Atomic Heart has plenty going for it when booted up: a unique premise, a strong setting, and an interesting player character. At its core, Atomic Heart has a promising story and several design elements that make it stand out, but as it progresses players will realize that the game stretches out its best and worst parts until nothing good remains.
A simple playthrough of Atomic Heart will take players around 25 hours to beat, which is a solid playtime generally. This gives the game plenty of time to set up its story, delve into its most interesting parts, and back it up with fun mechanics and gameplay. But it doesn’t do that. Of that playtime, less than half of it involves something interesting or fun, while the rest is nothing but frustrating bloat, resulting in a game that can be best summarized as an incongruent mess.
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Atomic Heart’s story has its moments. Players step into the shoes of Major Sergei Nechaev, who is also referred to in-game by his callsign P-3. A special assignments officer assigned to USSR hero Dmitry Sechenov, Nechaev wears an AI-controlled glove named Charles that gives Nechaev someone to talk to and unlocks some special abilities throughout the game. Essentially, Charles is nearly identical to Cuff in Forspoken, which may be Charles’ best point of comparison on all fronts. Sechenov is preparing for the launch of something called Kollective 2.0, and P-3 must discover and end a conspiracy that would prevent said launch. Along the way, a variety of secrets and relationships are unearthed, and there are a few exciting moments created out of the chaos. But chaos is woven into everything else related to its story.
P-3 is pulled in every possible direction, and every character in the game is manipulating him, or so it would seem. Everyone wants him to accept some truth, but none of them are upfront with the truth. This, in turn, creates some seriously confusing…