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Atomic Heart: system requirements, PC performance and the best settings to use

Without any of that decadent capitalist ray tracing

Atomic Heart continues to dominate both my professional time and my personal brainspace; it really is a fascinating game, for reasons good and terrible alike. Its most recent twist came in the complete lack of ray tracing at launch, despite various pre-release builds having been held up by Nvidia themselves as the technology’s exemplars. Crispy critters, indeed.

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Still, for all Atomic Heart’s faults, visuals and performance are not among them. In contrast to other recent big-namers like Forspoken, Wild Hearts, and Returnal, Atomic Heart can easily be made to hit 60fps on older/slower PC hardware, and scales well into the 144fps region with more powerful kit. Here, we’ll examine how Mundfish’s born-in-the-USSR BioShock tribute runs on a selection of different graphics cards, before finding the best settings to combine for an ideal quality/performance balance.

Fighting plant monsters in a massive grow house in Atomic Heart.

Atomic Heart system requirements and PC performance

Even without those traced rays, Atomic Heart’s keen eye for aesthetics makes it a good looker, and one that’s backed up with high technical fidelity. There is the occasional spot of classic Soviet-style corner cutting, like how nearly all the corpses strewn around have the same face and hair, but the environmental and enemy designs in particular are boldly drawn and highly detailed.

Nevertheless, Atomic Heart doesn’t make outrageous demands of your rig, the official PC specs starting off with a simple GTX 960 or Radeon R9 380. The mega-popular GTX 1060 is listed as delivering 60fps at 1080p, albeit using the Low quality preset. Here’s the full list:

Atomic Heart minimum 30fps system requirements (Low, 1080p / 30fps)

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 / AMD Radeon R9 380
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-2500 / AMD Ryzen 3 1200
  • RAM: 8GB (12GB recommended)
  • Storage: 90GB HDD (SSD recommended)

Atomic Heart minimum 60fps system requirements (Low, 1080p / 60fps)

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon RX 580
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-6500 / AMD Ryzen 3 1200
  • RAM: 8GB (12GB recommended)
  • Storage: 90GB HDD (SSD recommended)

Atomic Heart medium system requirements (Medium, 1080p / 60fps)

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 / AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-6600K / AMD Ryzen 5 1400
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 90GB SSD

Atomic Heart high system requirements (High, 1080p / 60fps)

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 / AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-7600K / AMD Ryzen 5 1600
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 90GB SSD

Atomic Heart ultra system requirements (Ultra, 1080p / 60fps)

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super / AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-7700K / AMD Ryzen 5 2600X
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 90GB SSD

Atomic Heart ultra 4K system requirements (Ultra, 4K / 60fps)

  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 / AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-8700K / AMD Ryzen 5 3600X
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 90GB SSD

I tested all my GPUs with an Intel Core i5-11600K, a gaming CPU that sits above most of the processors listed above, though the graphics card is the biggest muscle to flex here, and if anything it looks like the official specs are pessimistic. Using a custom benchmark run across Atomic Heart’s open world (a more demanding environment than its interior halls and corridors), the GTX 1060 actually averaged 103fps on 1080p / Low, not 'just' 60fps. The Medium preset produced 74fps as well, and High averaged out at a perfectly playable 49fps (though did drop to sub-40fps during heavy combat).

The GTX 1080, from the recommended spec for High quality, also cruised to 83fps using this preset at 1080p. It also had no big problems on Ultra and even the highest Atomic preset, scoring 76fps and 59fps respectively. It’s a decent card for Atomic Heart at 1440p too, pumping out 61fps on High and 46fps on Atomic.

Climbing all the way up to maxed-out 4K, the recommended RTX 3080 may be a step further than what you need. My RTX 3070 could average 70fps at 4K / Atomic, though did need DLSS on Quality mode to get there. Those who’ve treated themselves to one of the latest high-end GPUs won’t strictly need upscaling, as the RTX 4070 Ti scored 75fps on Atomic at native 2160p. with Quality DLSS, that rose to 103fps, which is excellent for a brand new game.

Atomic Heart also supports FSR and DLSS 3 frame generation, the latter providing an additional FPS boost on top of the usual enhancement through upscaling. I only got a modest improvement on the RTX 4070 Ti, though, with frame generation and Quality DLSS upscaling making for an 111fps average – just 8fps more than with upscaling alone. That’s still a velvety framerate but perhaps not worth the input lag penalty that the AI frames incur.

Atomic Heart running on the Steam Deck.

Back down in the land of the cheap and cheerful, the Steam Deck appears reasonably adept at running Atomic Heart. In my benchmark, the handheld PC managed 40-50fps on the Medium preset (without FSR upscaling). Dropping to Low pushed that up to 50-60fps, which became a near-solid 60fps in most interior scenes. The only unexpected technical issue came at the game’s dying moments, where an ending slideshow failed to play (audio continued as normal) before cutting to credits. This does need fixing, though since the game is already over at this point... well, there are worse places to break.

I didn’t encounter much else to beware of, on desktop or on the Deck. I experienced stuttering precisely once, briefly and several hours into the story, which is relatively good going for a modern Unreal game. As long as you wait for the shader compilation process to finish after booting up or changing settings, you should be dandy on any combination of somewhat-recent PC hardware.

A worker is dragged away by a robotic tentacle in Atomic Heart.

Atomic Heart: best settings guide

It may be missing ray tracing (and and FoV adjustment, which is apparently also coming in a later patch), but Atomic Heart comes stocked with a respectable mix of graphics settings to toy around with. I’ve tested them all individually, to find out which are the best settings to tone down or crank up.

My control setup this time was the GTX 1080 running at 1440p, which I appreciate is a bit of an odd combination in 2023, but considering this GPU is only recommended for High-quality 1080p I was curious to see how high I could make it punch above its weight. Besides, it’s an odd game. Sue me.

Anyhoo, with the GTX 1080 installed, my test rig achieved 123fps on the Low preset, 93fps on Medium, 61fps on High, 60fps on Ultra, and 46fps on Atomic. Since there’s only a tiny performance gap between High and Ultra, let’s use Atomic as our starting point, and see how dropping each individual setting to Medium-level can speed it up.

Depth of field: An usually prominent place in the list for DoF, especially as disabling it only added a single frame per second, putting the GTX 1080 up to 47fps. Still, the effect doesn’t contribute much, so I’m inclined to cut it.

Motion blur: Disabling blur didn’t affect performance at all, but then it’s also not remotely necessary if your PC is running this far above 30fps.

Anti-aliasing: You can stick with the Atomic preset’s High TAA here. Medium TAA added 1fps to average performance, but the added sharpness of High is more value.

DLSS Super Resolution: Absolutely worth using at 1440p and above, if you have a GeForce RTX card to take advantage of it. The GTX 1080 is not one such card, though on the RTX 4070 Ti, enabling the sharpest Quality setting for this upscaler boosted 4K / Atomic performance by 37%. For free, essentially.

DLSS Frame Generation: This is only available to RTX 40 series GPUs, and uses interpolated frames (like the motion smoothing setting on a TV, but not offputting) to improve performance. However, it also adds input lag, and in this case I don’t think it’s worth the gain: my RTX 4070 Ti only went from 103fps with standard upscaling to 111fps with frame generation. And this is the weakest RTX 40 series GPU at the time of writing, so both it and any others (like the RTX 4080) will run Atomic Heart just fine without generated frames.

Nvidia Reflex: Not actually a graphics setting, despite being in the graphics options menu. Set this to On or Boost, provided your mouse supports it – Reflex cuts down on system latency at no cost.

FidelityFX Super Resolution: Hello, FSR. This is your upscaler for any GPU that isn’t an RTX model, and can produce smoother framerates instantly. Getting the GTX 1080 from 46fps to 63fps on FSR’s Quality setting, for instance. Unfortunately, at 1440p, FSR is visibly blurrier than both native res and DLSS, so is probably best kept for 4K unless you’re willing to live with the loss in sharpness.

Animation quality: Keep this on Max. Lower settings cut the distance at which enemies use low-FPS animations to save resources, but even on Medium, this distance is incredibly short, and the animation jitteriness is hard to miss. Besides, Medium still ran at an unchanged 46fps.

Shadows: Probably one of the best settings to reduce for improved performance. Medium shadows don’t look too bad, and are much faster compared to Max, propelling the GTX 1080 to 53fps.

Ambient occlusion: Another one to turn down, as Medium netted me 51fps with minimal loss in visual quality.

Visual FX: Despite some fights turning into laser shows straight out of an Eric Prydz concert, reducing this setting doesn’t do anything at all for performance.

Number of objects: There’s no Medium option here, so I tried High – getting 46fps again – and Low, which gave me 47fps. The Max setting is fine.

Materials: There was a teensy 1fps gain in lowering this from Max to Medium, though it won’t be necessary unless your PC is truly struggling.

Volumetric fog: Changing from Max to Medium afforded the GTX 1080 a modest 2fps gain. I’d take it, even if there is a visible difference once you know where to look.

Postprocessing: This setting gave a surprisingly spirited boost after I lowered it to Medium, helping the GTX 1080 to 53fps. Another one for the list.

Textures: Keep on Max. Medium makes Atomc Heart less pretty, and didn’t add a single average FPS.

Texture anisotropy: Anisotropic filtering by another name. And equally un-sweet as a means of raising framerates: to get better performance than the maximum 8x, you have to drop all the down to 2x, and that’s just for a measly 1fps more.

3D model quality: This is yet another setting where lowering the quality doesn’t help performance at all. Leave on Max.

Vegetation density: An eagle eye might spot the difference in places, but for me it was worth the loss of Max quality to boost up to 52fps on Medium.

Hard drive speed: This is set to 'SSD' on higher presets and 'HDD' on lower ones. Changing to the latter didn’t make a difference on my desktop PC, through when I tried switching the other way – HDD to SSD – on the Steam Deck, it actually ran slightly slower. Therefore, set this to SSD if you’ve got a decently powerful PC, and set it to HDD on lower-end hardware.

Shader cache: Not sure why you’d care to turn this off, though for the record, doing so didn’t actively hurt the RTX 1080’s performance – it still averaged 46fps.

When it comes to selecting settings yourself, I’d suggest that the easiest way to go about it is to choose the Atomic preset and then make the individual changes below. This should provide a sizeable jolt to overall performance, though if it’s still not where you want it, try the Ultra preset as a starting point instead.

  • Depth of field: Off
  • Motion blur: Off
  • Nvidia Reflex: On/Boost
  • Shadows: Medium
  • Ambient occlusion: Medium
  • Volumetric fog: Medium
  • Postprocessing: Medium
  • Vegetation density: Medium

Quality-level DLSS is also worth enabling if your GPU allows it, though it is disappointing how much worse FSR looks on its equivalent setting. The latter is still useful at 4K, but at 1440p, the reduced rendering resolution might be a bit too low.

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Atomic Heart

PS4, Xbox One, PC

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About the Author
James Archer avatar

James Archer

Hardware Editor

James had previously hung around beneath the RPS treehouse as a freelancer, before being told to drop the pine cones and climb up to become hardware editor. He has over a decade’s experience in testing/writing about tech and games, something you can probably tell from his hairline.