Retro-futurism, a semi-open game world, and first-person shooter battles: Atomic Heart has similar key data to Bioshock Infinite, but is set in a Russian alternate universe. We have played the promising action role-playing game, and summarize the first hour of play here.
Fallout, but in Russian: The RPG shooter Atomic Heart is set in an alternative Soviet Union of a mid-distant and seemingly bright future. Here, 1950s style coexists with the fictional technological achievements of robotics expert Dmitry Sechenov, whose successes have led to robots populating not only laboratories, but also the outside world. At least in the game’s main setting, the Chelomey complex, which consists of at least three sub-facilities.
Sechenov’s robots are connected via the network AI “Collective”, and the scientist has long been working on integrating humans into the network as well. However, a hacker suddenly throws the 3826 facility into chaos. As a result, the mentally unstable officer Sergei Nechaev is tasked with bringing the situation in 3826 back under control.
We were able to review Mundfish’s Bioshock rival before release and describe everything we experienced during the first hour of play here. In addition, we have recorded the almost 60 minutes in a video, which you can watch below.
Atomic Heart: This is What Happens During the First Hour
In the warm sun of the introduction, we sail along an idyllic canal as the still unknowing Sergei Nechaev. Over the elongated drive shafts of our small, orange boat, we see a couple on the left side of the canal sailing past us; on the right side of the neatly concreted shore, a lookalike of the Star Wars tin can C-3PO lectures about the Chelomey complex ahead of us.
According to this, we are just sailing through the area of an almost amusement park-like research facility above the clouds, which employs only the most brilliant minds of the alternative USSR. And that actually may be the case, seeing the fact that we sometimes talk to our high-tech glove, some kind of multitool, which we’ll talk about in more detail in a moment.
As we make our way to the location of our first task, a meeting with Dmitry Sechenov himself, Atomic Heart gives us the best vacation mood outside the boat as well. Everywhere in the cozy city, colorful balloons greet us from the cream-colored house walls, and flying robots whirr pleasantly to light-hearted music. An eloquent gentleman in a suit wants to sell us a polymer extension; that is, advanced tech like the talkative glove on our left. But no, thanks: as Sechenov confidants, we surely already have far better tech on (and probably also in) us.
Socialist Tones and Magnificent Palaces
After about eight minutes of linear exploration, we enter a glass circular building to pick up more tech equipment like an infrared environmental scanner. Propagandistic tones, praising of the “Collective 2.0” network, sound from the feed hatches of the cranky-looking mannequin robots. Shortly thereafter, a socialist robot parade appropriately trudges by outside, which we slowly, annoyed, retreat from in the direction of our boss’s white-and-red palace office.
In this decadent skyscraper, an unreal, bright wave design mixes with Gothic furnishing style. Not much actually happens here: we receive a car key from faceless metal dolls with red stars on their foreheads, ride down in the elevator for quite some time and eventually end up in sorr of a black Cadillac Hearse, a car from the early 60s. However, there is no driving. Instead, our antiquated vehicle is being captured by fairly large flying drones and slowly carried away from the cloud city.
An impressive view? Absolutely. However, aren’t almost 30 minutes of relative uneventfulness until the first fade-in of the “Atomic Heart” logo quite daring? No, because what the developers of Mundfish have built here in terms of futuristic socialism scenery is certainly not something you see every day; and it’s fun to discover it on a large and small scale, which can’t be done within ten minutes. There are simply too many interesting details hidden in the cloud city of Waliwow for that. In addition, the pithy humor of our alter ego (for example, with a wonderfully dry Führer reference) is quite entertaining.
But then: The Battle Bots Are Loose!
The second half of the first hour of Atomic Hearts begins with the quasi-crash of our flying “Hearse”. Yes, because hovering battle bots of the installation 3826 have taken our air cab under fire, it crashes into a nearby building shortly after. The same picture there: Usually friendly humanoid robots suddenly go on the attack against us.
Scene change: The idyll is gone, we lie unconscious in the dirt, sirens can be heard from afar. We only look at jagged streets and burning buses; it’s as if war has suddenly broken out in paradise. After grabbing a simple fire axe, we receive a radio order from Sechenov to track down a traitor who is responsible for the current state of affairs. Stupidly, only he is still in possession of the corresponding access codes.
The next few minutes are marked by a slightly uncomfortable “ride” through the pampa, during which we are almost killed by a seemingly dysfunctional bot, among other things. Fortunately, however, there are old women with pitchforks who certainly know how to use agricultural equipment in a combative manner. Until she finally pulls a Kalashnikov out of the box and single-handedly fends off a robot attack from the air. At least for a while.
Then, out of nowhere, a considerably large robot with a disco ball for a head jumps at us, whereupon we topple backwards into an elevator and finally land in the furniture chaos of an abandoned underground facility. Now we get to know the first mechanics: For example, our chattering glove also reveals itself as a kind of magnet, with which we comfortably pick up objects. This doesn’t have to be done individually, but we can empty entire boxes or cabinets in one go this way.
What also works perfectly here yet is the infrared scanner, whose alternative mode analyzes the nature of terrain. The corresponding grid display is useful, for example, when an exit is difficult to see with the naked eye.
It Should Not Always be a Firearm
After about 35 minutes we hold the first shotgun in our hands, but it only proves to be of limited use with fast robots. In addition, we have to avoid their occasional power attacks, which are announced by a short charging phase. Despite the shotgun in our luggage, we still like to use the axe to be a bit more agile and also more accurate.
With Sergei Nechaev, we rummage around underground, abandoned office complexes for a while. That doesn’t sound too exciting, and in fact there are essentially only file cabinets and desks to be seen in the dusty premises.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t get boring, since we get our first opportunity to try out the stealth mechanics (a.k.a. crouching and sneaking) and, after the “attack” of an oversized robo-drill, get to know the first NPC: a female doctor with purple short hair, whom we assist in treating the injured via a film sequence.
All in all, the first hour of Atomic Heart’s gameplay impressed us with its very innovative sci-fi settings, high event density and not too easy battles, which required far less black powder than we initially assumed. Boredom never set in, because there was way too much to see and way too much to do.
In the meantime, we can look back on well over 20 in-game hours, which, by the way, have already produced some indispensable guides. Of course, we will continue to stay on the ball with Atomic Heart to provide you with tips and tricks for this unusual RPG shooter.