Atomic Heart: game release date on PS5 and Xbox, Game Pass details, Mundfish controversy explained - gameplay

Critics have questioned the game’s links to sanctioned oligarchs and Russia’s Federal Security Service

A new sci-fi shooter coming to consoles this month looks to be an intriguing AA release, a polished, story-driven effort that’s already garnering comparisons to classic dystopian gaming nightmares like Bioshock and Control.

Atomic Heart comes from Mundfish, and has been in development for over four years. Early trailers for the game have showcased the technologically enhanced powers that players will get to experiment with as they rampage through a Soviet Union scientific research facility.

But the game has not been without its controversy, driven in part by the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and the nearly year-long Russian invasion of the country. Here is everything you need to know about it.

What is Atomic Heart?

Atomic Heart is a sci-fi first-person shooter with action role-playing elements set in an alternate 1955 at Facility 3826, the main centre for scientific research in the Soviet Union.

In this alternative history, scientist Dmitry Sechenov created “Polymer” in the 1930s, a liquidised programmable module that revolutionised the fields of energy and robotics in the USSR and freed the majority of the population from manual labour.

One of these advances is the "Kollektiv", a networked artificial intelligence that connects the robotic workforce. In order to incorporate Polymer into the human body and enable remote neural interfacing with the robots as part of an enhanced Kollektiv 2.0, Sechenov additionally creates a gadget dubbed "Thinking."

(Image: Focus Entertainment)
(Image: Focus Entertainment)
(Image: Focus Entertainment)

Unfortunately, Facility 3826 is thrown into disarray when Thinking’s official launch goes awry, and you play as Major Sergei Nechaev - also known as P-3 - a mentally unstable officer on special duties dispatched by Sechenov to prevent things at Facility 3826 from getting worse.

Throughout the game, you’ll have to battle malfunctioning robots, botched biomechanical experiments and Nechaev’s own rapidly failing mental state.

Was it developed by Russians?

In a bizarre twist that has seen life somewhat imitate Atomic Heart’s surveillance state art, it has previously been claimed that development studio Mundfish harvested gamers’ data for the Russian security agencies through its website.

The Russian studio - headquartered on Cyprus - was accused of specifically mentioning the gathering of user information and the potential disclosure of that information to Russian state authorities, particularly the FSB and the tax office, in the privacy policy published on its website.

Furthermore, it’s been alleged that development of the game - which began in late 2018 - was financially supported by Russian investors, including a former top manager of state-owned energy corporation Gazprom with connections to the sanctioned VTB bank and Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska.

Then of course, due in part to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, critics have questioned the timing of Atomic Heart’s release, with the game featuring Soviet and Russian military themes. In response, Mundfish argued that the business is impartial in world matters, and does “not comment on politics or religion".

(Image: Focus Entertainment)
(Image: Focus Entertainment)
(Image: Focus Entertainment)

Where is the best place to pre-order the game?

You can pre-order physical copies of Atomic Heart through Click the relevant links below to be taken to the platform of your choice.

Again, Xbox’s ‘Smart Delivery’ feature means there is just one ‘Xbox’ version of the game to look out for if you’re looking to buy it physically - your console will automatically detect whether you’re using a current or last-gen Xbox console.

Players on the newer Xbox Series X/S machines will be able to experience improved graphics and performance with no added faff. In summary, the game will run at a dynamic 4K/60FPS target on the current-gen consoles, though Xbox Series S users will take a cut to a 1080p resolution in order to keep the frame rate smooth.

PlayStation players will need to make sure they buy the correct physical version of Atomic Heart, and since there is no Smart Delivery feature there, if you one day wish to upgrade the PS4 version to its PS5 counterpart, you may need to buy the game all over again!

When can I play it?

Tuesday 21 February is Atomic Heart’s scheduled release date. It will be available for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

At the time of writing, it appears as though digital versions of the game will be made through corresponding digital storefronts from 12am GMT on 21 February. In the lead-up to release, we’ll let you know if anything changes with this.

Is it on Xbox Game Pass?

Xbox owners are already benefitting from Atomic Heart’s Smart Delivery implementation, but subscribers to the Xbox Game Pass service will also be able to play the game from its date of release at no added cost on top of their subscription fees.

The game will be made available on Game Pass at the same time as it goes live on digital storefronts (12am GMT on 21 February).

Atomic Heart will also be available on Xbox Game Pass for PC, and through the service’s Cloud gaming feature, meaning you can jump in instantly, and won’t have to wait for potentially a lengthy download and install process.