Fun fact: Halo began life as a real-time strategy before shifting gears into the iconic FPS it is today.
Disintegration - from the creator of the Master Chief himself, no less - is a sci-fi shooter that straddles those two visions, letting you fight alongside your troops on the ground but also command them from above.
Combining two seemingly disparate genres while also trying to deliver a new exciting IP to rival the big guns on the scene is an ambitious undertaking. But while Disintegration often looks the part and tries to offer something new, it often struggles to hit the mark.
Developer V1 Interactive is a modest-sized team compared to the big-budget studios behind Call of Duty or Destiny. Not that you’d know it, given how Disintegration’s world is beautiful and varied in scope across its 12-mission single-player campaign completed with well-directed cinematic cutscenes.
It’s got a decent premise as well, set in a future where most of humanity has ‘integrated', a process of transferring their brain into robotic armatures. It’s supposedly a temporary survival measure, except a sinister robot superpower is plotting this to be the future of humanity.
As a band of integrated outlaws, your job is to lead a resistance in the fight to ‘reboot’ humanity. You’ll journey through forests and mountains to scrap yards and futuristic cityscapes, all teeming with evil red-eyed robots that come in various guises and sizes.
The maps are wide spaces so you can easily be flanked by enemies from multiple sides so combat does require more tactics than simply going guns blazing. For that matter, you spend the whole game piloting a gravcycle, a kind of hoverbike with the lumbering weight and speed of a tank.
It packs some decent firepower with up to two different guns but you’re encouraged to float above the action in a bird’s eye view so you can command your AI crew to do the fighting for you, while you swoop in for the occasional shots.
It feels a bit like controlling your own Destiny fire team, and on occasion the objectives and setpieces come close to matching that same escalation and excitement. It’s bolstered by your growing crew made up of a likeable and well-voiced bunch of misfits whose banter keeps the missions engaging more than challenge objectives that just ask you kill 'x' number of enemies with a certain weapon 'y' number of times.
But as a hybrid of RTS and FPS, Disintegration never quite hits the mark of either. The ways you can command your crew are simplistic, at most managing abilities with lengthy cooldowns, compared to the depth of a Command & Conquer, or even Pikmin. As a shooter, you’re too often removed from the action, the result of being stuck in a floaty vehicle that can be sluggish to manoeuvre and aim with.
Even if you do charge in all trigger-happy, you’re also restricted by whatever weapons have been predetermined for each mission. This is particularly frustrating as sometimes you might run into a situation where you could benefit with some sweet rockets you had in the previous mission or you preferred one less gun in favour of being able to heal you and your crew instead. For a shooter that’s supposed to involve more strategy, the inability to tactically change your loadout or crew members is an oversight.
Disintegration also features online multiplayer for 5v5 PvP matches, with three modes that are variations on the deathmatch, capture the flag and king of the hill staples. These continue to have players as gravcycle pilots command AI units but with different appearances and loadouts to choose from. It can be chaotic fun clashing with other pilots along with their ‘minions’, giving matches the feel of a MOBA.
However, there’s no real progression system to speak of and just a handful of maps. When other shooters offer far more enticing options and customisation, it’s hard to see players sticking with this.
Ultimately, the campaign is where the focus lies, which arguably provides more incentive to replay. Each mission has optional challenges while there’s also plenty of chips to find that can be spent on upgrading crew abilities. These upgrades however need to be unlocked first by levelling up, which is done by acquiring experience and resources during missions, and you won’t max out with one playthrough alone.
These upgrades and challenges also appear in small hub spaces in between missions which, while threadbare, nonetheless allow for downtime to chat to your crew. It’s one of many other areas in Disintegration that could be better fleshed out, should it get the chance for a sequel.
You can’t fault V1 Interactive for trying to punch above its weight and in terms of production values, it rises to the challenge of creating an intriguing premise, cool designs and cinematic panache.
Ultimately, it falls short of reaching its potential where it matters most, never fully satisfying its ambitions as either an FPS or an RTS. Its future as a new IP is still salvageable, it’s just whether the gravcycle can be fine-tuned or better left parked in the garage. Stuff says: An intriguing but flawed strategy-shooter hybrid