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Hands-on: Disintegration

16 Jun 2020

Disintegration is a game with a high-profile pedigree that seems to have mostly flown under the radar. The game was crated by V1 Interactive, a studio founded by Halo co-creator and former Bungie Creative Director Marcus Lehto, and this appears to be his first game since his work at Bungie.

However, it feels like there really wasn’t much buzz around the game’s release. Disintegration dropped on June 16th, 2020, to seemingly little fanfare. We’ve had the chance to play the game for the past week with the intention of writing a full review, but we’re instead opting for more of a “Hands-on” discussion of the game for two reasons:

  1. Multiplayer is a significant aspect of the game, and it’s something that we can’t get a real feel for until the game launches. Therefore, we’re focusing on the single-player experience here.
  2. I struggled to get past even the third stage in the game’s campaign; it seems I don’t have the skill-set for this title (insert “game journalists can’t play games” meme here).

So rather than disingenuously issuing a full score for a game we’ve only played a portion of, here’s our thoughts on the initial hours of the game’s campaign.

Disintegration takes place in a world where a new technology called “Integration” is possible – basically moving a person’s brain into a robot body, allowing them to maintain their personality completely. You play a Romer Shoal, an Integrated “Gravcycle” pilot and former reality show star.

Romer suddenly finds himself working in a resistance force against Rayonne, a group of Integrated intent on wiping out the last remaining natural humans. Working alongside a ragtag crew of other Integrated, and led by a natural human named Waggoner, Romer and crew set out to build their resistance and take the fight to Rayonne.

The setup is a rather simple sci-fi story, and I can’t say it did much for me over the course of the first few campaign missions. However, I did find interactions between the cast to be quite charming. Between some in-mission chatter and personality-building conversations back in the resistance’s base, the resistance force’s chemistry is refreshing in what felt like a standard FPS when I was introduced to the game.

Of course, said expectation was turned on its head once I actually started playing Disintegrated. While it does have FPS elements, the game feels like a real-time strategy title at heart. You take direct control of Romer on his Gravcycle (as the name suggests, an anti-gravity motorcycle), flying and weaving over battlefields and commanding friendly units, occasionally diving in to put out some damage of your own.

It reminded me vaguely, in a weird way, of Brutal Legend at first, what with the commanding units while still taking a direct hand in battle. Unfortunately, Disintegrated is nowhere near as strategic (and I would hesitate to even call Brutal Legend very strategic itself).

Whilst you can be put in command of up to four units in any given mission, they mostly function as a single unit. They can only move as a singular squad and attack as a singular squad; you can’t split them up to take on separate groups of enemies or pull back specific units to defend and heal. The only individuality they have is in special skills you can command them to use, and even then, multiple units can have the same special skill.

This is, of course, assuming they even listen well to your movement commands, as the units appear to have some kind of unyielding death wish. I would place down a command for my squad to move to cover near an enemy group, but not close enough to engage them…and then one damn Leeroy Jenkins would decide to run past said cover and draw the enemy’s attention.

It wouldn’t be as much of an issue if these robots’ armor didn’t seem to be made of aluminum foil. If you leave your units unattended for too long, they will be absolutely ripped to shreds. Sure, they can be resurrected indefinitely by picking up their brains from their dead bodies, but that means having to fly into the heat of battle yourself. With your Gravcycle seemingly having the structural integrity of melted butter, this is never a good idea – a few shots from the enemy and it’s mission failure.

To be fair to the game, there were a few moments where I felt like I was finally getting the hang of things. I had full focus on the battle, I was micro-managing my units like a good little babysitter, and I was managing to weave through enemies to get a few good shots in myself. Then I’d hit the next wave of enemies, die, and be forced to do the last two or three waves all over again.

Disintegration has a noticeable lack of checkpoints during its missions. This wouldn’t be a big deal…but the game’s missions drag on and on, with the first few taking me over an hour each to complete. The missions are painfully repetitive as well, mostly consisting of “go here, kill a wave of enemies, go to the next marker, kill a wave of enemies, go to the next marker, kill two waves of enemies this time!”

In all, between my glass aircraft, suicidal squad units, and struggles to stay awake in the overly long missions, I found myself hitting a wall. I reached a point somewhere in the third or fourth level that I just could not complete. I beat my face against this fight for a good couple hours, growing more and more frustrated until I just decided to shut off my PS4 before I lost any more of my hair to stress.

Whilst I admittedly don’t seem to have the skills for this kind of game, the function of the game itself left me little desire to seek out said skills. For a game coming from the mind of Halo‘s Creative Director, Disintegration just feels dull and unpolished.

Preview copy provided by Private Division for PS4. Screenshots taken by writer.