Review – Disintegration
There’s a reason true hybrid games are rare. Taking two entirely separate things and smashing them together, while not allowing either to overpower the other is not easily done. Most games that try end up either a mess of ideas or simply a standard genre game with a twist. I originally assumed Disintegration would be the latter. An FPS/RTS is a solid concept, but their audiences and mainstream appeal are too divergent. Given it was coming from a co-creator of Halo, I naturally assumed it would be a solid FPS with some gimmick strategy elements. Despite my intriguing experience with the beta I was still skeptical. Since I didn’t believe the multiplayer would have the widespread appeal to take off, the game would hinge on it’s single-player. Would it genuinely try something risky, or simply stick to genre strengths?
It only took a few hours into Disintegration to realize it’s the real deal. It’s a genuine combination of squad based real-time strategy and vehicle based (more on that later) first person shooting. Both elements work seamlessly together, neither taking precedence over the other. Neither are the most sophisticated or advanced examples of their genres, but that’s only to be expected. What matters is it’s the right level of complexity to be fun, but still have some depth. Sadly, its story and characters aren’t quite as refined as its gameplay, but it’s an entertaining experience nonetheless.
The story takes place in the future, after the collapse of human society. During the final days of mankind, scientists discovered a way for humanity to live on by transferring a human brain into a robot body. This process was called Integration. It was at first consensual, with some choosing to retain their humanity. However, a military faction known as the Rayonne, rose up and began mass forcing Integration in an attempt to snuff out the last of humanity. You play as Romer Shoal, a gravcycle pilot turned freedom fighter, in his resistance against the Rayonne. If this all sounds like a very generic sci-fi story, you would be spot on. Nor does it ever rise above this, but it’s told entertainingly enough. It could be much better, but it could also be far worse.
The gameplay is Disintegration‘s true saving grace. It doesn’t play from a traditional first-person boots-on-the-ground perspective, but rather from the air. Shoal was a former gravcycle pilot and it’s via his piloting skills that he wages war on the Rayonne. The gravcycle controls smoothly and its ability to gracefully move in and out of combat is how the game works as well as it does.
Your bird’s-eye view allows you to control the flow of battle, using your omnicursor to direct your squad. You have full control over their targeting and movement, but you can’t forget your own role in battle. Your bike hits decently and is balanced out by short clips. During reloads you can still issue commands, and you’ll quickly nail the pace of shoot, command, shoot, command, shoot. I can honestly say I’ve never played anything quite like it, which is always a good thing.
Level design and campaign mechanics are probably the game’s biggest issues and the closest to genuine flaws. I found the levels themselves to be mostly well designed, with some great set pieces that play to the gameplay’s strengths. However most of them go on for just a bit too long with too much hallway, not enough room. Bosses were another issue, and were mostly a combination of wave-based survival and bullet sponges.
Neither are fun on their own, and even less together. The campaign mechanics simply feel tacked on at the last minute and never justified their existence. You can use salvage collected during missions to level up a few passive abilities for you and your squad. That’s it, you can’t even customize your loadout as each level has its own preset squad and gravcycle already chosen. It’s a level mechanic for its own sake, which I definitely dislike.
Disintegration also comes with a fully fleshed out multiplayer, but as I said before I don’t believe it has any longevity. That’s not to say it isn’t fun, as on the contrary, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a multiplayer shooter this much. As good as the hybrid mechanics are in single-player, that’s nothing when compared to versus other humans. It’s a battle on two fronts, ground and air, and to ignore either is to lose.
There’s also a variety of teams to choose from, and they’re all reasonably balanced. There’s not all that much customization outside cosmetics, but I’ve always felt per-determined loadouts are for the best when it comes to multiplayer games. The problem with all of this is that it’s too much of a learning curve for your average player. There’s no mainstream appeal here, so outside the most dedicated, I feel it’s essentially dead on arrival.
Disintegration is an ambitious game that manages to live up to its promises, more or less. Gameplay-wise, it’s easily the best example of a FPS/RTS hybrid, although, to be fair, there’s not that many others to compare it to. However, it kind of drops the ball when it comes to story and world-building, with a bunch of cool looking designs and environments that end up feeling empty. The campaign is sizable and spans a variety of environments, but some levels drag on just a tad too long. The multiplayer is fast and fun, but too much for your average player.
All in all, this feels like a game made for a very specific type of player, which is a rare thing these days. Either it clicks, or it doesn’t. As for me, it ended up being one of the most unique and enjoyable games I’ve played in a long while.
The game looks incredible and I loved it’s cyberpunk aesthetic. Some animations during cinematics were a bit janky, but nothing serious.
For all the balls this game is constantly juggling, it manages to keep them in the air more often then not. Shooting feels good, commanding your squad feels natural, and your gravcycle moves like a dream.
I’ve been a fan of Jon Everist since his Shadowrun: Dragonfall and Hong Kong soundtracks and he does not disappoint here. While the VA work isn’t quite as good, it doesn’t detract from the game either.
Some levels drag on longer then necessary and boss fights are underwhelming, but overall I had a lot of fun with it. Everything just feels so much better then you’d expect it too.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Disintegration is available on Xbox One, PC, and PS4.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of Disintegration was provided by the publisher.