Atomic Heart is yet another big AAA release in a month that has been pretty stacked with the likes of Hogwarts Legacy, Like a Dragon: Ishin, Wild Hearts and more. The open-world shooter from developer Mundfish is one of the most anticipated Xbox releases of early 2023.
Like a certain other AAA game that came out in February, Atomic Heart has not been without its share of controversy, with the Ukrainian government calling for a ban of its sale in their own country as well as others. Among a list of claims being made against Atomic Heart developer Mundfish is that the studio used funds “from Russian enterprises and banks that were under sanctions and are systemically important for the Russian government.” We reported on this the day following the game’s release.
Back to Atomic Heart, the game’s retro futuristic aesthetic and setting in an alternate-history 1955 Russian “utopian” automatocracy strongly recall classic shooter franchises like Fallout and especially Bioshock, as do some of its gameplay elements.
This will inevitably lead to Atomic Heart being put into the same company as these classics. And now that the game has finally arrived, does it measure up to the excitement we all had for it? Read on to find out what game critics are saying about Atomic Heart. What we can tell you is that the reviews are quite a mixed bag, as you’ll see for yourself.
Atomic Heart is a highly imaginative, atompunk-inspired attempt at picking up where the likes of BioShock left off that makes missteps but definitely has the ticker to punch well above its weight.
Atomic Heart is a surprising, ambitious, deeply flawed game that at times feels close to greatness. It will take your breath away with a setpiece one minute, then make you spend the next 10 fiddling with an annoying puzzle while the protagonist swears about how annoying this puzzle is. It’s unbelievably crass in one breath, then delivers a cogent summary of contemporary issues around AI the next. I have no doubt it’ll become some sort of cult classic among a particular type of FPS player.
Mundfish has managed to capture the thrill of over-the-top action taking full advantage of Atomic Heart’s 1950s setting and insane narrative. Every moment of gameplay is packed with tense combat against haywire animatronics. Still, all the heavy metal shredding in the world isn’t enough to save the experience from its extremely poor user interface design and lack of basic accessibility features.
I admire the gusto with which Mundfish approached its debut game because it’s created one hell of a world to explore. But beyond its pristine setting and ass-kicking soundtrack, it’s largely forgettable. Maybe if the gameplay evolved beyond its basic beginnings or if the story was — I don’t know, good — I might be willing to give it another go. However, given how unlikely such a monumental change like that would be, Atomic Heart is destined to be a one-and-done type of experience.
P-3 will spend a lot of time questioning why doors are so hard to open or why he’s even doing a given task, and players will be too. It feels like P-3 and the player are getting double-crossed at every turn. Atomic Heart’s story, gameplay, and world design have promise, but the payoff is lacking across the board.
Atomic Heart is a solid yet over-indulgent first entry from a developer that maybe had more ideas than it could manage at once. The individual atoms and particles have wonderful potential, but their quantum connection to each other feels wholly missing thanks to their competing directions. I have hope a sequel could deliver on the fantastic premise and stellar world-building, but just like nuclear fusion, it’s an optimistic dream rather than an exciting current reality.
Although Atomic Heart is fun to play for its combat encounters, it’s packed to the brim with frustrating platforming and horrendous writing, making it tough to recommend. Ultimately, Atomic Heart feels like a Ubisoft game made by edgelords who love BioShock and Russia in equal measure. It’s a jack of all trades and master of none, which lands it somewhere near “decent.” The end result is an uneven gaming experience that has fun moments sprinkled throughout a marathon of cringe.
These Atomic Heart reviews were very much all over the place to say the least. The game currently has an aggregate score of 77 over on Metacritic (along with a user score of 7.2), which is a solid middle-of-the-road score. The great news is that Atomic Heart is a day-one Xbox Game Pass release, so subscribers get to play it risk free.
Featured image via Glitched.online.