Atomic Heart teases a wild Soviet super-science ride

Atomic Heart

It’s been a while since anyone has taken a solid shot at recapturing that original Bioshock spark. Atomic Heart, an upcoming ‘adventure FPS’ from Moscow-based studio Mundfish might be in with a chance. Within, an elegantly cut trailer featuring at least four distinct brands of illicit super-science, rampaging robots, undead clowns and a horse made out of blood-tentacles.

Set in an alternate earth, Atomic Heart puts you in the shoes of a government agent, sent in solo to investigate just what has gone wrong at a Soviet research facility. The answer, if the trailer below and System/Bioshock-standard cliche is anything to go by, is everything. Violence ensues. So much that even the blood doesn’t know what to do – some of it even seems to be pooling on the ceilings.

Some stunning architecture, excitingly off-beat robot designs, and all manner of weird experiments gone awry. Even the peek we get at a boss fight against a bulbous mine-spewing droid looks fun, and charmingly animated to boot as the machine lands head-first from a jump, legs spinning in the air above it. The peek at the weapon-crafting system that allows you to go as far as customising the decals on your guns also has me intrigued.

While the trailer itself is impressive, the blurb on the Steam page for the game and on the developer’s own site does have a little bit of second-language twang to it – not incomprehensible by any means, but you can practically hear the thick Russian accent behind the English text. Hopefully a trap that the game itself manages to avoid falling into.

Mundfish aren’t quite ready to slap a release date (outside of ‘2018 listed on its Steam page‘) on Atomic Heart quite yet, but space-goggle spinoff Soviet Luna Park VR is due out sometime this month. It looks like a somewhat sillier co-op trip through the world of Atomic Heart, though no less blood-drenched.

20 Comments

  1. Kefren says:

    Some bits remind me, in a vague way, of You Are Empty (which I completed twice back in the day!)
    link to en.wikipedia.org

    • Useful Dave says:

      Not to mention Cryostasis, really giving me the vibe from that, except with less ice and icebraking accessories.

      • Barts says:

        Haven’t ever heard about it – was it any good?

        • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

          I’m not sure what Cryostasis would have in common with Atomic Heart’s presentation.
          In many ways it plays like Condemned: Criminal Origins, including the clairvoyant flashbacks (which were flash-forwards in Condemned) that are playable here and you have to solve some puzzle in them to change the fate of certain dead characters in order to continue your progression through the level.

          Instead of running through junkie-infested dumps of decaying urban scape, you have an abandoned icebreaker ghost ship with dead crew haunting its halls and you have to, I guess, help them and yourself with their salvation.

          It also had amazing shader effects (for example, the frost on the walls of very cold room would slowly melt down if you turned up the heater) back in the day, but also it was a power hog with massive frame drops. Now it mostly looks like slow, colourless nothing, because betting on good tech instead of solid art direction never holds up. The narrative part of the story is full of mysticism, barely connected to what’s happening on screen, so I’d recommend to check this one out only if you really enjoyed the slow pace of fighting mechanics in Condemned and don’t mind even more mystical elements in your game’s plot.

          P.S. Oh, and also also it had a curious idea with tying your health bar to a thermometer, so if the ambience gets deadly freezing you’d quickly become more fragile and you’ll have to find sources of heat to get yourself back on track.

    • April March says:

      That’s exactly what I was going to post – it looks like Bioshock by way of You Are Empty.

    • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

      It is! Mostly because the concept leeches off very distinctive looking Soviet Bloc / Stalinist designs.
      I think I’m one of very few people who actually enjoyed YAE on its release day, and what Atomic Heart has so far shown in the trailer, looks exactly what I would’ve expected from, say, Stalker 2 (at least, when it comes to depiction of open world areas of post-soviet wasteland of many scientific fields, just with less anomalies and more tongue-in-cheek enemy design)
      Unless developers will somehow screw it up, this title aims to join the ranks of guaranteed entertaining First Person Post-Scientific Experiment Catastrophe Shooters, the likes of You Are Empty / Singularity / Timeshift / Bioshock / STALKER / Half-Life.

      • Kollega says:

        Oh yes, do I ever love me some First-Person Post-Scientific Experiment Catastrophe Shooters. And I don’t think it’s a total coincidence that – besides the obvious You Are Empty and STALKER – all of those have connections to Russia/USSR; the characters of Singularity messing around with Soviet superscience, Half-Life 2 taking place in Eastern Europe with the visual designs from the ever-awesome Viktor Antonov (Bulgarian, not Russian/Soviet – but still from the Eastern Bloc), and even TimeShift having been created in large part by people from St. Petersburg and riding on its totalitarian aesthetics.

        Maybe the whole thing is that the combination of “impressive but ham-handed totalitarian dystopia” and “overly-curious, often well-meaning science gone bad” is something that you have a richness of reference material for if you’re from Russia/ex-USSR, and the trope of reality coming apart at the seams that’s quite popular in our sci-fi is a perfect combination of horror, action, danger, and philosophy :P

        • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

          >>And I don’t think it’s a total coincidence that – besides the obvious You Are Empty and STALKER – all of those have connections to Russia/USSR..

          I suspect that, more than anything, it has to do with historical juxtaposition of intelligent, yet so hopelessly insignificant individuals against the almighty Regime with barely comprehensible end goals, that one day can give birth to the eighth wonder of the world (like nuclear energy or edible plastic food made out of dirt) and the very next day will destroy entire family of your neighbours on a whim.
          It’s like a blood cell inside the living body – it’s travelling for thousands and thousands of miles through the vessels, without ever realising for what’s happening outside its walls, doing its menial task with no complete picture of why it’s doing it, without ever realising that it’s a part of massive mechanism that may do great things that no one inside may ever see (or it will suddenly die of heart attack due to the host’s self-abusing lifestyle). And then poor red cell goes away, along with dozens of billions of their brethren on daily basis.

          Technocratic dictatorship is a very strong source of inspiration for cosmic sci-fi – it puts many things into perspective with highly polarized angles of opinions (say, unicellular organism is free from higher intelligence’s oppression – or, at least, is having an illusion of freedom – yet, united with one goal, many cells can do so much more and more efficiently, when properly coordinated – which one will they choose?) and strong direction for conflict between those.

          • Kollega says:

            It’s a bit too sad that for most of the games mentioned, that is the kind of in-depth thought that never actually crossed the developers’ minds… but the end result as seen in Atomic Heart and other such games before it is pretty par for the course for what happens when the sort of situation that’d be subject to this type of philosophical examination goes completely off the rails as it is wont to do :P

            That, and of course we mustn’t forget that the works of Strugatskys et al. are still monuments of popular culture, which is what shapes those sorts of games. It’s just that some – like STALKER, YAE, HL2, and now seemingly Atomic Heart – are more thematically in-depth about it, while Singularity or TimeShift are more of an unconsciously-inspired “pop-corn version” of the same.

            (Interestingly, TimeShift in particular could have some interesting things to say about totalitarianism if it had any kind of meaningful storyline to it :v )

  2. Kollega says:

    A friend linked me this trailer earlier today. And as a certified Russian, I can say with certainty that this looks like the result of the Strugatsky Brothers getting high on cough syrup and/or a really old bottle of cocaine toothache drops. The general feeling of “Reality is out to lunch, comrade!” unmistakably evokes the Russian/Soviet school of sci-fi, in my experience.

    • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

      I’d say more than half of delirious scenery shown in the trailer already looks like it’s directly adapted several pages of Time Wanderers (Volny gasiat veter) and Doomed City (Grad obrechennyi)

    • Barts says:

      @Kollega – As someone from neighbouring country (Poland) and brought up on Soviet-era sci-fi (Strugatsky brothers, Kir Bulytchev aka Igor Mozeyko, Yefremov, Snegov, and various others) I can totally confirm. Very impressive!

      @Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium – could you add author names and original titles (in Cyrillic, if necessary)? If you have any recommendation of modern Russian sci-fi (just no Metro, please), could you share it as well?

      • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

        Both previously mentioned titles are by Strugatsky bros and highly recommended for a read.
        link to en.wikipedia.org
        link to en.wikipedia.org

        As much as I enjoyed Metro videogames, I find the couple of chapters of Metro I tried to read back when it was pubished on some website, fascinatingly dull.
        Sadly I don’t follow contemporary authors as much as I should – whenever someone’s asking me for good sci-fi recommendations, I ask them back “Have you read everything from Strugatsky bros, Lem and, at least, Asimov’s short stories yet? Well then go do it right now and then ask for something else (if you can stomach anything else after that)”

        • Barts says:

          Thanks a lot! I haven’t actually read this two, what’s more, I didn’t even know they exist. That’s brilliant.

          EDIT:
          I’ve actually read “The Time Wanderes”, only I knew it under the title of “Wind extinguishing waves”, but it didn’t leave a strong impression on me. It sits on my shelf, though.
          END OF EDIT

          As for contemporary ones, I’ve read a few, my favourite would be Sergei Lukyanenko – while very uneven, he has some cool ideas and in general his books are very “readable”. I liked Cold shores and Dances on the snow best.
          link to en.wikipedia.org
          link to en.wikipedia.org

          • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

            Lukyanenko can easily be considered as a local Stephen King – prolific (in a sense of publishing boatload of novels – I suspect he has several batalions of trained typewriter monkeys at his disposal to be able to maintain such an insane pace) and, whilst the plot may or may not be revelational, stuff is always happening and it’s all written in a fluid manner and is very pleasant to read (something that usually ends up lost in translation, but oh well).
            Definitely had fun reading his Labyrinth of Reflections series back in the day (man, these are some stiffly translated titles!)

            Sorry, I should’ve clarified that the “Wind extinguishing waves”/Time Wanderers makes most sense to read only as a part of Noon universe (along with couple of previously published books).
            Years passed and I tend to enjoy Strugatsky’s philosophical writings, rather than action-oriented ones, so if you’re on same page with me here – absolutely go check out The Doomed City and Snail on the Slope. Both are independent of any previous books and each other, and leave a lot of material for afterthought.

          • Barts says:

            Yes, a lot of charm of the Russian language gets lost in translation. I would love to see Bulychev’s books translated to English one day, but at the same time I am worried they would loose the warm humanist vibe and delicate humour they have. Some of these things are just so hard to translate.

            As for Strugatski brothers, I loved Friend from Hell, Distant Rainbow, Hard to be a God, Monday Begins on Saturday, Picnic on the Side of the Road – but I didn’t like Snail on the Slope, too weird for me.

  3. GernauMorat says:

    Well that looks fantastic. Will certainly be keeping an eye on it

  4. Peppergomez says:

    must say, that looks awesome

  5. April March says:

    If the game has one tenth of the atmosphere of the trailer, it’ll be an experience I personally won’t want to miss.

  6. Al Bobo says:

    I’ve been keeping tabs on this game for some time now. I’m waiting this as eagerly as the very first Bioshock! There’s games that I buy from grey market vendors and then there’s these gems that I just buy at full price to support developers. That is, if it really is a gem and not just a series of pretty trailers.

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