Disintegration has a weird setup. You are a hotshot pilot who is also a robot with a human brain. You ride a hoverbike and command a squad of similar robots with human brains. The idea is to mix real-time strategy mechanics and first-person shooting. After playing a few hours of the game’s campaign I’m not impressed.
The game, which comes out on June 16 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC, is Developed by V1 Interactive, a studio founded by one of the co-creators of Halo. It shares some elements of that series. It’s a combat-heavy science-fiction game, though instead of being a super soldier, leading the charge, and being a badass, you are a vulnerable robot-man on a hoverbike commanding a squad and trying to avoid gunfire as best as you can.
The game’s story is its strongest element. Despite a cliched intro about viruses and wars, we’re quickly introduced to an intriguing group of ragtag robot men and women who each have their own quirks and dreams. Some want to become human again, for example, and some seem more than happy kicking arse as big, tough robots. They share stories about their past, their families, and their hopes for the future. These interactions with them and the way they joke with each other helps make them feel more like real people who I enjoyed spending time with.
That said, what makes Disintegration stand out is how it plays and, unfortunately, after playing its first five missions across six hours, I don’t think its core gameplay idea works very well.
You command a squad made up of two or more of your crew and head out to go kill something or collect some stuff. The combat loop is vaguely reminiscent of Halo. You spot a group of enemies, get close, toss some grenades and then clean up stragglers. You repeat this a lot. Though, in reality, you don’t THROW any grenades or activate any cool abilities. All of that is done by your squad
For starters, floating around on a slow-moving and cumbersome hoverbike made me feel like a big target. It also limited my ability to interact with the world. You can’t activate buttons. You can’t enter buildings. You can’t do a lot of things. The hoverbike meant that levels were built the same way too, with big open areas and lots of empty space. Even after hours of playing and getting comfortable with the hoverbike, I’m not sure if I liked being on it. I felt trapped and helpless.
Another annoying problem: The hoverbike is limited to only one primary weapon that can provide covering fire or help pick off enemies causing trouble. Sometimes it’s dual assault rifles and sometimes I got access to dual shotguns. But not being able to grab new weapons means I quickly got bored of shooting enemies in a game that is about shooting a lot of enemies.
Your squadmates and their abilities are supposed to shake up combat encounters. But they suck. They often run out into the middle of areas without cover and get killed. In one mission there are safe areas you have to hide in whenever a dangerous blast of energy hits the area. Trying to ping my squad to stay in the safe zone was annoying, as they often would run to the spot I pinged and then run away. Especially early on, your squadmates feel like ineffective children you have to escort around. Look away for a moment, to hide from gunfire or help a nearly dead squad member and you will often lose another squaddie in the process. In fights with lots of enemies surrounding you and your mates, the game becomes a chaotic mess. I was frustrated by having to dodge bullets and also babysit AI squadmates. It’s not fun.
Things got a bit better as I found upgrade chips and upgraded some of their skills and stats, but I still felt like I was playing a bunch of escort missions. There were times when the level and enemy spawning was set up in just the right way, such that I had fun ordering my squad and fighting. These moments were rare. Maybe later on, with a fully upgraded squad, dealing with them will be less annoying. Early on, they are a pain in my metal arse.
There is a whole multiplayer component to Disintegration, but due to a lack of players during this pre-release period, I wasn’t able to join any matches. Though based on some multiplayer training I did with bots, I’m not sure dealing with AI squadmates on a slow hoverbike while fighting human enemies will be much fun. But I’ll wait for more players before I pass judgment.
Disintegration looks cool and I like the world they are hinting at in the cutscenes and dialogue, but the gameplay mix or RTS and shooting just hasn’t come together yet into a fun package.