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Disintegration’s Gravcycle RTS Combo Isn’t Enough To Elevate It Beyond Mediocrity
Genre: First-Person Shooter & Real-Time Strategy Half-And-Half Combo
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
When you’re a high-end game designer and producer who want to break off from your long-standing employer-slash-contractor, and create something brand-new, it can be scary. Sometimes it pays off in the long run, like Destiny. Other times, it may fail spectacularly. But most of the time, you become a momentary blip on the radar and come off as passable at best.
Disintegration is clearly the latter, as it’s the brainchild of one Marcus Lehto who used to be with Bungie for a very long time. In fact, he’s one of the guys behind the real-time strategy title Myth series and the blockbuster shooter Halo titles as a co-creator. I’m taking a guess that his love for both made him and his team create a mash-up that combines the best of sci-fi and real-time strategy unit-commanding action.
In most instances, the hybrid works. The problem? The level design & missions in single-player get a bit old in the second half of Disintegration.
The story of Disintegration is about an Earth where climate changes and limited resources force scientists to put human minds in mechanical bodies called “integration”. The single-player campaign pits you as Romer Shoal, former poster boy for integration and famous gravcycle pilot. He somehow gains a conscience and turns on his former employers called the Rayonne, a faction of integrated folks who want to forcefully integrate and/or destroy what’s left of Earth’s natural human population.
So Romer and his band of misfit soldiers escape and band together with the remaining human rebellion to take Rayonne down. It’s a standard plot that ticks ordinary story beats while featuring stock sci-fi tropes and characters, the latter featuring one snarky pessimist, one comedian, and a couple of big brutes with hearts of gold even though they literally do not have any. The whole ordeal is serviceable at best and formulaic at worst, but at least the FPS-RTS-hybrid bit works and stands out even for a brief moment.
See, Romer has a gravcycle that can travel both vertically and horizontally; think a floating Scorpion Tank that can hover and is a tad faster. It’s still a walking target, which is why you have respawnable robot soldiers under your command. You can send them to attack specific units, take cover while laying suppressing fire, and even command them to pull off their special moves.
Wisecracker Cocqui and pessimistic Agnes has Concussion Grenades that stun any enemy momentarily, putting them in a stagger state that makes them take more damage than usual. Seguin can throw a slow field which slows down enemies in a large radius; my personal favourite tool to abuse in the campaign. These abilities help spice things up when you’re attacking a whole army of Rayonne soldiers big and small either in wide-open expanses or in cramped cities.
Controlling the gravcycle and commanding units is a breeze. While I had to get used to the hotkey placements for my soldier’s special commands, everything else felt natural. And upgrading your units and gravcycle is just a simple matter of collecting a ton of scrap to level up (and open chip slots) and searching the area high and low for upgrade chips for said slots. The system doesn’t deviate beyond “deal more damage” and “less cooldown time” for your specials, so don’t expect much variations here and there.
In fact, don’t expect the campaign to shake things up beyond leading you and your gravcycle squad through pretty corridor missions with a few “defend the spot” and “blow specific things up to open a gate” style objectives.
Most of them revolve around bringing players to Halo-like wide open spaces where armies of enemy bots come at you. You can basically reuse the same tactics from the first few missions; stay a safe distance and fire, command your troops to use their Concussion Grenades and Slow Field attacks, heal your units if you have the right tools, and regroup your units if they stray too far off. My deaths only come from poor positioning and surprise enemy dropoffs from behind without any sort of game design-obligated telegraphs; cheap deaths in other words.
Even the tutorial stages in the early bits feel like they dragged on for too long. It also doesn’t help that you have to waste precious minutes in an empty “resting” hub spot in-between missions just to activate bonus challenges.
Still, there are some glimmers of greatness nestled between the maudlin. The best missions are the ones where I get to use the gravcycle equivalent of a sniper rifle and a mortar cannon, sniping and long-range hitting foes while sending forth my units. The Jailbreak chapter also stands out as you start off alone and then end up meeting with your main force later on while surviving and not being damaged too much. But beyond that, everything else just feels and plays painfully average; not especially terrible and broken, but not memorable in the slightest.
The worst bit? You can’t even customize your loadouts in single-player mode. I really wanted to focus my current build on slow field and the sniper rifle, but the game doesn’t give you that luxury. You are forced to roll with whatever loadout you’re saddled with for each different stage. While that’s fine and does help make the campaign a tad challenging via adapting, I’d like the option to play around with its plethora of tools, just like how RTSs like StarCraft 2 let you build your dream game-breaking build for its single-player campaign.
Still, the spectacle and scope are pretty impressive, especially since this is a game made by a studio with just 30 people in it. So credit is where credit is due.
Disintegration also has a multiplayer mode where you command a small squad on your gravcycle and have a ton of factions to pick from, but there’s nothing here that’s better than the single-player campaign.
The big focus here is that your AI squad are the only characters who can complete your objectives. For example, in Zone Control Mode, you cannot park your gravcycle to net points; you need to have your squad capturing and holding that specific zone. But beyond that little twist, the maudlin action beats and simplistic FPS-RTS hybrid ends up not feeling that unique from other multiplayer offerings.
While it’s kind of humorous to select between weird-ass stereotyped factions like Spooky Clowns, Samurais, and Calavera robot cosplayers, seasoned players looking for a meatier experience may only play this for a few hours before calling it quits.
Disintegration is solid, but incredibly uninspired. The gravcycle and squad gameplay that defines it works when it’s allowed to, but it suffers due to slow pacing in single-player mode. Its multiplayer is also just that; serviceable.
At the very least, the core combat and mission design show V1 Interactive can craft something engaging. Disintegration is not the next pinnacle sci-fi action franchise, but it has the potential to be. It can be a stepping stone to something more distinctive and unique from V1 in the future. But for now, it has to settle for the bronze medal.
PC review copy provided by Private Division.
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