Atomic Heart Review – IGN #GeekLeap

There’s lots to be stated about unapologetically single-player video games like Atomic Coronary heart: its whole focus is on creating an intricate world for us to discover and uncover for ourselves. An eye catching mix of super-powered taking pictures and first-person puzzling, it is a prolonged, robust, and terrific-looking shooter that has us bathing within the blood and gears of elaborately designed enemies each organic and robotic and dispatching them with a formidable set of fight choices. Granted, it’s not as intelligent because it thinks it’s when coping with melee fight or its typical fetch quests, and the story doesn’t fairly stick its touchdown, however the journey from level A to level B is a sight to behold.

Atomic Coronary heart is an alternate-history shooter reduce from the identical fabric as BioShock and MachineGames’ Wolfenstein sequence. It’s a form of retrofuturistic romp again to an imagined previous perverted by ridiculously superior know-how; a world the place science has made the supernatural a actuality and robots are actually working rife. These are removed from the one shooters Atomic Coronary heart is unafraid to crib from, both. Half-Life and the puzzle-solving of Portal are additionally clear inspirations, and there’s been an tried sprinkling of Arkane’s profitable model of first-person stealth, too.

It’s a form of retrofuturistic romp again to an imagined previous perverted by ridiculously superior know-how.

Nonetheless, it’d be unfair to name Atomic Coronary heart wholly by-product regardless of such recognisable constructing blocks. Definitely the thought of a peaceable utopia torn to items due to know-how turning on its bold masters is nothing new, however developer Mundfish has nonetheless assembled its imaginative and prescient in a assured and compelling means – and the artwork crew right here effectively and actually understood the project.

Mechanical Thriller Tour

Essentially the most exceptional ingredient right here is the very good visible design, particularly the look of those well-crafted enemies. Its vary of robots is especially sturdy, from its smooth and sinister moustachioed terminators that cost at us with out ever averting their gaze to its pot-bellied parking meters with mouth tubes that make them appear like they’re sucking on the drawstring on an invisible jacket. Its featureless ballerina bots and spindly-legged battle balls are equally memorable – the latter of that are in all probability finest described as scaled-down, Japanese Bloc knock-offs of these issues that couldn’t kill Mr. Unbelievable. There’s even one that appears like Baymax cosplaying as a tank.

Atomic Coronary heart’s excellent aesthetic additionally extends to its massive vary of partially ruined labs, amenities, and transportation hubs – every full of lengthy, snaking globules of the liquid polymer that powers the developments of this fantastical Fifties. That stated, there’s a distinct feeling of ‘look, don’t contact’ in these locations (there’s positively a scarcity of destructibility; balloons resistant to axe swings are in all probability the worst offenders) however the stage of element total is strikingly good.

There are some particularly tiny touches in Atomic Coronary heart that smack of quite a lot of consideration, like the best way there are totally different reload animations for unspent magazines in comparison with empty ones – the latter of that are flicked away whereas the previous are grasped by the identical hand sliding a contemporary one in. Watching them play out is a pleasure, which is why it was a bit annoying that my HUD was typically cluttered up with pick-up notifications and well being bars for minibosses not within the space that froze onscreen till I reloaded from a current save. I’ve additionally skilled some uneven high quality on the subject of graphical glitches as I’ve performed on Xbox Collection X. The worst is a horrible strobing impact on some fast-moving robots working circuits round a big room, however happily it appears largely remoted to those bot sorts. I’ve had no such issues with equally nimble (and sometimes a lot bigger) bosses.

Atomic Coronary heart is, naturally, all tinted with the Soviet-era iconography you’d in all probability count on from a land tucked away deep behind the Iron Curtain within the mid-Fifties, and admittedly the lens by way of which you will view all this Soviet symbolism is somewhat totally different right this moment in 2023 than it was upon its announcement and first reveal again in 2018. In fact, having grown up geographically remoted and politically irrelevant within the southern hemisphere – largely indifferent from Chilly Struggle considerations and raised on Bond motion pictures, Stripes, and Rocky IV – my learn on such an overtly Russian backdrop is assured to be markedly totally different to somebody with roots in Japanese Europe. For its half, nonetheless, the background does largely fade away as Atomic Coronary heart peels again the layers of its false utopia. At this stage, Facility 3826 and the countryside of rural Russia isn’t a lot totally different to the likes of BioShock’s Rapture itself. That’s, a spot kind of reduce off from the surface world and the place one thing has gone deeply, deeply unsuitable.

Exploring precisely what’s gone unsuitable is the job of our character, particular forces veteran Main Sergey Nechaev, or P-3 as he’s dubbed all through. The foul-mouthed and amnestic P-3 is admittedly a little bit of a relic of video games passed by – and his default English-language voiceover doesn’t precisely do him a whole lot of favours. He comes off because the cookie-cutter American lead of each second shooter ever made.

The foul-mouthed and amnestic P-3 is admittedly a little bit of a relic of video games passed by.

Nonetheless, it’s the script that basically does him a larger disservice. Whereas I’ll fortunately admit swearing is nearly my second language, P-3 spews it with the gusto of a teenage boy testing each curse phrase he’s not too long ago discovered twice a sentence. It’s somewhat exhausting, and the presence of many trendy turns of phrase don’t precisely assist hold the general expertise seated within the Fifties.

In fact, maybe I’m being hypocritical in demanding consistency there, as a result of the commonly ruthless soundtrack full of headbangers courtesy of Doom and Wolfenstein composer Mick Gordon isn’t precisely a sonic journey again to the times of doo-wop, both – and but the music is pitch good so far as I’m involved. At any charge, there’s a Russian-language/English subtitle possibility for purists, however I might’ve merely most popular an English script that was extra tempered for the setting and period.

There are effectively over 20-odd hours of play right here in the principle story thread alone, with many extra accessible within the facet goals – a few of which border on essential in the event you really need one of the best weapons. A few of that’s padding but it surely’s an excellent size total, and properly inside that not-too-short, not-too-long Goldilocks zone for a terrific solo shooter. There are additionally two endings you may get primarily based on only one alternative you make within the finale, though after seeing each I discovered the primary anticlimactic and don’t suppose the second was definitely worth the reload.

All You Want is Glove

Nonetheless, whereas P-3 is disappointingly threadbare as a personality, he’s nonetheless very succesful and entertaining to play as – largely due to his companion, Charles, who’s a speaking glove. Okay, that’s a bit reductive – reasonably, Charles is principally an clever system embedded in P-3 who’s able to granting him seemingly supernatural talents, manifested by a set of small, squid-like tentacles that reach from a glove on P-3’s left hand. This not solely contains activating an X-ray-style view of your environment and tossing sure small objects à la Half-Life 2’s iconic gravity gun, but in addition the power to fireplace bolts of electrical energy or ice, levitate enemies into the air to shoot or slam into the bottom, and even summon a brief defend.

Akin to BioShock’s Plasmids, these talents add an vital layer of extra attention-grabbing fight on high of Atomic Coronary heart’s in any other case pretty typical blasting and barely clumsy melee fight. There’s a terrific sense of weight when beaning a bot within the brainpan with an axe – and the gouges that seem throughout their our bodies in real-time is a superb contact – however I discovered the weapon swinging too gradual and irritating when swarmed by too many enemies concurrently.

The juggling act of defeating dense swarms of robots in addition to the blender-sized hovering restore bots that frequently swoop in to magically resurrect them will get a bit wearisome at instances, particularly above floor. Atomic Coronary heart’s linear, underground sequences are linked by a decent-sized slab of open world the place we’re free to discover and battle wherever we want, and this zone is initially a pleasant antidote to the extra corralled hall segments that progress the story or reward us with helpful upgrades. Nonetheless, with their lengthy line-of-sight and overwhelming numbers, I usually discovered myself working or driving away from fights reasonably than diving in or attempting to get the higher hand by way of stealth earlier than attacking – as a result of they’re not that a lot enjoyable to battle again and again. There’s a approach to fry all enemies inside a zone for some time in the event you’re affected person, and the robotic hordes do grow to be rather less intimidating as P-3 and his arsenal develop stronger all through the story, however that’s a course of that takes a while.

Unlocking and upgrading these talents requires a gradual provide of sources, which the degrees and defeated enemies are typically chock filled with, even when amassing them can grow to be a little bit of a chore. Atomic Coronary heart is sensible to maintain this course of quick by permitting us to increase out a hand and suck up reams of sources like an industrial store vac, but it surely nonetheless turns into somewhat tedious having to ransack the identical units of desks and cupboards organized barely otherwise in a hundred-or-so totally different rooms.

The primary character being aggravated for a similar motive I’m isn’t cute, it’s a tone deaf non-apology for weak recreation design.

Tedious, too, is Atomic Coronary heart’s overly bold try and weasel its means out of accountability for leaning on some extraordinarily hackneyed fetch quests. Having the principle character cynically gripe and complain about amassing 4 canisters for a bafflingly unintuitive door-locking mechanism that will by no means get previous any wise architectural committee isn’t a free go to proceed with it. The primary character being aggravated for a similar motive I’m isn’t cute, it’s a tone deaf non-apology for weak recreation design.

It’s a disgrace that some higher context wasn’t baked round these occasional fetch quests as a result of Atomic Coronary heart’s underground chambers really feel like a ripe alternative and are largely nice in any other case: eerie, lethal, and largely devoid of life – until you depend the mutant freaks with skulls shattered into fanged, floral preparations or the lifeless our bodies that talk by way of the confused ramblings of their fading mind implants. It does rely too closely on repeating the identical handful of door lock minigames that serve no actual goal apart from to arbitrarily gradual your development from room to room, however I do just like the bespoke platforming puzzle chambers and one-off brainteasers – particularly the intelligent visible puzzle you’ll encounter late throughout your journey to an ornate theatre filled with robotic performers.

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