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Unravelling the mysteries of Atomic Heart

Ivan to play this game.

Atomic Heart's most recent trailer has created quite the buzz in Video Game Land. Visually the game looks phenomenal, but the psychedelic scenes that unfold have left viewers with a lot of questions. Suitably intrigued myself, I decided to scour the internet to find out as much about the story and gameplay of Atomic Heart as possible.

Atomic Heart is an adventure first-person shooter (think along the lines of BioShock) set in an alternate universe version of the Soviet Union. It's built in Unreal Engine 4 by a little-known development studio named Mundfish, which is based in a loft office in central Moscow. Only one photo of the development team exists on social media and it shows a couple of young designers planning out the game's story using a paper map and Post-it notes.

The resolution of the picture is too low tell what's written on the map, but I'm pretty sure that fella in the foreground is part way through eating a marker pen.

Mundfish's first social media post for Atomic Heart was pushed out on 23rd March 2017, showing us the studio has been working on the game for at least 14 months.

Mundfish have another game in the works called Soviet Lunapark VR, which ties in with the events of Atomic Heart. The announcement trailer for this game came out on 10th April, but it flailed to generate anywhere near the levels of buzz we're seeing for Atomic Heart. Soviet Lunapark is a VR horror game set in and around the same location as Atomic Heart. It boasts a story mode that can be played in single-player or co-op, and a PvP arena for some multiplayer mayhem.

According to the Steam page for Soviet Lunapark, you can also play a Whack-a-Mole game with your friends, although in this case Nazi-hamsters assume the role of the moles. If that's not enough weirdness for you, it also says you can win prizes by shooting hungry Soviet seagulls out of the sky with a slingshot. Seems like the developers have made sure there's plenty of lighthearted moments to balance out all the horrific uber-violence.

Is this an Alt-Hamster?

Back to Atomic Heart now, and I've discovered the majority of the game is set in a bizarre secret research complex called Facility No3826. This facility is codenamed Sechnov, which I'm guessing is a reference to Ivan Sechnov. Sechnov is the father of Russian physiology whose main interests lay in neuroscience, in particular how activity in the brain is linked to electrical currents.

Chances are this choice of name isn't random, because according to a post on the Atomic Heart website, the machines of 3826 are rising up are killing everything not made out of nuts and bolts. Now it's possible that these robots have been programmed to behave like this, but perhaps it's actually secret experiments on the human brain that have allowed these robots to somehow become self aware.

Judging by all the warped visuals in the trailers it's probably safe to say at least some of the experiments in the facility are linked to neuroscience, but perhaps those trippy scenes are more than just simple hallucinations. Have the scientists in 3826 discovered a way to distort reality itself? Have they found a way for humans to control the elements with their minds, perhaps? The answers to those questions remain a mystery for now.

It's not just robots you have to worry about in 3826. Zombies also appear in the the trailer, confirming human experimentation also went on behind the walls of the facility.

In Atomic Heart, you play as a special agent named P-3 who infiltrated 3826 to find out exactly what's been going on there and most importantly, what's gone wrong. Nothing else is really known about P-3, but in the trailer you can see he wears distinctive leather gloves that have some kind of metal device or decoration on each of the middle fingers. Also of note is his watch which, considering the lack of a UI in the gameplay, probably acts as a health meter.

The action in Atomic Heart has an emphasis on close combat battles and multiple melee weapons make an appearance in the most recent trailer. There are firearms in the main game but the ammo for these is said to be tightly limited, which suggests that stealthy play may be the best option for a lot of the game.

Did you notice the P-3 insignia under the thumb of the left hand?

Soviet Lunapark VR on the other hand looks like it's all about the shooty bangs. The trailer for that game shows the player character fighting off waves of bad guys with an arsenal of weaponry, some of which can be dual-wielded.

One remaining mystery is the release date for Atomic Heart. All we know at the moment is it's coming out soon on the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Soviet Lunapark VR on the other hand is scheduled to come out on Steam sometime this month for HTC Vive and Oculus, but it's also due to come out on Playstation VR at an undisclosed date.

To find out even more details about Atomic Heart and Soviet Lunapark VR, check out my video at the top of this article where I show off gameplay from all three available trailers.

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About the Author
Ian Higton avatar

Ian Higton

Video Producer

Ian is a video producer, keen streamer, VR enthusiast, battle royale fan and retro connoisseur. He lives in the West Midlands with his ZX Spectrum collection and a troublesome cat.

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