going against tougher foes during the later portions of the game, especially the gigantic bosses that can fill nearly the whole of the screen.
Overall, Atomic Heart shows a lot of promise. The game employs a mix of various elements that seem to go well together, and its deliberate gameplay paired with combo-centric abilities really hit the spot. Based on what little we’ve played, the story and the world left us wanting more, and we’re more than excited to see how it all unfolds next month.
Atomic Heart will be available on February 21, 2023 for the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC.