Atomic Coronary heart would not conceal its BioShock Infinite inspirations. The sport begins in a metropolis within the clouds, options reality-bending and elemental powers you possibly can make use of in your struggle towards superior robots, sees you scrounging for sources in an idyllic metropolis that is falling aside, and stars an amnesiac protagonist grappling with the nuances of free will. By the point you attain the climax of the story and also you’re requested to go to a lighthouse, you already know what’s up. The place Atomic Coronary heart most differs from its inspiration is within the lens by way of which it focuses its narrative, exploring ideas of free will by way of Soviet Russian collectivism as a substitute of the U.S.’ individualism. Nevertheless, its intriguing premise is let down by a deeply unlikable protagonist and a predictable storyline that does not do something fascinating with its cool concepts.
Within the alternate historical past of Atomic Coronary heart, a scientist named Dmitry Sechenov kickstarts a robotics increase in Russia within the Nineteen Thirties. By the Fifties, the working class has been abolished within the Soviet Union and utterly changed by robots managed by way of a hive-mind community referred to as Kollectiv 1.0. The sport begins a couple of years after that, simply previous to the general public unveiling of Kollectiv 2.0, which can permit all people to have equal entry to the hive-mind to manage robots remotely by way of a Thought system wired straight to their mind, in addition to join and share data with one another throughout nice distances. Principally, it is the Web plugged into your mind and out there 24/7.
With the advantage of Twenty first-century hindsight, we all know the Web is not going to find yourself being a 100% good thought even when the primary character Main Sergei Nechaev, an agent who serves Sechenov, totally believes within the dream of a world the place everybody equally has entry to one another and the wealth of data that can certainly be shared. Assigned to research a disturbance in Facility 3826, the Soviet Union’s foremost scientific analysis hub, Sergei is joined by Charles, a sentient glove that presents the agent with a number of polymer-fed technopowers like telekinesis and cryokinesis, and offers a sounding board for Sergei’s oftentimes annoying and borderline abusive assortment of quips and unfunny comebacks.
Throughout the now blood-soaked hallways and flickering lights of the partially destroyed underground facility, Sergei discovers experiments into mutation gone awry and finds that the once-peaceful robotic assistants have turned blood-thirsty. The true horror would not come till later, nonetheless, when Charles talks to Sergei in regards to the methods through which Kollectiv 2.0 (which is already put in into Sergei) will not be fully helpful. Hasn’t Sergei seen that every one these audio logs he is discovered and computer systems he is logged into solely give him data that is related to furthering the mission he is been assigned? Wow, it is nearly as if an algorithm is feeding him with details about what it thinks he ought to see and listen to extra of, disguising it in a means the place he cannot spot the manipulation. It isn’t as overt a type of management as a spoken command however Charles hints that people will be directed simply as simply as robots as soon as they’ve all logged into the identical hive-mind of data, particularly if there’s a option to management that data.
It is an intriguing idea, one furthered by the notion that Atomic Coronary heart is a online game and so we, the participant, have been directing Sergei’s actions your entire time. So it isn’t simply Sergei who’s being manipulated to view the sport’s world in a sure means primarily based on a fictional Web algorithm, it is us too. However as fascinating as it’s, exploring free will by way of the scope of a online game’s story has been finished earlier than, and Atomic Coronary heart would not do something notably novel with the idea. Actually, its protagonist actively will get in the best way of this idea being explored, raging at Charles that he would not have time to wax poetic about hypotheticals. He cannot be bothered to supply any type of introspection as a result of there are robots that have to be stopped and a nasty man guilty that wants killing. Time and again, Charles brings up the morality of their mission and the bigger implications of what is going on on, and repeatedly Sergei simply would not care, citing that he’ll go away the pondering to Sechenov. The primary and second instances it occurs, you are hopeful that this flaw is establishing some type of character improvement for Sergei. While you’re 10 hours in and Sergei continues to be spinning in the identical sample and exhibiting no indicators of rising as an individual, you possibly can’t assist however surprise how anybody might be this stubbornly bone-headed and annoyingly naive.
Sergei can be deeply unlikable as an individual. He is antagonistic to everybody round him, together with the commonly useful Charles, and it is by no means defined why, resulting in the gradual realization of the painful reality that you simply’re simply enjoying as a shitty human being. You do not really feel good enjoying as Sergei each time he opens his mouth to speak to anyone–I empathize extra with the individuals who must tolerate his barrage of unfunny insults than I do him.
It is acquainted however nonetheless enjoyable.
Regardless of being a jerk, he does know the best way to struggle. Wielding polymer skills together with his left hand and an assortment of firearms and weapons together with his proper, Sergei is a hard-hitting fighter. Whereas the robots and mutants he goes up towards are far sooner than he’s, you possibly can simply escape the swarms by utilizing Sergei’s sprint to reposition, curating a frenetic hit-and-run fight expertise. Although comparatively easy at first, fight evolves right into a extra partaking expertise as extra enemy sorts are launched, every with its personal assault patterns and weaknesses.
Atomic Coronary heart has a wholesome variety of enemy sorts. Nevertheless, there’s nothing you may face you most likely have not fought a variation of earlier than in different games–ranging from dog-like enemies that attempt to circle you earlier than pouncing in your route to turret-like adversaries that shoot at you from afar to cumbersome foes who closely telegraph their assaults however can take a success. The identical goes for the weapons and powers you employ to struggle them. The pump-action shotgun hits such as you’d count on a shotgun ought to, as an example, and the chilly polymer energy freezes enemies of their tracks simply as you’d assume. There’s nothing revolutionary to how fight performs out, but it surely all works because it ought to. It is acquainted however nonetheless enjoyable.
Looting is surprisingly probably the most pleasing facet of Atomic Coronary heart, as, with simply the clicking of a button, Charles can use telekinesis to tug loot into Sergei’s pocket. In observe, this causes drawers to fly open, cupboard doorways to nearly swing off their hinges, and the our bodies of enemies to erupt because the magnetic pull of Charles rips the sources of a room in direction of Sergei. It by no means bought outdated to enter an unexplored room or filter a gaggle of enemies after which sit again to observe as all the pieces round me exploded right into a whirlwind of paper and scraps of steel, sucked into my coffers like a grasping twister. After all, you possibly can then use these sources to craft new firearms, ammo, weapon attachments, and objects, however the sheer delight of the act is nearly sufficient of a reward in itself.
After finishing the primary mission, Sergei takes a monorail to the primary space of the sport, the place Atomic Coronary heart expands into an open-world format. At this level, the sport’s narrative slows to an annoying crawl as Sergei journeys to one in all a number of services to finish a mission, return to the floor of the open world, journey to the subsequent facility, and repeat the method. Even when you do not take the time to freely discover the map, full non-obligatory challenges, and search for supplies to unlock particular attachments to your firearms, the journey between waypoints nonetheless bogs down the story. Nothing of narrative significance occurs exterior of the contained, linear ranges of the totally different services, and fight advantages from the rigorously structured structure of these contained ranges. Even enemy placement and kind are curated to suit particular areas of the linear ranges, and that cautious curation is misplaced throughout the breadth of the open world. I might typically simply hop in a automobile and drive straight to the subsequent story beat, as that is the place the higher gameplay is. It makes the open world really feel superfluous, including content material on the expense of enjoyability.
Thankfully, among the foremost ranges have a definite taste and fascinating themes to them, serving to them to face out towards the largely forgettable open world. My favourite of those ranges takes place in a theater identified for being the primary to function a solid composed fully of robots. The extent sees Sergei chasing after a person who used to work there, who has twisted the theater right into a macabre showcase of art–much like in BioShock. There’s this breadcrumb path of diary entries you possibly can uncover that reveals an engineer coming to phrases with the unusual parasocial relationship he is creating with one of many robotic dancers, a intelligent puzzle that includes ballet poses and blood splatters, and an unbelievable second the place you are preventing off waves of enemies throughout a ballet that will get a hip-hop remix
It is an ideal stage, and I am unhappy we did not get extra prefer it or at the least have extra examples of utilizing music to rework a well-recognized fight situation into one thing extra memorable. Atomic Coronary heart has an ideal soundtrack full of thumping, high-energy music from Doom composer Mick Gordon that can get your head bobbing throughout even probably the most butt-clenching of battles. However these highly effective rhythms are often reserved for boss encounters, that means loads of the sport’s finest music is fleeting and solely pops up for one encounter earlier than by no means being heard from once more. That second within the theater is cool, but it surely’s the one time one thing like that occurs within the recreation. Atomic Coronary heart would not construct on it to make extra moments like it–in reality, there are fairly a couple of situations the place the highly effective soundtrack feels wasted as a result of the excellent composition that is enjoying would not match the vibe of what you are at the moment doing. Why play arduous rock throughout a hectic struggle within the dimly lit area of a morgue? It simply would not match.
There are fairly a couple of elements of Atomic Coronary heart that simply do not neatly match collectively, and people disparities create an expertise that usually feels at odds with itself. That disparity is most evident in how the historical past of the world in Atomic Coronary heart is fascinating and units up an intriguing dialog in regards to the nature of free will and collectivism, however then the unlikable protagonist repeatedly prevents that matter from being explored. Atomic Coronary heart is definitely going to enchantment to some folks, particularly these trying to relive BioShock Infinite, but it surely’s not a simple advice.