Mundfish’s Atomic Heart releases on February 21st for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, and PC. Surprisingly, it’s been in development since at least late 2018, with sporadic updates till last year (and reports of mismanagement, crunch, reboots, etc.). Nevertheless, it’s nearly upon us, and the latest trailers and gameplay have looked very good.
Set in an alternate history Soviet Union in 1955, the story focuses on Major Nechaev aka P-3, a KGB special agent sent to Facility 3826. Robotics have advanced heavily in this version of the world; however, the facility’s robots have gone out of control. It’s up to P3 to prevent a total catastrophe, but he also has his mental well-being to worry about.
The immersive sim and action RPG elements that have defined classics like System Shock are apparent in Atomic Heart’s gameplay. Take a look at 14 things you should know before buying.
Facility 3826 isn’t just a simple laboratory or factory – it’s a massive ecosystem with numerous facilities and entities living out their lives. Along with labs housing failed experiments and rogue machines, there are stretches of greenery and forests. Idyllic cityscapes and towns have been marred with destruction and chaos as all kinds of robotic abominations rise to oppose their former creators. It’s an open world, and though not massive, Mundfish says it will be pretty detailed. There’s even a car to help in getting around.
You’ve probably noticed by now, but Atomic Heart has a lot of dangerous robots that want to kill you. Some are the result of bio experiments combining flesh and machine, while others are simple laborer robots turned murderous. Some of the enemies encountered include the MFU-68 Laborer, a bipedal machine with saw blades on top and the RAF-9 Engineer, who looks human but has a powerful grip and claws for slicing up enemies.
The VOV-A6 Lab Tech is a tall robot with self-repairing capabilities, while the MA-9 Beylash is more hulking and durable, shooting flames and moving very fast. Knowing how to approach and dispose of each machine is important, especially in battles with various enemies.
If the regular robots weren’t enough, there are also bosses like Hedgie that must be defeated. Hedgie is a large ball-like robot that moves extremely fast and bounces around, creating shockwaves that can burn the player. It stops momentarily at times, allowing you to damage its weak spots, but deals some crazy damage if you’re not careful.
The arsenal available is pretty extensive, from guns that fire bullets like the AK to a powerful Railgun for annihilating foes. We’ve also seen a rifle that fires bullets and charges an electrostatic ball that can shock enemies when fired. Melee weapons range from sledgehammers to buzzsaws on sticks cobbled together from junk. Along with special attacks, melee weapons are also useful when using energy weapons, since hitting an enemy can charge the latter.
The Polymer Glove will become one of your best friends when navigating Facility 3826. It unleashes various abilities like ice, fire and lightning. They can be used with specific effects – like drenching enemies and using lightning to electrocute them. You also have the polymer bomb, which can cover enemies and facilitate electrocution, and the polymer shield to defend and freeze enemies. Other nifty abilities, like lifting enemies momentarily and slamming them down, also look good.
In addition to the Polymer Glove, Atomic Heart provides the Chaika 3.0, a device for crafting over 30 different types of melee weapons and guns. You’ll find components in the environment and from smashing robots to aid in this (with a handy vacuum feature for quickly looting items). Each weapon has unique upgrades, and by using cassette modules, you can add slots to increase a weapon’s damage, range, and so on. Just be careful when harvesting resources – carrying too much causes encumbrance, resulting in slower movement speed.
Stealth and Quick Time Events
Though we’ve seen plenty of gameplay footage of Nechaev blasting away at enemies, dumping several rounds into them, you don’t get unlimited ammo. As such, melee weapons and abilities are necessary but so is stealth. Avoiding enemies and not drawing their ire or getting behind them for takedowns is important when conserving ammo. You can also hack into robots and kill them.
Be warned – if the alarm goes off, reinforcements from a nearby factory will quickly swarm you. There are also quick time events, though we’ve yet to see how they’ll work – and whether they pop up randomly during combat or in other sequences.
Fortunately, there are various ways to experience the game, whether you’re in it for a challenge or want to play the story. Mundfish founder and game director Robert Bagratuni revealed to IGN that there are three difficulty options – Story, Medium and Hard. While Medium is how the game is meant to be played, you can enjoy the narrative in Story difficulty or tough it out against the world in Hard mode.
Ray Tracing and DLSS Support
Whether you seek a challenge or an interesting story, there’s no denying that the game looks great. Even better, it supports ray tracing on PC with ray-traced reflections on enemies, environments, and more. DLSS 3 is also supported for those with RTX 40 series GPUs, allowing for the use of Frame Generation (which boosts frame rates) along with existing features like Super Resolution and Reflex.
4K and 60 FPS on Current-Gen Consoles
Whether Atomic Heart supports ray tracing on Xbox Series X and PS5 is currently unconfirmed. However, Mundfish did reveal that it runs at a “solid” 4K/60 FPS when exploring “dungeons” (which may refer to more closed-off or underground areas). While out in the open world, it’s “mostly” 4K with a dynamic resolution and 60 FPS. Xbox Series S resolution and frame rate are unknown, though.
Optimized for PS4 and Xbox One
What about previous-gen consoles? For a game leveraging features like ray tracing and DLSS 3 on PC, and running in 60 FPS with 4K on current-gen consoles, you probably shouldn’t expect the same on Xbox One and PS4. Mundfish didn’t specify the resolution of either version, but Bagratuni said they have “mind-blowing optimization.”
Speaking to WCCF Tech, he revealed that the team “literally ripped up the engine with a can opener to make it possible for the game to use all possible CPU cores on all platforms, to the fullest. We’ve moved a lot of critical code to async threads. The code traditionally runs only on the game thread in Unreal Engine. It was a challenge and not an easy thing. But it was worth it. I’m not hinting at anything, but we were even able to run the game on a device with 3 cores.”
Of course, time will tell what resolution and frame rate the Xbox One and PS4 versions run at.
Atomic Heart’s requirements aren’t insane, but they’re still heftier than the average set-up, even if you’re not using 4K or ray tracing. At the minimum, you need an AMD Ryzen 5 1600 3 GHz or Intel Core i5-4460 3.1 GHz with 8 GB RAM and a Radeon R9 380 (4 GB) or GeForce GTX 960 (4 GB). The recommended requirements include a Ryzen 7 2700X 3.8 GHz or Intel Core i7-7700 3.6 GHz, 16 GB RAM and an RX Vega 64 (8 GB) or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (8 GB). Regardless of other hardware, you’ll need 90 GB of installation space.
Lest you thought the story ends with the base game, there’s more content coming in the future. Four DLC packs have been confirmed as part of the Atomic Pass, available with the Gold and Premium Editions. The exact content of the DLC hasn’t been detailed, but the developer confirmed that it would add new territories, quests, puzzles and enemies. New characters and world stories are also coming along with new complexes, labs, and an expansion to the open world. New “challenges” are also promised.
Mundfish had a lot of ideas for Atomic Heart, which led to “unwanted” delays, says Bagratuni. Some of them, like multiplayer, had to be abandoned. There also doesn’t seem to be any hope of it coming back, even as DLC, since no multiplayer add-ons are planned. Never say never, but Atomic Heart is a single-player-only affair for the foreseeable future.