The first thing that will hit you when checking out the trailer is the incredibly high fidelity of visuals. This is something that definitely needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Many times before, we’ve seen reveals and demonstrations showing supposed gameplay, only to later learn what we saw was running on incredibly high end studio hardware. I’m looking at you The Division. The end result is that, to market the product to a wider audience, the game’s specs must be “dumbed down” to run on existing commercially accessible hardware. Atomic Heart currently has a Steam page, slated ambiguously for just “2018”. What led me to this line of thought was how Mundfish’s official page states the game will be coming out for PS4 and Xbox One as well (then again, God of War happened, so who knows). With that minor wrinkle out the way, let’s see the footage for ourselves.
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From the opening images, we can see spectacular attention to world design. Even if what we’re looking at is not representative of the final game, it’s clear that Mundfish knows full well the direction they want to go in. The massive Soviet statue in the distance is reminiscent of Bioshock Infinite’s floating angel statue, which stood as a bastion of patriotism for the people of Columbia. No doubt this statue will serve the same kind of narrative purpose in Atomic Heart, as well serving the useful function of giving outdoor environments a sense of scope. It is unclear from what we’ve seen if what we’ll get is a similar sandbox exploration to the Bioshock games, or if Atomic Heart will be of a more linear nature.
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In these shots, we are shown a mixture of indoor and outdoor environments. For me this is an instant win because it means a good binary mix of environmental mood. A bit wordy, that. But wider outdoor areas that you swing a cat in is something the first two Bioshock games didn’t have. When everything opened up for Infinite, gameplay was seriously affected yet each entry in the franchise was still great to play. It’ll be interesting to see how well Mundfish can incorporate strong gameplay in both types of areas. The floating structures, anchored by sets of wires clearly have a role to play, perhaps as power nodes for the drones we see flying about. Robots seems to have taken over as well, which is weird because Mundfish states the game is set in “the height of the Soviet Union in an alternate universe,” which would suggest there should be more… people about. We see one person, a Soviet officer, seemingly entranced by the horde of Nier: Automota-like robots in front of him. Perhaps there’s some hive mind stuff going on here? As for the amorphous blobs of blood forming humans shapes in a bath… well, that’s just about as open to interpretation as a Jackson Pollock painting isn’t it? Portal style fluid manipulation puzzles may be involved, though.
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Okay, so -- creepy bloodied clown type character followed by water that apparently does what it wants. Clearly something has gone very, very wrong. What extenuates this is the brief clip between the two, where a grassy field seems to be rippling. By now, we can get a sense for how fluid, be it blood or water, plays a big theme in Atomic Heart. We also see drones bursting out of containers flying towards a building very similar to the one we saw in the first ten seconds. Could we be looking at a desperate Soviet Union attempting to rebuild after a massive scientific experiment gone wrong? Are the robots the workforce? At the end of this segment, we see a supposedly unarmed woman sprinting through forestry while an odd contraption changes position. This strengthens my theory that some kind of blood sports are involved, where innocent people must endure a gauntlet of deadly challenges. This is revisited later in the trailer.
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Here we get a closer look at what to expect from Atomic Heart’s gameplay. This is where the Bioshock influences really shine through. We got a lovely nod to the classic Bioshock wrench several times over earlier. However, this time, we can see there’s an equally strong focus on both ranged and melee combat. What’s interesting is how we see the player supposedly dodging the strikes of an enemy. It would frankly be amazing if we got a first person version of Alan Wake’s dodge system as it would really breathe some new life into the tired out FPS format. It remains unclear if this is still just cinematic representation, however. We are also shown DOOM style finisher moves in a brief scene backed by the sound of applause. Here’s where we get back into the blood sports theory. Hopefully, the whole game doesn’t center on this and perhaps the player finds themselves an unwilling participant for a while.
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The start of this segment is very interesting indeed. Are we looking at a scripted segment where the player barricades themselves safely from the attacking hordes? Or is this a hint at certain parts of the game implementing a wave survival kind of mechanic? A part of the game that respects player intelligence to see there are too many foes to take on at once, allowing them use initiative to hold up somewhere and funnel foes through to their deaths? This would be a spectacular icing the cake, combined with the supposed dodge mechanic. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it and hoping for too much. But hey, a man can dream. The rest of the segment drives home the nitty gritty combat and how Mundfish are not afraid to get messy. Weapon mechanics look tight and worthy of a platform right next to Wolfenstein and DOOM. Look out Machine Games and iD!
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Seeing the player crack open a can implies a few things. If the barricade clip is to be taken seriously, there could be survival elements mixed into this game (aside from just blowing the crap out of things that want you dead). Survival mechanics aside, the can of white goop could just be a health pack or some kind of buff. With what we’ve seen so far, in a game as zany as this, the can of goop could be anything. Then we see what looks like a very challenging boss fight… How long until the critics start calling it “Souls-like” I wonder? Then we see what looks like incredibly deep weapon customisation which explains the earlier hammer being covered in barbed wire. Lastly, we see an image of a Russian map. This is the final clue to all the messed up stuff we’ve seen so far.
The first bit of text on the map briefly states “research complex named after Sechenov.” Ivan Mikhaylovich Sechenov was a Russian physiologist who later became hailed as “The Father of Physiology.” He would go on to write a book called Reflexes of The Brain, which would serve to introduce electrophysiology and neurophysiology into medical science. Such themes tie very closely to the autonomous water and blood we saw near the start of the trailer. Lastly, we see segments of the map highlighted in red, which we can only assume are hotspots for the freaky fluid anomalies.
There’s Plenty Left Open To Interpretation
Did you spot anything in the trailer worthy of discussion? If you think we missed anything, go ahead and let us know in the comments below. Atomic Heart has shown us just a minute and a half of footage and it already looks amazing. When Bioshock was close to release, its trailers were equally close to inexplicable (if not completely baffling). Atomic Heart is displaying a similar touch of imaginative originality in its premise, and perhaps also in its gameplay. Make no mistake, this is what Bioshock fans have been thirsting for ever since Infinite. We’ll be watching out closely for Atomic Heart updates as they are revealed. Be sure to stick around for those updates here at KeenGamer.
Atomic Heart is currently slated for a 2018 release on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.