Of all the games I’ve played this year, Disintegration is by far the most unusual. Very little about it is what you expect, from the bizarre sci-fi setting to the RTS-inspired combat style that sees you fighting from atop a floating motorcycle. And with one of the creators of Halo at the helm of indie studio V1 Interactive, this uniqueness is incredibly exciting. Unfortunately, though it clearly has potential, Disintegration only rarely sticks the landing.
Disintegration takes place in the near future, where various disaster events have driven humans to abandon their biological forms and insert their minds into robotic chassis: a process known as integration. Over the years, integrated persons have developed into a faction of zealots who place themselves above those who maintain their organic bodies, or “naturals.” You play an integrated person named Romer, who has rebelled against this movement and fights to preserve freedom.
If it sounds like a by-the-numbers science fiction action game, that’s because it is. The trans-humanist story of rebellion against technology by those making use of it is reminiscent of games like Deus Ex, only Disintegration is done far less well. One of the biggest issues is that the tone of the entire campaign feels terribly…wrong. Rather than focus on the concepts of the story’s premise or the science fiction material involved, the story is incredibly light-hearted and the mostly-robotic cast of characters are cheeky and exchange weak, jokey dialogue throughout the campaign. For example, one character shouts “we’re getting tore up from the floor up,” practically every time an enemy shoots her. Characters in general range from forgettable to annoying, which isn’t helped by voice acting that’s oftentimes subpar.
Combat in Disintegration is incredibly unique, though not always in a good way. You play the entire game riding atop a “gravcycle,” which is like a manned drone. As you soar through the air, you command units below you to perform tasks like interacting with world items, attacking enemies, and using their special abilities. Unfortunately, combat suffers from some seriously questionable design. For starters, even though you spend the entire game flying around, you move closer to the speed of a floating balloon than a fighter jet. Getting from place to place takes way too long, which is especially noticeable in multiplayer where frequent deaths mean you may spend most of the match simply trying to get back into the fight. Every weapon in the game also has an incredibly small magazine, but unlimited ammo, meaning you spend insane amounts of time reloading your weapon. The good news is that this gives you many periods of time where you can’t do much aside from command your units, but even so, reloading happens infuriatingly frequently.
Floating above the battlefield has the advantage of making Disintegration feel like it’s got a bit of an RTS vibe to it, which certainly shines at times. Commanding your units to take cover and fire on the enemy with their special abilities in such a way that you clear the battlefield of a dozen enemies at once is hugely satisfying, but these payoffs are exceedingly rare. Most of the time your distance from the action only serves to make you feel pretty disconnected from combat, as the best strategy is almost always to let your troops take care of things themselves. This is especially true in multiplayer and on harder difficulties of the campaign, where you take damage so quickly it’s impractical to do anything but keep your distance. Of course, your troops still die a lot, but you can resurrect them in a few seconds with no limit on revives.
The 10-hour story mode is a repetitive slog, where you glide through a variety of areas killing samey robotic mobs before moving to the next area and starting over again. There are very few surprises and the underwhelming story certainly doesn’t make up for the oftentimes dull gameplay.
Multiplayer is equally uninspired, and pits two teams against one another in predictable modes where you control zones, capture a flag, or just kill enemies. While you’d hope that the tactical element of controlling your units from afar would make competitive matches complex and nuanced, it actually just turns it into a bit of a mess. Hitting opposing players who have six degrees of freedom is difficult in itself, and when you add slow and frequent reload times and unpredictable support units to the mix, it can be a somewhat frustrating experience.
Disintegration is a unique game held back by oftentimes irritating and dull game design and a weak campaign. While practically everything about the world and gameplay is unlike anything I’ve played before, too little of it succeeds in being consistently enjoyable.