Precautions before purchasing the video game “Atomic Heart”
Hey, we’re back with another episode of “Before You Buy.
” That show will give you some straight up gameplay and our first impressions of the latest games releasing.
As usual, it’s me, Jake Baldino and today we’re talking about “Atomic Heart.
” Now we’ve been anticipating this one for years now.
It started out as a small, kinda strange, weird looking project and eventually ballooned into this full-fledged game we have here today.
This is (laughs) gonna be an interesting video.
I came away enjoying playing through “Atomic Heart” but almost every aspect of it is flawed.
For everything I enjoyed in the game, I also have something to criticize.
I just wanna be up front because I still ultimately enjoyed the game but I have way more to say about some of the issues.
If you’re the type of person that expects absolute perfection from their games, you read and watch every review, you know about game criticism, you know what you want a game to do and what not to do, then yeah, man, “Atomic Heart” is a rough game but it’s an ambitious and unique enough one that, if you can forgive some flaws, you’ll end up getting to play through something, that’s just different.
It’s a new fresh thing, it’s a bit busted but it’s cool.
Just keep your expectations in check.
I don’t know, guys, with me, with this one, I feel like the “SpongeBob” meme, with Patrick being shown his picture and you know, you’re just telling me all the bad things about the game and I’m like, “Yep, yep.
” But then if you ask me if I still enjoyed it, I did.
Not the game of the year or anything, but hey, I’ve gone on too long, so let’s just get into it.
And of course, the usual deal here, you know the drill, the review copy we’ve been playing, all this footage.
It’s on PC and this is gonna be a spoiler free video.
Now let’s start off with the best thing about “Atomic Heart.
” It’s the world they built, not the open world, but just the concept, this alternate future Russia, where the Soviet Union ends up having technological breakthroughs that make them the world’s superpower.
So robotics are the norm and you get a glance at a seemingly utopian society.
But of course, something is amiss under the surface.
Everyone is comparing this game to “BioShock” and yeah, it definitely does the thing, where it takes some of the big ideas of what this place was supposed to be and how it could work out great on paper, but of course someone or something will always screw everything up.
It didn’t glorify anything here to me.
You can read into the concepts of communism, artificial intelligence and science and I think you can extrapolate some pretty interesting things from it.
These high concepts aren’t always in your face but they’re fun to dive into here and there, through the games audio logs, the computer screens and really just reading between the lines throughout the story as it goes.
Really, it’s a lot more to me.
I know people are comparing it to “BioShock” a lot.
To me, it’s a lot more in tone and vibe as like the new modern “Wolfenstein” games.
It takes an old European power and goes alternate history and ramps it up to like batshit crazy mode, which I think is far-flung and interesting enough.
So in the game, right at the dawn of this new technological breakthrough for the whole society, shit goes down and you’re tossed into this big, I think it’s like a military base area.
It’s miles of land with underground bunkers, labs, houses, museums, nature and more.
Unfortunately, all the robots that have been taking care of society have gone crazy.
And now it’s up to you, agent P-3, who’s like a veteran soldier with amnesia, of course, to get to the bottom of it all.
It’s a kind of linear adventure with wide-open space between dungeons.
You can explore and find loot and weapon upgrades but the main focus is mostly on getting to the next interior and making your way through some good old fashioned video game adventuring.
Presentation-wise, I actually would’ve preferred if this game had a silent protagonist.
Maybe something was lost in literal translation here but the writing and voice acting is rough, borderline hurting the experience.
The main character, he’s just a cringelord.
Okay, so like, imagine the big moment in the beginning of “BioShock”, you find the lighthouse, you take the plunge down into rapture and the music swells and you see it all for the first time and it’s eerie and beautiful.
But Jack goes, “Huh, ain’t this some shit?” That is what playing “Atomic Heart” is like as this guy.
He’s just an abrasive, annoying character.
He softens a bit towards the second half but it’s still all almost laughably embarrassing.
There is one good bit involving a train ticket though, I’ll say that, that and a few other moments landed.
But overall, ehh, the rest of the dialogue isn’t much better but the overall story is intriguing at least.
It doesn’t totally stick it and it relies a lot on your artificial intelligence, just kind of telling you things as you walk around, making it kinda messy.
But the cut scenes are often interesting and there are some cool moments at least, I wanted to see what happened next, more out of curiosity than it being deeply compelling or anything, but it kept me going.
Combat is all right.
It kinda finds itself right in the middle.
It’s a mix of first-person melee and first person shooting, where you need to mix in both at times and certain enemies are weaker to different things.
Melee, like many first-person melee games is kinda rough.
You have a regular attack and a special customizable heavier attack, as well as a kinda dash, dodge that works pretty good.
The issue is that the hits don’t feel that good.
It’s a lot of mindless swinging and although the animations of enemies getting hit and the damage looks kinda cool, it doesn’t feel satisfying whacking away.
I’ve played worse, definitely, like it’s not bad.
But considering you do melee a good amount, I wish it felt better.
The first-person shooting is a bit better though.
It’s easy to control, it’s pretty straightforward stuff with ADS and sometimes alternate fire modes and it varies from weapon to weapon really, like the shock pistol is useful but it doesn’t feel satisfying.
But the shotgun is good.
The Fat Boy rocket launcher thing is solid.
The AK-47 is really good.
The shooting works and it feels way better than melee in most instances.
Also, the reload animations are cool.
Now you also have special abilities, starting with an all-purpose shock blast on a cool down to zap enemies and things in the environment and then you can map two others that you can swap on the fly to use like, freezing enemies or covering them with explosive fuel, telekinesis, a shield and more.
Now this leads to an element into the game, I really like the way the crafting and weapon and ability upgrades works.
It’s pretty straightforward stuff.
It’s nothing revolutionary but just implemented in a satisfying way.
Oh, and first off, just a little thing, really creative of them.
Since you have like the powers glove for everything, one of its uses is to loot for materials.
So instead of just manually clicking on every drawer and box and cabinet and manually get crafting materials and ammo, I’m looking at tons of other games.
All you gotta do is hold a button and kind of wave your hand past stuff and your hand kind of sucks up all the materials via telekinesis, it’s really cool and makes like the endless drudgery of looting in so many games, actually kind of fun and satisfying here, I love it.
It’s a small thing, but it’s little things like that that the game has sometimes that I really like.
So anyway, you take all this stuff back to vendor machines to spend.
You can craft new weapons and you can craft upgrades for them, different sights, damage modifiers, stock upgrades, muzzles, decent level of stuff for each weapon and multiple levels within them.
You can also add a slot to clip in expendable attachment cartridges to cause different elemental damage.
And with the game’s economy being fairly generous, you upgrade things at a pretty satisfying pace.
You’re also spending a resource into a skill tree for each of your cool glove abilities.
Take a basic telekinesis lift to slow down enemies, all the way up to a massive lift of multiple heavy enemies, way up in the sky and then the ability to slam them back down to the ground for more damage.
Maybe take your shield from just a quick hit, save thing to something that explodes when enemies hit you.
There’s a lot for each ability.
To buy the base ability is cheap, if you wanna just check it out.
But to make them really good, you have to spend way more.
The game just kind of lets you discover these on your own, whenever, it doesn’t really tutorialize them or you know, force you into a section to use one for a specific thing.
It’s just pick what you like over time and stick with what works for you in combat or completely respec if you want.
The freedom of experimentation here is pretty nice.
The abilities are mostly easy to use but you don’t ever usually feel super powerful.
It’s hard to explain.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but getting and using them is still at least satisfying enough.
I think some of it all comes down to the enemies.
The occasional boss and bigger enemies are awesome but there’s a big lack of variation for sections of the game with some of the fodder enemies.
The main mannequin crash test dummy looking dudes, they’re just awkward and not really very fun to fight.
They start off very creepy and unsettling but after an hour of fighting them, they’re just annoying.
But again, I really like the boss battles.
They’re mostly flashy and pretty simple, just don’t die and shoot the enemy but they’re cool.
There is one that’s absolute bullshit though, I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself.
It almost feels kinda broken but these good bosses are just few and far between the more mundane encounters.
Now the open world or openish world is where you can run around, explore, fight enemies, maybe even grab a car and just get around.
Exploring the open world is vital to find these blueprints to get better weapon upgrades but that’s really it.
No open world gimmicks really or endless side quests.
Just kind of a small, simple reason to get out there and I don’t mind that.
But the way this is implemented, you’re gonna find it either simple and satisfying or boring.
I found it a bit annoying because the game has an alert system, which you can sort of disable with some work but there are security cameras and flying cameras, like, every five feet and enemies almost everywhere, so you don’t really have a lot of time to breathe and there’s no solid indicator on like, when or how far enemies can see you.
Like the rules aren’t set like a stealth game or even a game with a detection system, this game has nones.
So it’s just kind of like a lot of messy running around in the open world, being chased by a handful of annoying things.
And that’s a shame because the actual open world they made is big and beautiful, it’s really creative with like, weird Adam punk style stuff mixed with Soviet propaganda imagery come to life and then like, these distinct architectural styles but all of it kind of put into this strange blender.
I’m a nerd for this stuff.
I just really appreciate this stuff.
You know, concepts are great, visuals are great, but it just seems like the open areas themselves, gameplaywise they’re a bit undercooked.
Also it is a god awful map system, like unintuitive and almost useless.
Adventuring inside through kind of story dungeons are fun, they’re usually paced well and they’re pretty lengthy.
A lot of it feels kinda like a “Half-Life “style adventure.
You know, you’re working your way deeper into increasingly dangerous places, solving weird puzzles to get by.
I don’t wanna compare it to “Half-Life”.
It is nowhere near as good as “Half-Life” but that, it just kinda like came to mind.
And all of these places are completely unique and cool to see.
And when there are surprises, they’re actually pretty good.
The game is unfortunately dragged down with some tedium though.
Like a lot of things you need to accomplish, require you doing an extra long other thing first.
And then almost every door you come across is locked with one of like three different styles of hacking lock picking mini games, that are actually good creative designs.
Like the unlocking methods are really satisfying and I haven’t seen them like this in a game before but when it’s every other door, they get tedious really fast and almost feel like they were put in place among other things to really pad out and artificially lengthen the experience.
I mean, the character even makes jokes about it, like, “Ugh! Come on, I have to do this again.
” And that’s funny, but also like, shut up, I don’t know.
At one point when someone gives him another tedious task, he literally says, “I’m like a magnet for annoying bullshit.
” And yeah, I don’t disagree.
Oh, and the music, there’s a lot of it here and I freaking love all of it.
There’s some banging Mick Gordon tracks that sound, let’s say, very distinctly Mick Gordon.
There’s weird sci-fi synth stuff and there’s tons of weird licensed tracks or creative choices.
Russian covers of popular songs.
We kind of saw this like, with German versions of songs in “Wolfenstein”.
There’s ’50s kinda glossy doo-wop stuff and lots and lots of like recognizable opera and classical music bits.
It’s incredibly well inspired and sets a really, really unique tone that goes along well with all the sci-fi absurdity and just heightened a lot of moments.
It made the adventure that much more intriguing.
Visually, like I alluded to earlier, I think the game looks pretty great and although we were expecting some performance issues, we didn’t really have any on a few different spec machines.
There are some glitches and bugs, though.
I’ve seen some people have some quest issues but for us it was mostly visual.
So keep that in mind.
Really, again, you just need to set expectations with this game.
For every lame enemy, there is a really shocking and creative robot design.
For every dull or frustrating open world part, there’s an incredibly in-depth and unique indoor dungeon adventure.
For as much as the combat is just okay, the progression of getting better weapons and abilities is somewhat satisfying.
For every moment of tedious bullshit, there’s something way cooler around the corner.
And even stuff that will dazzle you sometimes.
For a story, that can be brought down by messiness and really awkward dialogue.
There is just so much creativity in the world and the backstory they set up.
This is a game that feels like it was made by a smaller studio with big AAA ambitions.
It has a lot of amazing ideas but it’s not a well-oiled machine.
And you can even argue that, it doesn’t all quite come together.
But if you’re a fan of games from smaller European studios or just slightly smaller experiences but not quite indie games, we call them AA games.
This is a commendable first outing.
“Atomic Heart” is a mess, but it’s a charming (laughs) mess.
And if you’re just looking for something new and you can get over some weird and sometimes bad stuff.
For the curious gamer, depending on your wallet, I recommend checking it out at some point.
But hey, that’s a “Before You Buy.
” You know how this goes by now, I give you some pros, some cons and some personal opinion.
And now I wanna hear yours down in the comments because I had a lot of criticisms with this one but it’s because ultimately I just wanted it to be better because I see what they had going here.
So as this game starts to roll out and some of you guys still try to jump into it, let me know what you think.
Let me know what your expectations were for this game.
Anything at all.
Let’s talk “Atomic heart” down in the comments.
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But as always, thanks for watching, I’ll see you guys next time.
(electricity buzzing) (gun bangs)