What the hell is the deal with ‘Atomic Heart’?


Video game releases have evolved in the past few decades, big-time. What used to be as straightforward as putting out a trailer or two has now turned into a complicated belly dance of teasers, teaser trailers, teasers for the teaser trailers, shadowy posters and outlines, cryptic stuff posted on unlisted websites and long, convoluted arguments among fanbases about seeing the latest Sonic incarnation’s left elbow hair.

So you’d think the cryptic stuff is standard business for a game like “Atomic Heart.” Not so! Because this game got weird from the start.

“Atomic Heart” looks like the twisted, Communist lovechild of “Bioshock,” “Fallout” and “Portal,” with a just a splash of “Detroit: Become Human” gone horribly, horribly wrong. (Or right, I suppose, if you went down the anarchist path.) Hell, throw in some of the biological dadaism of “Death Stranding” and you’ll get a decent idea of what this game looks like.

Set in post-Cold-War Russia, you play as a KGB higher-up sent to do a report on a government lab that’s gone dark. You arrive to find the area overrun by the lab’s robots, formerly docile but now rampant with an intent to kill, as well as … well, watch the trailer. Floating pools of blood and water are better seen than explained.

The first trailer for this game hit on July 27, 2018, to a somewhat baffled reception, and it currently sits shy of about one million views.

The trailer itself is infused with a sense of dry, Russian humor and irony. Fight robots – violently! Stab a zombie and spurt its blood all over the scenery – violently! Open a can of beans and chug it – violently! All of this to the background of the waltzy “Weary Sun Tango,” which seems to be a remix of the 1935 swing hit “To ostatnia niedziela” (The Last Sunday) or Утомлённое солнце. The lyrics more or less translate to a couple’s lament before they break up; it’s been called “The Suicide Tango” due to its death-march-esque qualities.

On a separate note, there are zombies in this game. They look more like robot-possessed corpses to me, but if you’re boarding up doors and dealing with hordes, then a zombie it be. They seem to be more of a side-dish than the main course, which is sensible considering the oversaturation of zombie games in the market and the current humdrum for the upcoming post-apocalyptic drifter “Days Gone.”

Back to “Atomic Heart.” In between the trailer drop and the 10-minute gameplay video, Mundfish has been pretty radio silent, between uploading the occasional video short and the 10-minute gameplay video they dropped via IGN one week ago

What the hell is the deal with Mundfish, by the way? Their team has been cryptic, and as far as we know, they could just be a Java script written to upload teaser YouTube clips in the most non sequitur fashion possible. We only really have seen like three photos of the team, one of which was taken in what looks like a dingy basement.

We know they’re based in Moscow, and that they’re looking for a 3D animator and an Unreal Engine developer. (https://mundfish.com/en/career/) We also know they were previously working on another project, “Soviet Lunapark VR,” which featured similar themes and enemies and a co-op mode that “Atomic Heart” is purported to contain. The virtual reality project was scrapped, however, in December as the team focused more on “Atomic Heart,” though certain parts of “Lunapark” look like they’ll be cannibalized for their current project.

Of course, it all boils down to whether what Mundfish is selling lives up to the hype or not. And nowadays, with games drumming up a media circus attesting to their brilliance, innovation, creativity, etc. the harder they fall when gamers and critics pan it. It looks hella interesting, for sure, and I for one will be watching the development of this particular project as it goes on. Mundfish hasn’t set a release date yet, though they said the Beta version will come out sometime in late 2019 on the PC and PS4. Of course, they already have pre-order available, though I’m not one to hedge my bets.

In the meantime, keep an eye out. 2019 looks like it’s going to be an interesting year for games, so if you’re not still trying to figure out how the plot to “Kingdom Hearts III” works, or dying repeatedly in “Shekiro”, then check “Atomic Heart” out.

Marlese Lessing is the news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu. She tweets @marlese_lessing.

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