Atomic Heart's main character actor wrecked the set while auditioning for the role

Atomic Heart Big in 2023
(Image credit: Focus Entertainment)

BioShock but set in an alternate Soviet-era timeline. That's the immediate vibe Atomic Heart gave us after its first teaser trailer launched in the summer of 2017. It had automatic weapons, a rusted Stillson wrench, hostile guard robots with a thirst for murder, the vestiges of a bygone society, and lots of bloodshed and explosions. The more we've seen of Mundfish's debut FPS action role-player since, the weirder it all seems – here's looking at you, ladle-wielding grandmother – but the comparisons between it and Irrational Games' perennial adventure from 2007 have endured. 

"When creating our world, we were inspired by great authors like Orwell, Huxley, Strugatsky, and Lem," explains Robert Bagratuni, CEO and game director at Mundfish. "And of course games like BioShock, Half-life and even Portal are also very close to our hearts. But we are still striving to create something completely original."

"Until players themselves are immersed in the world of Atomic Heart, comparisons cannot be avoided. Especially when we create a world of dystopia, how many other games have worked in such a setting? The general idea is comparable to BioShock in a dystopian context, but the player will quickly realize that Atomic Heart is actually a mixture of many genres, with more varied mechanics than we are used to seeing in classic shooters."

Heart and sold 

Atomic Heart

(Image credit: Mundfish)

Bagratuni says the decision to tease Atomic Heart with a series of short and obscure trailers over a sustained period was a deliberate one, and acted as a means of observing how would-be players felt about the game's environments and the speed within which the action unfolds. This "hurricane" pace is integral to how the game functions, explains Bagratuni, however story and setting are equally important to its alternate reality timeline.

To this end, Bagratuni adds: "In the universe of the Atomic Heart, you are always somewhere between the distant past and tomorrow's future. This is reflected in the design of objects, interiors and exteriors, characters' clothing, and architecture. According to the game's story, the action takes place in the '50s, which is more than 10 years of humanity's development in an alternate branch. As we know, science and technology can advance considerably in 10 years, which gives us more freedom in world creation. Probably the hardest part is keeping the spirit of the past alive with technology ahead of our time."

Atomic Heart granny with a ladle

(Image credit: Mundfish)

"He grabbed a hold of the melee weapon model (it weighs over 20 pounds!) and swung it a few times, destroying the prop and a couple of other things nearby in the process".

With what started out as a "super small" team, Mundfish has grown in stature over the last almost-six years. Like any development cycle, some ideas have hit the cutting room floor, while others have been tweaked, nipped and tucked and evolved into something different entirely. That said, death and destruction remain central and distinguished tenets of Atomic Heart – the latter of which even extended to the casting of the game's protagonist, a character named P-3.  

"We were casting the main character and, of course, we wanted to find someone who could not only act as P-3, but who could also portray his character. When Alex came into the room, his face was stern and troubled. He walked silently to the back of the room where the props were located. He grabbed a hold of the melee weapon model (it weighs over 20 pounds!) and swung it a few times, destroying the prop and a couple of other things nearby in the process. He threw the weapon on his shoulder, and turned to us with a sense of great satisfaction."

"We were all shocked... "Uh, what's going on?!" we thought to ourselves.  But at that moment, we realized that he would be a perfect fit as a P-3. When you play Atomic Heart, you will discover exactly what we saw."

Atomic Heart is due on February 21, 2023 for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One, and PC.

Big in 2023

(Image credit: Big in 2023)

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Joe Donnelly
Features Writer, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Writer at GamesRadar+. With over five years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.