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The Creepiest Moments In Atomic Heart

When "Atomic Heart" was first revealed, its eerie visuals and foreboding tone quickly caught the attention of gamers. "Atomic Heart" puts players in control of a Russian special agent known as P3 in an alternate history universe where the Soviet Union won World War 2 thanks to the discovery of a powerful substance known as Polymer. The game's world is filled with strange technologies, autonomous robots, and other science fiction elements like flying cars and floating cities. 

As fans would expect from a game heavily inspired by "BioShock," it features explosive combat that blends firearms with strange powers, a twisting story that can leave players scratching their heads at the end, and plenty of creepy moments and iconography. "Atomic Heart" actually leans very heavily into the uncanny, and accordingly manages to send shivers down the spines of its players more often than not. Here are some of the creepiest moments that players can expect to come across while fighting against the bloody robotic revolt in "Atomic Heart." 

The worst Chirper

Audio logs are a common trope in video games that allow players to collect and listen to clips that fill in the world's backstory, plot, or characters details. In "Atomic Heart," these are known as Chirpers, which look like small pocket watches and which P3's glove is able to decode and play. Many of the game's Chirpers are standard info-dumps, but one in particular will chill players to the bone.

This Chirper is found in the theater area of the game, next to a pile of rubble blocking a staircase. When players listen to it, they're treated to an audio file unlike anything else in "Atomic Heart." It features distorted music and the repeated sounds of a child giggling uncontrollably. When the chirper ends, the unshakable P3 actually expresses his own discomfort at hearing it, only for his polymer glove to tell him that the Chirper was corrupted and didn't have any audio on it. 

It is unclear whether ghosts have any role to play in "Atomic Heart," but this Chirper is nightmarish either way.

Too late to save him

For the majority of "Atomic Heart," players explore a research base that has already been ransacked by its robotic workforce. Most of the humans in the facility are already dead, having been impaled by exposed rebar, crushed by massive machines, or just generally tossed about. This makes the few instances where players have to watch the death of an NPC feel all the more impactful and shocking. 

Perhaps the creepiest of these scenes arrives early on in the game. It starts with P-3 approaching a door, through which a man can be heard calling for help. P3 reaches the door and struggles to open it, only to crack it open enough to start trying to save this distressed man. He is ultimately unable to rescue him, however, as mechanical tentacles come from behind the man and wrap themselves around him, tearing him from P3's grasp and dragging him down the hallway behind the door. 

The game's horrific environments constantly remind the player of the carnage that has occurred at the base, but this moment stands out as being particularly unnerving. The player is allowed to get close to saving the man, only for him to be torn away, and it's a terrible feeling. It's made even worse by the fact that he can still be heard screaming while being killed by an unseen assailant.

The Polymer process

The strange substance known as Polymer is at the heart of the technological achievements that define the world of "Atomic Heart." This near-magical material is used to operate machines, store information, and even feed people. Characters can even breathe when inside of it! While players are solving a puzzle in the game's lab section, they are apparently given a sneak peek at how Polymer is produced while completing a puzzle. 

The puzzle is centered around changing the settings of tanks filled with Polymer and farm animals. Once the puzzle is completed, the player has to interact with a computer console, which suddenly blends all of the tanks into bloody smoothies, then drains the tank. P3 is aghast at the sudden violence, and it is difficult to imagine any player not having a similar response to the gory event. It's made all the more upsetting when the player can still see a field full of cows outside, clearly being raised to feed this bizarre experiment.

Impatient ballerinas in the lobby

The theater section of "Atomic Heart" holds more than just the haunted Chirper. Another upsetting scene occurs in an area of the theater where defunct ballerina robots stand on pedestals at the center of the room. Before the events of the game, these statues were used to direct theater attendees, directing people to the bathroom or informing them when a show's intermission was coming to a close.

Like everywhere else in "Atomic Heart," however, the theater has fallen into complete disarray, leaving the robots malfunctioning wildly. When the player is near the robots in the lobby, they constantly repeat their programmed instructions with distorted voices, strange emphasis, and all-around creepy line deliveries. If P3 hangs around long enough, the robots begin telling him to depart in increasingly urgent ways, suggesting that he get his coat or grab a snack. If the player stays for too long, however, the robots apparently run out of friendly recordings and a deep voice abruptly yells at P3 to leave.

Red Polymer reveal

The standard Polymer responsible for most of the technology in "Atomic Heart" is not the only form of the strange substance, and P3 eventually discovers the interesting properties of Red Polymer. It isn't immediately clear what the differences between the two forms are, but the sequence in which Red Polymer's purpose is revealed to the player is incredibly creepy and effective.

The scene begins as the game's two main robotic ballerinas perform a very strange and unsettling dance of erratic, mirrored movements. Just in case that wasn't bad enough, tentacles slither from one ballerina's forehead, then turn into a horn that it uses to slice open the belly of the other. This bizarre ritual is all done to allow the pair to retrieve a golden key-like object used to release the Red Polymer. As the scene continues to top itself, the Red Polymer is then shown to take on a humanoid form, right before it slowly absorbs a corpse in an even more disturbing display. 

The player eventually learns that Red Polymer is capable of digesting living beings to extract their thoughts and memories, effectively storing their consciousnesses in a strange limbo that is somewhere between life and death. If the cutscene wasn't creepy enough on its own, knowing what is actually happening to the poor man being absorbed definitely takes things to an entirely new level.

Lullaby in a hallway

Early on in "Atomic Heart," players are introduced to Nora, a fridge-like robot that is extremely attracted to P3. Nora serves as a vendor for the player to buy items and upgrades, and while it's largely used for comedic relief and is a helpful entity in the game, its introduction is exceedingly eerie. 

This section of the game begins with players reaching a darkened hallway. The few shafts of light in the hall create a dramatic atmosphere that highlights the utter destruction of the base, not to mention numerous human corpses suspended by mechanical arms and wires. When players enter the hallway, a robot's voice begins singing a forboding lullaby from the far end of the hall. P# is then required to slowly navigate the obstacles scattered throughout the hall, all while getting closer to the terrifying singing as it gets louder and louder.

Given its early place in the game, this sequence is instrumental in setting up the intense tone and unsettling atmosphere of "Atomic Heart" — only to subvert expectations by introducing a comedic character at the end of hall.

The outhouse ambush

Most of "Atomic Heart" is spent in the underground labyrinthine halls and rooms of a soviet research facility, but a few sections of the game take place on the surface above. These areas act as a nice change of pace that give the player more freedom of movement and exploration. However, the sunlight and pleasant exterior of the countryside somehow help to reinforce the darkness of the rest of the game.

Soon after starting the game, the player runs across a killer robot after following a weakened voice to a small outhouse. Upon opening the door, P3 can see what appears to be a disabled robot. When P3 approaches, however, it springs to life to try and force him into the hole of the outhouse, where the player is forced to look in at a pile of human bodies that are being kept there. The jumpscare is startling on the surface, but it also highlights just how malicious and advanced the killing instincts of the robots can be. This bot was willing to patiently wait for their kill, rather than acting out of pure bloodlust. 

Hallucinations

There are a few moments in "Atomic Heart" where P3 falls unconscious and the player must make their way through strange hallucinations or dreams before he wakes. The incidents begin as a complete mystery to the character and player alike, but are eventually revealed to be caused by a technology implanted in P3 without his knowledge after he sustained life-threatening injuries during World War 2. When activated, the technology allows an outside user to control P3's body while distracting his mind with the strange visions. 

Learning the truth about P3's hijacked body is bad, but the dreams are still terribly unnerving before the cause is revealed. Each vision incorporates numerous disparate elements to create a creepy disconnected feeling. The world in which the scenes take place is simply beautiful, depicting an idyllic life for P3 and his fellow citizens. In stark contrast to the rest of the game, the hallucinations take place in quiet neighborhoods filled with happy family homes, helpful technology, and a general sense of peace.

Eventually, the idyllic nature of the vision world is disrupted by a blend of terrible imagery of war and destruction. Explosions are frozen in time, fresh corpses are suspended in mid-air, blood splatters cover playgrounds, and whole sections of houses are destroyed in a terrifying diorama. 

The laser wall demo

On top of the robots and zombie-like monsters that are out to kill them around every corner, "Atomic Heart" players also have to contend with various locks and security systems. One of these systems is a wall comprised of a grid of lasers that can kill any living thing unfortunate enough to run into it. At one point, the player is forced to watch a brutal demonstration of the wall's terrible potential. 

The scene arrives when P3 first finds one of these defense systems. At this particular installation, there are two laser walls in a single hallway, with only a few feet separating them. While standing on one side of the walls, the player is forced to watch as a robot drags a screaming man toward the grid. The robot tosses the man into the lasers with little effort, resulting in his screams quickly being cut short as his entire body is sliced into various chunks and pieces. It's so quick and brutal, but it definitely leaves an impact on the player, all while sending the clear message that the lasers are best left untouched. 

Petrov's death

At the start of "Atomic Heart," P3 is tasked with chasing down Petrov, a rebellious engineer behind the development of the robots at the research facility. Shortly after starting his chase, P3 seemingly finds Petrov decapitated and reports him dead. However, this ends up being a ploy by Petrov to shake his pursuer, which P3 only learns upon being kidnapped by Petrov and his co-conspirator. After a lengthy explanation, P3 starts working with Petrov, only to eventually witness his death in what may be the most uncomfortable scene in the entire game. 

Petrov's death occurs shortly after he meets with P3 to give him two gold rings that the player has pursued for most of the game. During the conversation, however, it is quickly made clear to the player that Petrov has been driven to mania, primarily due to his guilt at playing a role in developing the killer robots that are poised to overrun the world outside.

Petrov then allows himself to be brutally decapitated right in front of the player — and by a robot of his own design, no less. His resignation toward death is enough to chill the player to the bone. The cruel irony of not only recreating his fake death, but also allowing himself to be killed by what he sees to be his greatest failure, makes it all the more heartbreaking.

The Academy of Consequences

Near the end of "Atomic Heart," P3 discovers a hidden section in the research facility known as the Academy of Consequences, which acts as one of the game's most blatant "BioShock" references. One section sees P3 taking an elevator down in a lighthouse to reach a city-like structure underwater.

Through an explanatory cutscene and exploring the area on foot, the player learns that the Academy of Consequences is a testing facility for the very technology that is used to control P3. The area is comprised of various concrete boxes with walls of glass, which allow various test subjects to be observed. Inside each of the cubicles are humans with headsets grafted to their faces, which are meant keep their minds distracted while they are controlled. Most of the cells are splattered with blood and filled with corpses. Naked humans stand inside each box, injured or covered in the blood of victims themselves. 

The entire section serves to show just how scary the antagonists' grand designs really are, while also showing players a unique and chilling environment in its own right. The industrial nature of the facility, in which humans are treated like cattle, provides players with a chilling idea of a route that the potential sequel could take.

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