Saturday, February 25, 2023

Atomic Heart - Let’s call this one a Platonic



 This review is based on early impressions from six hours of game play on Xbox Series X

The grandeur of Atomic Heart is showcased rightly at the beginning mission, which takes the game protagonist Agent P-3 to the Chelomey city of Science, and you cannot stop admiring the retro-futuristic dystopian world around you with the scale and quality of art and design that packs a lot of promise for the game.

When the machines go rogue, you are thrown into the action, which takes place at facility 3826, a playground for killer robots and other horrors you will encounter. You realize that you are not just fighting the robots but also other things created by lab experiments gone wrong, and your task is to contain this breakout and find out who is behind the massacre that has played out.

Combat is fluid. I'm playing on normal difficulty. You have to swap between Guns and Melee weapons constantly as the creepy droids and other robots are fast to attack; you will face plant-faced zombies, too, so you cannot spray bullets at all times as ammo is limited, and you will have to upgrade your arsenal and character abilities constantly. Remember to keep around five to six small healing packs in your load out to prevent an easy death in tight situations.

High on Life started with talking guns as sidekicks, Forespoken protagonist had a ‘Cuff,’ HiFi Rush had 808 as a floating cat robot, and Atomic Heart has an AI glove Char-Les. 

Utility-wise, the glove serves its function with abilities like shocking and freezing your enemies, pulling a polymer shield around you, and helping you with x-ray vision. The banter between agent P-3 and the AI Glove feels forced or lackluster, don't get me started on the horny robot Nora; she makes me want ‘to pull out’ of the game! 😅

Agent P3 is also set up to progress through the game behaving like a man on a mission or, let's get this over with kind of character which leaves you questioning your very purpose of preventing a Robo-apocalypse.

Graphics and Sound

What blew me right away was the atmospheric brilliance needed for an FPS survival horror game which is done right and sets the tone for the game play to provide an immersive experience. What disappoints me is the sound design while playing on an LG C2 TV; I tried shuffling sound mode from Game Optimizer to AI PRO mode; the dialogues and environmental sound effects feel suppressed, but with headphones on, it's balanced as it should be.

Developers at Mundfish have released two patches post-release, and I can still spot evident frame rate drops while playing on Xbox Series X, especially in areas where the scenes involve fast-moving robots. In certain areas at the Pavlov complex, I felt the game would crash because of the heavy on-screen stutter. Quantum break played much smoother at 30 FPS on Xbox one with time-stopping and slow-mo graphics.

I have a problem with the in-game brightness, too; the game randomly turns too dark even in decently-lit scenes, and it takes some time to readjust the brightness levels. Specific background music loops don't sync well with ongoing action on the screen or when transitioning from a fight to exploring mode.

This game deserves a photo mode, but the overall game needs to be polished further to iron out the above issues first.

Atomic Heart draws inspiration from popular science fiction shooters, which is fine, but it also does not bring anything new to the table. 

I have not encountered any major game-breaking bugs until now; There is no option in the game menu to turn off the HUD. It's semi-transparent and spaced out well on screen, so it doesn't distract much during the game play.

Game save rooms are well placed, and the game also triggers auto-save at specific points during the game play

Atomic Heart is a sincere attempt at creating a AAA IP for Mundfish Studio as their first game. I hope the developers work on the optimization issues for Xbox and other quality-of-life improvements in the long run.

Story execution seems slightly off from the levels I have played until now. The feeling of the slowly building dread and impending doom is broken by not-so-witty and, at times, unwanted corny dialogues.

The game also claims to have an RPG element, which remains to be confirmed at my level because I haven't come across any decision-making points that have impacted the story line yet.

If you can ignore the weak game story plot and tacky dialogues, you should be able to play this game like a FPS Sci-Fi shooter it is and doesn't exactly qualify for the horror survival genre, despite a fitting setting and ambience. It would be hard to recommend this game to buy on full price to play on Xbox, I found that this game plays well on PS5 without any performance issues so kind of a mixed bag release at this stage.

Final Score - 6.5/10

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