Atomic Heart controversy

Why is Atomic Heart controversial?

By Olivia Richman

|

Mar 2, 2023

Reading time: 3 min

Atomic Heart is a shooter and stealth game set in an alternate reality Soviet society in the 50s that’s full of robots that have become violent. The game recently came under fire for including a racist caricature, causing some controversy for the developers. And that’s just one of the recent controversies.

Mudfish apologizes for racist cartoon in Atomic Heart

To create a realistic and immersive world that makes players feel like they’re truly in the 50s, developer Mundfish included a lot of nods to that time period. One detail included showing an old Soviet animated show from the 60s called Nu, Pogodi! Clips of this cartoon were playing on TVs in the save rooms, which act as a secure lounge for players to save their game and upgrade weapons.

During the clip shown on the old TV, two-legged animals chase each other around a museum. In one room, there’s a statue depicting an African tribal man with a lot of offensive stereotypes shown in TV shows of that time period.

Mundfish responded to the concerns after PC Gamer shared an article about the issues with the cartoon in Atomic Heart. The developer admitted to a “lack of sensitivity” and apologized for using the vintage cartoon if it “caused hurt or insult.”

As a result, Mundfish vowed to edit the clip in question and show a different cartoon on the TV instead. Some gamers have still wondered how the moment got past developers in the first place, but the controversy has since slipped away.

Atomic Heart accused of collecting data for Russia

Another big controversy surrounding Atomic Heart involved accusations that the development team was collecting players’ data and information for the Russian government. Many gamers were fearful that Russia was involved with Atomic Heart and questioned the developers’ vague responses to the concern.

When accused of teaming up with the Russian government, developers tweeted that Atomic Heart was a studio with a global team that is “pro-peace” and against violence. Developers added that they don’t condone discriminatory or hateful content. Gamers felt that it didn’t really address the specific concern about Russia being involved.

As the controversy continued, developers responded that no data is being collected in-game or on their website. But content creators continued to make speculations and spread rumors about Mundfish. It’s also been reported that the Ukrainian government may ask Sony, Microsoft, and Valve to remove Atomic Heart from digital stores, accusing the game of “romanticizing” communism and the Soviet Union.

The game itself, however, seems to be a slight mockery of the Soviet Union and its ideals. But this has not been addressed any further by Mundfish or individual developers.

Atomic Heart accused of copying other games

While the world-building in Atomic Heart is most definitely its biggest strength, some gamers have started questioning similarities between the game and similar titles, like Bioshock and Fallout.

Some of the robots have a similar design to the synths in Fallout 4, the algae-infected humans have similarities to the monsters in The Last of Us, and even the abilities and skill trees remind players of Bioshock. The crafting and upgrade systems have reminded some gamers of Resident Evil.

While the similarities can definitely be argued, it’s nothing new to see elements from one game inspiring the elements of a newer game. Despite the ongoing controversies, Atomic Heart has been largely applauded by the gaming community for its fun gameplay and immersive atmosphere.