Atomic Heart Review – Come To My Oblast, Have A Blast

Since the first announcement teaser from 2017, Atomic Heart became “that uncanny soviet game” people loved to speculate about. The clips showed plenty of stuff but always kept us guessing its true nature. It has shiny droids, mutants, brutal violence, lots of chrome, and old songs from the USSR, but what is the sum of all those parts? Is it going to be some weird and twisted version of S.T.A.L.K.E.R? I was secretly hoping for that.

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It finally came out of the oven and voila, it’s a pretty decent BioShock clone with the retro-futuristic soviet setting. Atomic Heart concepts and systems aren’t unique, but they nevertheless represent significant technical and conceptual leap from all three BioShock games. BioShock Infinite, the last and most sophisticated game in the series, is now more than ten years old. Modern platforms enjoy far fewer hardware limitations than PS3/Xbox 360 and PCs from that era, so the developer had the tools and the means to properly depict the expansive grandeur of the alt-history soviet utopia from 1955.

Would You, Kindly?

Atomic Heart 01

USSR from this universe is the global leader in applied robotics. It exports mechanical servitors worldwide, undermining capitalism and making manual labor obsolete. But Politburo wants more. It desires not just to spread communism, but to achieve global unity of mind and purpose. The discovery of „Polymer“, a substance that enables wireless communication between humans and robots could potentially achieve that goal. The process, however, must begin at home.

In facility №3826, state of art scientific city closed to the outside world, the last preparations for the Polymerization of the entire USSR are well underway. Workers, soldiers, intelligentsia, and party dignitaries celebrate the upcoming next stage of human evolution. „Homo sovieticus“ will want for nothing; he would not toil in the mines or in the fields – instead, he’ll effortlessly send the neural commands to the nearby robot. True Communism™ is nigh.

You can guess what comes next. Someone hacked the robotic population and switched it to combat mode. Rampaging servitors promptly massacred every living human around. Well, except you. As the Spetsnaz major Sergey Nachaev, you are tasked with catching the perpetrators and figuring out what exactly transpired in the bowels of the facility №3826.

Talk To The Hand

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In the beginning, you are practically naked save for the axe and the advanced Polymer glove on your left hand. That glove houses the ROM construct (pardon my Neuromancer-inspired glossary) of Charles, AI that will serve as an assistant and a conversation partner. Charles will show you the ropes and guide you through exploration and upgrades, offering helpful advice even if you don’t need it. The dynamic between Major Nechaev and Charles is the main narrative drive in Atomic Heart. You will also meet, interact and converse with a few more significant NPCs; each offers some new bit of a perspective on the ongoing catastrophe, and some will present you with the branching paths that lead to one of the different endings.

Before those near-end branches, however, you can expect mostly linear adventure with fixed objectives. Opportunity for exploration comes after each interior section. The open-world segment that connects various laboratories/facilities houses plenty of explorable objects. Most important are Polygons, optional laboratories with a three-tiered loot system. Every Polgon presents you with a set of challenges that offer plenty of crafting resources and blueprints for unique weapon add-ons.

Bullets And Polymer Powers

Atomic Heart Review Combat

Atomic Heart has a complex, multi-layered combat system that combines melee, ballistic, and energy weapons with Polymer powers. Weapons can be customized with various add-ons, some of which alter the properties of shots, adding elemental damage to every bullet. Apart from an axe and shotgun, you will need resources and blueprints for crafting the rest. Polymer powers work like BioShock plasmids, enabling you to channel telekinesis, cold, personal shield, etc. You can upgrade powers with Polymer, but the resources you have invested are refundable. The game lets you experiment without irreversible commitment, which is commendable.

Regarding mobs, you will primarily fight robots with varying strength, arsenal, and combat ability. Besides those, you will contend with mutants, operating similarly. There’s a particular kind of flying little robot that reconstructs its fallen comrades, making some fights exercise in futility. Raising the GTA-style alarm in some areas will attract constant reinforcements, forcing you to flee or preemptively hack so-called “Hawks”, levitating installations that control the influx of extra robots.

Don’t Lose Your Head

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Atomic Heart was in development since 2017. During that time, it seems that many people had participated in crafting the story. Midpoint through the game becomes a very confusing mish-mash of partially conflicting ideas, mostly presented through the dialogue with Charles. Our Major also feels overly gullible considering everything he saw until that point. The literary clutter somewhat dissipates near the end, but it never goes completely away.

The bizarre thing that will stay with you up to ending credits is the door-unlocking mini-games. There are two kinds of those spectacular time-wasters. The first one is reflex-based, straightforward, and simple, but the second kind can be anal if you are in a hurry and cannot be bothered. It revolves (pun intended) around matching colored dots with corresponding colored bulbs on the edge of a rotating plate. It’s simple and easily solvable if you like that sort of thing. I don’t. Those puzzles needlessly broke pacing for me. It’s puzzling (heh) why the developers felt the urge to shove those mini-games through everyone’s throat. They could at least offered you an expensive, purchasable talent for auto-solving puzzles. Here’s the idea for the first big patch.

If you are a fan of complex narrative shooters with upgradeable weapons and talents, you will like Atomic Heart. And if you are into retro-futurism and soviet aesthetics, you’ll be even more inclined to forgive its rough spots, uneven story, and insistence on annoying mini-games. Overall, it’s a solid product suffering from a bit of delusion of grandeur. Just like USSR back then.



  • Unique retro-futuristic setting of alt-history Soviet Union.
  • Complex, multi-layered combat system.
  • Beautifully weird at times.
  • Top-notch soundtrack full of soviet all-time classics.


  • Door-unlocking puzzles are super annoying.
  • Story can be very confusing if you aren’t paying full attention.
  • A solid number of bugs.
Review platform: PS5
Developed by: Mundfish
Published by: Focus Entertainment
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Author Serge profile picture
Having games be part of his life since Commodore 64 it was only natural that Serge co-founded With every new game he travels from being the Noob to being Gosu. Whether he does coding or editorial work on the website he is still amazed by the fact that gaming is what he does for living.