Atomic Heart doesn’t hide its BioShock Infinite inspirations. The game begins in a city in the clouds, features reality-bending and elemental powers you can employ in your fight against advanced robots, sees you scrounging for resources in an idyllic city that’s falling apart, and stars an amnesiac protagonist grappling with the nuances of free will. By the time you reach the climax of the story and you’re asked to visit a lighthouse, you know what’s up. Where Atomic Heart most differs from its inspiration is in the lens through which it focuses its narrative, exploring concepts of free will via Soviet Russian collectivism instead of the U.S.’ individualism. However, its intriguing premise is let down by a deeply unlikable protagonist and a predictable storyline that doesn’t do anything interesting with its cool ideas.
In the alternate history of Atomic Heart, a scientist named Dmitry Sechenov kickstarts a robotics boom in Russia in the 1930s. By the 1950s, the working class has been abolished in the Soviet Union and completely replaced by robots controlled through a hive-mind network called Kollectiv 1.0. The game begins a few years after that, just prior to the public unveiling of Kollectiv 2.0, which will allow all humans to have equal access to the hive-mind to control robots remotely through a Thought device wired straight to their brain, as well as connect and share information with each other across great distances. Basically, it’s the Internet plugged into your brain and available 24/7.
With the benefit of 21st-century hindsight, we know the Internet will not end up being a 100% good idea even if the main character Major Sergei Nechaev, an agent who serves Sechenov, fully believes in the dream of a world where everyone equally has access to each other and the wealth of information that will surely be shared. Assigned to investigate a disturbance in Facility 3826, the Soviet Union’s foremost scientific research hub, Sergei is joined by Charles, a sentient glove that gifts the agent with a host of polymer-fed technopowers like telekinesis and cryokinesis, and provides a sounding board for Sergei’s oftentimes annoying and borderline abusive collection of quips and unfunny comebacks.
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