My wife is dead, and my son has been ripped from my arms by a mysterious kidnapper. Everything I’ve ever known is lost; even my hometown has been obliterated by an atomic blast. I stand by the doors of the fallout shelter and look over the radioactive landscape; I’m exhausted and alone with nowhere to go. But there’s only one thing on my mind.
“I bet there are some cool trinkets in these abandoned houses.”
Why should I spend all my time following the story and trying to rescue my child? It’s been 100 years since my kid was born, so despite entering into cryostasis to keep us all young, he’s technically an old man who should look after himself. Also, I have important business to attend to. Do you think just anyone can find Ashes the Cat or free Billy from his fridge-shaped tomb?
Fallout 4 gave me so many options to explore and loot incredible locations that I eventually forgot about my lost child entirely. Being able to scavenge abandoned power plants, complete side quests for some questionable people, and tough out the atomic conditions of the wasteland was enough fun to keep me occupied for hours. I couldn’t care less about the story if the world is cool enough.
Fallout 4 may not have lived up to the astronomical heights of its predecessors in terms of critical acclaim, but it is a fun game, so nothing else mattered to me. I had forgotten what it was like to just enjoy a game for the sake of it and not because it was a critical success. That was until Atomic Heart came along.
Same old, same old
Getting to wander through the eerily picture-perfect streets of Facility 3826 traveling through the skies and beholding the gigantic statues that cut through the clouds, and finally falling to earth and stumbling into the underground barracks was immediately captivating.
Even when I went subterranean, the views stayed stunning. I had to traverse blood-splattered hallways, fungal-infected laboratories, and even large storage rooms covered in this ectoplasm-like gel that I could swim through as if it were water. Every corner I turned gave me something unexpected, and I could never figure out what would happen next.
I felt like I was back in Fallout 4’s wastelands, taking every room, enemy, and quest as it came with no real query about what would happen next. All that mattered to me was that the locations and enemies looked cool, and I could get my hands on some seriously cool weapons and loot.
Attention to detail
Getting to roam all of the brilliantly messy and bloody rooms and the beautiful yet deadly outdoors is even more satisfying, thanks to the brilliant music accompanying my escapades. It’s not every day you get to listen to beautiful retro Russian music in a AA game. But the music was never in question, not with veteran composer Mick Gordon at the helm, who scored Doom 2016 and Doom Eternal.
I’m also a big fan of eco-brutalist architecture (those are big words for concrete buildings covered in plants), so again, Atomic Heart ticked that box. Seeing architecture so foreign to what I’d usually see in western games was a breath of fresh air; I love swinging around New York as Spider-Man as much as anyone, but that can get old quickly when you’re used to the same old apartment blocks that you can see almost anywhere.
This isn’t to say I loved every small part of Atomic heart. The interactions with some NPCs missed the mark as conversations happened at close to light speed, and the script may not have hit the mark like God of War Ragnarok, but as I said before, that’s not what I came into this RPG looking for.
Atomic Heart was a fun game to sink hours into while I mindlessly chopped down moustachioed robots and ran through rooms looting everything but the kitchen sink. What was I here to do; who could say? Maybe I had to find the solution to a pandemic that created killer robots, or perhaps I had to find my lost child. I can’t remember the correct answer, but I do know that rummaging through rubbish and looking for loot is something I was born to do.