Atomic Heart has launched without ray tracing despite featuring in multiple Nvidia tech demos

An image of an enemy robot in Atomic Heart screaming at the player.
(Image credit: Mundfish)

Whatever your take on it, there's no denying Atomic Heart is a very pretty game. So pretty, in fact, that it's been the subject of several Nvidia showcases demonstrating the latest and greatest in the GPU-maker's graphics tech, including an "RTX On" demo as recently as a month ago. But now Atomic Heart is finally here, and it seems RTX is not, in fact, on.

As spotted by RPS, it seems that Atomic Heart developer Mundfish has yanked out ray tracing support from the game in the last stretch of its development. That's a bit of a surprise, given all the aforementioned Nvidia demos and that Mundfish doesn't seem to have ever announced that Atomic Heart's rays wouldn't be traced in the run-up to its release. But no matter how deep you go into the graphics options, you won't be able to turn on ray tracing mode in the game's current build.

Mundfish seems to be suggesting this is a temporary situation. When PC Gamer reached out to the studio, it told us that "Ray tracing won’t be available at release," but that it would "revisit the needs of [its] gamers" in the post-launch period. Mundfish also told RPS that it would be "looking into implementing [ray tracing] post-launch".

That'd all be fine and dandy—it's not as though Atomic Heart is an eyesore with bog-standard rasterized lighting—but it is a bit curious that the feature's absence wasn't publicised in advance of the game's release. After all, Mundfish did let everyone know that the console versions of the game don't support the feature. Atomic Heart has been marketed with a heavy focus on its lovingly-rendered Soviet aesthetics, with a particular focus on how well it plays with Nvidia tech like DLSS and, well, ray tracing. 

If the game's subreddit is anything to go by, there are some players who feel hoodwinked by the lack of ray tracing support. "Hasn't the game director had opportunities during interviews to mention that RT won't be day 1 on PC," asks user DavidUpInHere, lamenting the lack of lighting tech, while another user named Exa2552 asked "Wtf happened?" after Mundfish "[focused] marketing around raytracing for years". At least one user just never got the memo, and plaintively asked how to "fix" the lack of ray tracing options on their 40-series Nvidia graphics card.

Our own Atomic Heart review will be up soon, and probably before Mundfish can issue a ray tracing update. Before then, though, you can get a taste of it from our preview of the game last month, and if you're interested in the non-tech-related controversies surrounding the game and its Russian developer, we've got a lengthy breakdown of the reasons why people are arguing about Atomic Heart.

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.