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Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Private Division
Developer: V1 Interactive
Release Date: June 16, 2020


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PC Review - 'Disintegration'

by Cody Medellin on June 16, 2020 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Disintegration is a sci-fi, first-person shooter that blends real-time tactical elements to create an entirely new experience.

Buy Disintegration

Strategy is no stranger to the first-person shooter. The Battlefield games had a few modes where one person played as the tactical commander and everyone else followed their orders. The early Rainbow Six games did this as well, and Ghost Recon thrived on it — until Breakpoint arrived. Disintegration is another attempt at merging strategy elements with first-person shooting, and while it looks promising on paper, its execution is far from ideal.

Disintegration has an interesting premise. In the distant future, the world is wracked with so much disease and calamity that humans are in a precarious position. As a means of survival, a process known as integration is created, where human brains are transplanted into robot bodies. Some saw this as salvation for those interested in living longer, but others saw it as the next step in human evolution. Calling themselves the Rayonne, they specialized in capturing those who remain human in order to force them into integration and dismantling the robots who refuse to join their cause. You play the role of Romer Shoal, an ace gravcycle pilot who integrated long ago and is captured aboard a floating prison. After breaking out with a few others, they find themselves roped into a resistance that's trying to fight back against the Rayonne forces.

While that seems like a solid sci-fi premise, it's told rather poorly. The opening moments don't explain why Romer is rescued, and the sudden allegiance to the revolutionary Wagoneer seems tacked together. Characters seem to know bits of backstory as if it were common knowledge, and personalities change wildly from scene to scene. It's all as if there were cool scenes the developers wanted to include, but they edited out so much that nothing makes sense. It becomes more coherent later on, but you'll barely care about the story by then.

Before you go into battle, you'll spend time on your base, where you'll start to notice some of the game's issues. Your base, whether it's an open field or the hull of a non-functional ship, is spacious, but it also means that you'll need to walk around to talk to people. It becomes clear early on that most of this is rendered unnecessary. While some of the conversations are nice to fill in some lore and make sense of the story, the rest of it are side-quests for an upcoming mission. That is the part that feels useless, since you'll automatically get that information in your level launch screen; there's no need to do the busywork to fetch these quests. The pre-level screen allows you to perform upgrades for basic stats between you and your allies, but you can't change anything else. The locked-in allies for each level and gravcycle go against the ethos of a title that's billed as "strategic."

As alluded to in the beginning, Disintegration is a blend of first-person shooter and strategy elements. When it comes to the shooting, there's plenty to make it feel different from other titles in the genre. For one thing, you're permanently on your gravcycle throughout each mission. The advantage is that you can ride high above the ground, so while you can't exactly fly, you can get a better vantage point over the battlefield.

Everything else feels like a step backward in the genre. Despite being a high-tech piece of machinery, your craft moves around quite slowly, to the point where using a boost is the only way to move at the expected pace. It's slow enough that your fellow troops can keep up, but it makes you too much of a target. You'll notice this more when you're fighting other gravcycles and the potentially exciting dogfights feel cumbersome instead.

The high altitudes also mean that the fighting feels impersonal, since every target is far away when you hit it. This may feel fine when you're piloting a drone, and it serves as a break from general game mechanics, but it isn't fun when that's the entire game. The inability to change your guns is also an annoyance; the ability to switch out weapons to make fights exciting is part of the fun of shooters, and its omission hurts the game. Then there's the inability to do anything else but shoot. If there's a switch you want to hit or a box you want to open, you have to pull up your scanner and direct your allies to tackle it — a good example of overcomplicating a simple task.

While the developers have often described the strategy elements as being RTS in nature, it is more akin to something like the old Ghost Recon titles, where you issue basic commands to position players, have them hit a specific target, or have them activate switches. Aside from directing where special ordnance goes, Disintegration doesn't get any more strategic, so don't expect something intricate. For the most part, that's good enough, since your allies can handle themselves in a fight. Their deaths are trivial, since you just pick up their brain case then they die, and they'll respawn in the field a few seconds later.

However, allies' actions are quite messy in execution. Some allies prefer performing melee attacks even though they have a perfectly good gun at their disposal. They'll put themselves out in the open, which is hugely detrimental when you see an enemy lay down mines and your friends run toward them. It takes a while to open up simple boxes, and you can't direct individuals to different tasks, since they all have a hive mind and move as a group. If you play the game at the easiest difficulty level, then this isn't so bad, but if you play at normal difficulty or higher, their stupidity makes the game infinitely tougher since everything becomes one giant escort mission and any strategy you try to employ goes out the window.

Aside from the issues with the base mechanics, Disintegration suffers from a lack of variety. Except for one prison break level, every stage takes place in an open field, so they all feel the same even if the backdrops are totally different. New enemies show up as you go through the campaign, but that variety stops almost at the halfway point. From there, the game recycles every enemy and adds to the numbers, making for a more monotonous experience since the strategy for every fight remains the same throughout. To be fair, the campaign is of a decent length, but when there's a lack of variety at hand, game time doesn't matter as much.

Then there are the bugs. When you get into the world for the first time, textures take a few seconds to pop in. Subtitles are either unreadable because the white text blends in too well with the bright backdrops or goes off the screen. The biggest bug seen thus far are the crashes. Our first 90 minutes playing the game was spent replaying the first level over and over again due to a repeated crash. It was fixed the next day after a patch, but having spent 90 minutes without any progress does sour one on the whole experience.

The multiplayer component is, like the rest of the game, ambitious but deeply flawed. The mode has three variants: Zone Control, where you take over specific zones until your time quota has been met; Retrieval, where you escort a bot as it carries a core to the launchpad for a quick escape; and Collector, where you need to destroy your enemies and grab their brain cases to score the point. We've seen these modes in other games, so the formulas are well tested, but they don't work too well here due to some issues that are brought on by the game mechanics.

Unlike the campaign, the arenas are cramped and are better suited for traditional first-person shooters, so flying around in your gravcycle feels claustrophobic. The distant fighting also means that any customizations are useless; it's not a big deal since most of it revolves around color schemes, so no one is going to fork over the microtransaction cash just so one person can see another player clad in green instead of blue. On the flipside, the multiplayer introduces some cool ideas, like the faction selection and more deployable weapons for your allies. Finally, the game offers a practice mode, so you have a chance to find which faction best fits your play style.

As far as presentation goes, it's rather average. On the audio side, the voice work is pretty good, but there are times when a few characters that sport accents either lose the accent or have it change altogether. The effects are fine, but the music is surprisingly sparse. It exists, but you'll hear so little of the usual sci-fi-inspired tunes that you might think it doesn't exist at all. Also, the audio seems to play at a much lower volume than for other titles, lessening the potential punch in the process. In addition to the aforementioned texture pop issues, Disintegration runs at a solid frame rate without any issues. The small scale of the characters in relation to the player camera robs them of detail, but it is nice to see a number of them on-screen at the same time. It can happen because the game lacks any flair, such as particle effects or impressive explosions.

Disintegration is a game of would-have-beens. The combat would have been nice if you weren't stuck to a vehicle that made everything floaty and slow and you could change weapons. The strategy elements would have been nice if your teammates didn't have to do everything and had enough intelligence to stay alive. The shooting/strategy meld would have been interesting if the objectives changed for some variety, and the journey would have been exciting if the story were interesting. There can be some enjoyment in if you look hard enough, but we have already seen better first-person shooters this year alone, so it's difficult to recommend Disintegration.

Score: 5.5/10

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