Disintegration is a new title from one of Halo’s co-creators, Marcus Lehto, and a small team of 30 other people forming a new development studio, V1 Interactive. Lehto certainly has a respectable pedigree after helping to create one of the most iconic video game franchises ever made, so many people are very hopeful about the projects coming out of V1. But for a Freshman outing, Disintegration is hampered by some obvious limitations.
Disintegration is a seamless mix of FPS and RTS genres, combined with a very Halo-esque futuristic setting and a focus on both singleplayer campaign and multiplayer gameplay. The story follows Romer Shoal, a former celebrity racer who becomes a rebel hero with his rag-tag team of misfits and trusty flying gravcycle. In this setting, most humans are “merged,” shedding their human bodies for shiny robot forms with added abilities. Our heroes fight to free humanity from the hands of the powerful Rayonne, who seeks to unite the last remaining normal humans and create a post-human future.
For a small team, the visuals in Disintegration are stunning. The intro is reminiscent of the Halo games of yesteryear, with an orchestral score and an unmistakable visual style.
Aside from the cleverness inherent in the core gameplay design, the visuals are perhaps the most impressive part of Disintegration’s package. The animation isn’t always heavy and the voice lines aren’t always in sync with the character’s movements, but those are minor complaints when the overall quality of lighting, colors, and design is pleasing to look at.
The game is an almost perfectly balanced mix of RTS and FPS gameplay, which makes for a super fun and unique experience. Flying around in a hovering gravcycle, the player gets a top-down view of the battlefield while their AI companions battle it out on the ground below. Issuing orders is seamless and the AI is intelligent, quickly following orders, then taking cover and strategically picking off enemies even when left to their own devices.
An engaging and challenging battle loop ensues where the player scans an area, sets up his companions to begin the battle, commands powerful allies’ abilities to clear out clusters of enemies, and then zoom around to take out the occasional enemy or issue new orders. This is when Disintegration is at its best: in the heat of battle, quickly order a mortar on a cluster of Rayonne, ordering the allies to focus on a strong target, then dive into the battle from top with supporting fire until it’s time to back up, heal, and start issuing new orders. However, the core concept alone isn’t enough to hold the game together.
During playtimes, there is little or no variation in level design, enemy types, or combat mechanics. Each fight comes down to a small number of enemies running around a couple of buildings, a road, and a car or two. Movement with the controller is the most intuitive, but the lack of a good aim-assist combined with small enemies viewed from above means that playing with a mouse and keyboard is still preferable. The first few matches are fun and engaging, but the game quickly becomes repetitive.
The Halo series has some of the best singleplayer campaigns ever to satisfy first-person shooters, but Disintegration struggles to deliver a worthwhile narrative. Teammates are dry, boring, and even occasionally annoying. The hub world is flat and lifeless, and almost unnecessary. The player must walk around and talk to randomly placed robots that provide a secondary mission objective, but it feels like a chore to collect them all. Even talking to AI companions gets tiresome within a few interactions. There are some elements within the game that are a little rough around the edges, but the hub world is the worst offender.
Sometimes in a mission, things look better but can still feel a little unpolished and patterns start to become apparent too quickly. The story isn’t particularly engrossing either, but players who enjoy RTS games and are hooked on Disintegration’s admittedly great combat can get by and really enjoy themselves.
Multiplayer may be where Disintegration shines the most. Each player controls a gravcycle pilot who leads a group of allies, just like in the campaign. AI allies come in all shapes and sizes, and different crews offer different types of weapons and gameplay styles, along with some really amazing cosmetics . While the campaign lacks dynamism and excitement, the multiplayer sandbox provides a good glimpse into how the whole experience should work. Whether the game is different enough from traditional shooters to warrant play is up to individual players, but it’s the kind of unique experience that can build a dedicated fanbase.
Ultimately, Disintegration is good, but it doesn’t deliver on its full potential. $50 is too steep of an asking price for an interesting game with solid mechanics that lacks depth. For some, the game may be worth checking out for its unique gameplay, but most players will likely be disappointed by the package anyway.
Disintegration will be available for PC, PS4, and Xbox One on June 16, 2020.