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Atomic Heart on Steam Deck Performance Review
Left: Atomic Heart at 720p. Right: Atomic Heart at 1080p.
Having seen trailers for Atomic Heart, I wasn’t sure how it was going to perform on Steam Deck. Big game, lush visuals, lots going on. The concern is understandable. The Steam Deck is a powerful bit of kit, but it has its limits.
As it turns out, Atomic Heart not only runs well on Steam Deck, it’s surpassed my expectations, and is one of the strongest games visually on Valve’s handheld.
I’ve been playing on low settings and even then the game visually stuns and feels smooth for the majority of the time I’ve spent with it.
The framerate can drop into the 30s but it’s rarely felt. For the most part, expect to be playing in the range of 40 to 60, with the majority of time spent in the 50s to 60s.
I’m not entirely sure how developer Mundfish has achieved such a stable game of this caliber. Especially given Denuvo is apparently running in the background. Part of the answer has to lie in the shader cache, which is built upon launching the game for the first time. Even then, though, with so much going on, and with few jagged edges to be seen, the game still runs exceptionally well. It’s pure wizardry in action.
Atomic Heart Steam Deck Settings
Left: Atomic Heart with Fidelity FX Super Resolution turned off. Right: On.
To get the highest and most stable framerate, you’re going to need to go low. What’s important to note here is that low doesn’t mean bad. The world is still crisp, textures look detailed, and you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything.
I’ll admit, I was expecting to get more usage out of the Fidelity FX Super Resolution setting, but in actuality it just muddies the distant visuals. You gain a handful of frames, sure, but it’s not worth the trade-off. The game runs exceptionally well without it being turned on.
|Atomic Heart (In-game Settings)|
|Depth of Field||Off|
|Fidelity FX Super Resolution||Off|
|Number of Objects||Low|
|3D Model Quality||Low|
|Hard Drive Speed||SSD/HDD|
|Steam Deck Settings (Quick Access Menu)|
|TDP: 12 (40-60 frames)||Estimated Battery Life: 2 Hours|
|Docked Mode Resolution: 1600×900||FSR: On (Docked Mode)|
|GPU Usage: 73%||Temperature: 71 degrees|
|Fills the Entire Steam Deck Screen||Yes|
|Performance Rating: 4/5|
Atomic Heart: Issue and Bugs
Can anyone read the text in the image above?
In handheld mode, the biggest problem facing Atomic Heart is the text size. It’s small, and even with the handheld in front of you, it’s difficult to read.
The problem gets exacerbated further when docked, too. Normally the rule for most games is to set them to 1280×720 and upscale them with the built-in FSR. But even with upscaling on, text in 1280×720 looks like gibberish on a TV, and with no options to increase the size, your only option is to hope you can hear the TV.
That’s why I recommend setting the resolution to 1600×900 when docked. If you set the resolution to 1920×1080 then you’ll be playing at 30 frames and under. But by going with 1600×900, you suffer a manageable framerate penalty, and even though text is still difficult to read, it’s more in line with handheld mode rather than white, smushy lines shown in the image above.
There’s also an occasional problem with texture pop-in as well, but it’s honestly not enough to be a major concern.
Games Like Atomic Heart
- Look and feel – BioShock Infinite
- Combat – Dying Light
- Puzzles – Fallout 4
I still can’t get over how well Atomic Heart runs on Steam Deck. There’s every chance something could pop up down the line, but as of right now, things are looking bright.
In terms of the game itself, I’m enjoying my time with it so far. The first-person melee combat feels weighty, and the level of satisfaction you’ll get from whacking robots’ heads off or slicing into their stupid metal faces is unparalleled. The combat alone is enough of a reason to pick it up, but when you combine that with a vivid world that’s ripe for exploration, that’s a winning combo as far as I’m concerned.
Atomic Heart is very much Russian BioShock Infinite and that’s fine by me. Give me a breathing world, some stylish weapons and powers, then let me tear through anything that’s dumb enough to cross me and I’m happy. Add all of that to exceptional performance and Atomic Heart is sure to be a must-play title on Steam Deck.
All images captured on Steam Deck hardware.