STAFF REVIEW of Disintegration (Xbox One)

Monday, July 13, 2020.
by Brent Roberts

Disintegration Box art Have you ever heard the phrase; a jack of all trades is a master of none? It's a phrase that signifies that while it may be tempting to do a little of everything, the lack of focus will prevent you from mastering anything. This is the same theory that directly applies to Disintegration from V1 Interactive. In an attempt to integrate both FPS and RTS elements within the game, you can already see going into this the ambition on the table. Does this game though break the mold and find a way to harmonize both genres together in a fluid gaming experience? Let's find out.

For starters, Disintegration was directed by one of the co-creators of Halo, Marcus Lehto and his V1 interactive studio. This instantly perked my attention being a titanic Halo fan, but such aspirations have burned me in the past and led to disappointment, but I was hopeful. The backdrop of Disintegration takes place roughly 150 years from where we are now. Science has figured out a way to let our "existence" carry on beyond our physical bodily limits. We've seen similar plot lines in science fiction movies before, and like those movies, a race of integrated machines called the Rayonne rise up against humanity and without anyone to stop them. They work on enslaving the rest of mankind and forcing people to turn and become members of the Rayonne army. Cue heroic music now.

You play the role of Romer Shoal who used to be a celebrity grav cycle pilot. Shoal was not some ordinary pilot though; we are introduced to him as arguably the best (he'd have to be right?) pilot ever seen. These grav cycles can be outfitted and modified to increase speed, damage, etc, and the Rayonne saw this as a threat, so grav cycles were outlawed. Shoal though wasn't having any of that though, so he started smuggling grav cycles and thus broke Rayonne law. Well, it's not long and he finds himself imprisoned in a mechanical Rayonne structure called the Iron Cloud, which was run by the commander, Black Shuck. A daring jail break and rescue operation commence, and you not only manage to cripple the Iron Cloud, but also escape the grip of Black Shuck.

As your team makes it to the ground you come across a massive ship that acts as your team's base of operations. With a crew that consists of characters that we typically see in a party system game, although this time, they're robots, but with personalities. You've got your mechanics, scout, big tank brute, etc. Before each mission you can go throughout the area and talk to all your members to get a deeper sense of the story, as well as these "helper robots" that give you challenges for the upcoming mission. It's here that I found my first flaw. There is a LOT of dead space in this sort of "gathering area". I find myself literally quick walking throughout this massive structure just to talk to one NPC, and should you just press 'A' to trigger the conversation and then walk away to save time, the conversation won't register so you have to walk your *** back to the NPC, hit 'A' again and literally sit through the conversation.

When you play the game, you will see how the entire area has probably about 70% wasted space. This trend continues throughout every gathering point, whether it be in the ship or not; By far one of the worst aspects of Disintegration. After you've talked to everyone (or not if you don't want challenges) you will go to a designated point in the gathering area and load up the next mission. Here you can also hit 'RB' and switch to configuring your team members and upgrading their abilities and yours as well. To do this you need to find upgrade chips as you scan the environment, but more on that soon. Once you're good to go you can press 'LB' and go back to the mission and launch it.

The loading times aren't terrible, which is surprising given the sheer size of the maps and levels. There is though one aspect that really didn't sit well with me though, which was the lack of a map of any kind... at all... ever. These wide expanse levels and I'll be trying to go off the path to find secrets only to be given a pop-up saying I'm out of the mission zone and I have 8 seconds until I'm dead. Thankfully, this is solved by pressing 'A' for a boost and directing your grav cycle back in the direction you came from to return to the map. Would have been nice to have A MAP so that didn't happen, but I didn't make the game.

Speaking of the grav cycle, you'll need to get accustomed to its mobility, and fast. Think of these like flying command centers with weapons. You can direct your team and their actions through it, and you can cue up special abilities such as a concussion grenade, ground slam, mortar strike and more. You can also have them team up and target enemies. This helps a lot if you wish to focus your attention rather than let the Muppets roam free and shoot things. The handling of the grav cycle though is sluggish so it may take some time to get used to its maneuverability. You can scan for loot and interactive items by using the 'B' button to enter a scan mode that is similar to the scan feature we find in the Batman Arkham series. The downfall of this? You can't use weapons in this form, but you still have full tactical control of your team and their skills in this mode.

Managing the crew almost becomes your primary focus throughout all the missions. There is a button combination 'RB + B' and that will bring your team back to you, which can be advantageous, but also risky, as no one on your team seems to be able to walk backwards and shoot. They all run back to you, exposing themselves and not firing back. Should your teammate fall, depending on your difficulty, they will respawn near you after a set amount of time with limited health. Or if you play on the hardest difficulty, they're dead and will not come back. This is where Disintegration tries to excel in its RTS capabilities, but there really isn't much worthwhile to it as it feels unpolished and almost segregated. You can do either FPS or RTS but you can't do both. So rather than trying to work on molding the two genres together into some type of super hybrid awesome type game, you're left with a game with one hell of an identity crisis. But oddly enough, it's enjoyable.

This is the basic format of the campaign itself. Go between enormous gathering places with tons of wasted space, to a level that's vast and open and doesn't provide ANY MAP, complete the goals, back to enormous gathering place and finally onto a vast level with NO MAP. You get the point. If you want to achievement hunt, you'll need to really grind out some of it. When you scan with the 'B' button you can see that lootable objects show up with a green outline. Well, on these massive levels there will be well over 15 hidden loot boxes, and trust me, you need them. These containers can hold upgrade chips which you use at the party screen where you can upgrade your team members, as well as scrap which is needed to collect to level up. The kicker though is when you kill an enemy, they drop scrap; Yay! But if you don't move your grav cycle near the scrap, it will disappear and it won't count to you leveling up; Boo! This means in a heated battle, when there are dozens of enemies on the screen at once and all of them are firing at you and your team, trying to come out of the battle with all the scrap you need can be quite difficult.

These levels though provide some fantastic detail and beauty, and the artwork you see throughout the game and in the environment is stunning to behold. The music feels a little canned at some points, along with the voices of your teammates. While trying to create some type of unique character in the robots, the dialog doesn't feel natural and it almost seems like they were trying to create comical moments that don't fit the narrative. While it's nice and all, there isn't much in terms of character interaction with your team to create any sense of bonding which is kind of a big disappointment. They're your team and you don't really get presented with a reason to care about them. Not very human.

Outside of the main campaign is also a very anemic multiplayer system. With a stable of varying grav cycles to choose from you get the familiar sensation of "heavy, medium, light" vehicles that we have in other games, each of which comes with their own unique weaponry. You also get to design your character, and just like the campaign, you get a crew with you as well. While you may sit there and think, "Oh OK, I'll take out the smaller enemy team members and then focus on the grav cycles!". Well, if you destroy the cycles then the enemy team that follows them is also destroyed. So, there's literally no reason of any sort to go for anything but enemy grav cycles. Since you have a team in multiplayer, you can also give orders to that team as well, but remember it will be challenging to get your team to target enemy grav cycles with abilities since there's only so many with range.

In multiplayer there are only 3 modes to select from: Zone Control, Collector, and Retrieval. Zone control requires you to occupy a zone to "claim" it and is the basic fare that we've seen throughout many, many years. Collector involves you killing an enemy and collecting their "brain can". Think of this like Dog Tags in Call of Duty but with less enjoyment. Retrieval is a remarkably similar mode to capture the flag and will require the most teamwork to complete it successfully. Another massive knock against it, outside of the sheer lack of enjoyment found in all three modes, are the lack of multiplayer levels. There's only a few, so the repetition can become, well... repetitive. What sent me over the top was the microtransactions for the skins. Yes, you can spend real money or grind this multiplayer matchmaking for an exceptionally long... long time. So rather than unlocking via merit, these cosmetic items unlock either via grinding or cash only.

Disintegration had amazing potential and it still does. I do enjoy the campaign, but I can't forgive or overlook the sheer number of faults and flaws that exist within. I hope that V1 Interactive genuinely takes the feedback from the community and improve upon this game because I see the potential, but the execution is what prevents this game from taking flight. Would I recommend this game at its current $49.99 price? No. Half of that and below though? Every day of the week.

In the name of everything holy can I please have a map in the sequel?

Overall: 6.5 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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