Disintegration Review: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
For a more in-depth version of this Disintegration Review, check out the video version below.
Halo is my favourite franchise of all time. Every time I replay Halo, the over the top action, opening theme and the sense of scale still gives me chills. But when I first played Halo at the age of 11, I had no idea what made it so good. In hindsight, it was the inventive sci-fi setting, the revolutionary first person shooter mechanics and the fact Halo was unlike anything I’d seen before.
So when I heard that Marcus Lehto, co-creator of Halo, was developing a brand new game with a brand new studio, it’s safe to say I was pretty excited. And like Halo, Disintegration is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It blends first person shooter and real time strategy mechanics to create an experience that is truly unique.
And while, the premise, setting, characters and gameplay are all in fact unique, there are fundamental flaws with encounter design, player restrictions and repetition that hold the game back from greatness. Because there is a lot of greatness within Disintegration, be it with the crisp FPS mechanics or the synergy created between RTS units, it is most definitely there.
At times I had a lot of fun with the game, but in the end the obvious flaws stifled my experience at key moments. It was within these moments I was the most frustrated, when really I should have been praising a game which had the potential to be revolutionary.
- Developed by: V1 Interactive
- Published by: Private Division
- Available on: Xbox One/Playstation 4/PC
- Played on: Xbox One
Interesting Premise, Never Developed
Disintegration’s greatest strength is its premise. Humanity is on the brink of collapse and people have transplanted their brains into robotic shells through a process known as Integration. There’s an evil faction, called the Rayonne, who harvest humans (or naturals as they’re called here). It’s never explained why, or what the motives are behind each side, but for whatever reason, I was interested in Disintegration’s world from the very start. I wanted to learn more and find answers to my already burning questions.
Sometimes more depth is added when you visit a new location. For example, it was chilling the first time I scanned a Rayonne outpost to see a human harvesting machine. And I also appreciated how my crew discussed the haunting origins of a derelict city we were battling through. But more often than not, these questions usually go unanswered. I found this slightly frustrating at times, but others may like the air of mystery V1 Interactive have created.
I noticed this the most when starting the game as you’re thrown into the action with little explanation. An ex-grav-cycle rider and lead protagonist, Romer, is being interrogated by the head of Rayonne, Black Shuck. I honestly found it hard to take Black Shuck seriously as his name sounds like a campy supervillain from a 70s comic book. The sequence concludes with Romer escaping from Black Shuck and quickly teaming up with a rag-tag crew of outlaws. Like Romer, they too want to take Shuck down and his gargantuan space-ship along with him. The sense of scale imposed by this thing was jaw dropping. It suffocates the sky and does an excellent job of making you feel overwhelmed by your mission.
Within the crew are a colourful cast of characters, each with unique personalities and visual appearance. Doyle is an ex-police officer and now occupies a large robotic frame. Six-Oh-Two grew up in the hood where rival gangs shouted out your door number (hence the name). And Coqui, a lovable joker, dances after victory in battle. They all reminded me of the Spartans from Halo: Reach who share similar aesthetics and personality traits.
There are also opportunities to learn more about your crew in between missions. Here you enter a Destiny style hub, which ranges from inside the team hangar to the roof terrace of a skyscraper. During this down time you chat to your crew, collect challenges or upgrade Romer and your units. The upgrades are basic, like +10% attack damage, but I appreciated their inclusion nonetheless.
However, if you decide to talk to your crew, they never have anything interesting to say. The worst offender was a crew member telling me they missed their dog. I mean, we may die at the hands of an evil faction any minute now, why are you telling me about your French Bulldog? I guess V1 is trying to remind us that these robotic people are actually human, but there are better ways to do this. Tell me about each character’s hopes, dreams, fears or worries – things that actually make us human. There was so much potential to develop these characters and the world they live in, but most opportunities were just not explored.
As just mentioned, the campaign never reveals more depth than the original premise, or by the tiny breadcrumbs left by each character. As nothing interesting is added, the end result is a pretty generic FPS campaign. This is of course fine, if the narrative serves to create unique and interesting missions which occasionally it does. Like one standout mission involving a prison break armed with a sticky grenade launcher. This is a rare example though as most missions resort to either rescuing people or attacking an enemy resource.
V1 have added variety by creating unique grav-cycles, different units, varied weapons and several enemy types. And I really clicked with a handful of these weapons, like the dual miniguns, homing rockets and my favourite the nonotrite healing gun. The pace V1 gave out new weapons was also appreciated, although I wish we were allowed to design our own loadouts. For every mission your weapons and units are pre-determined and can’t be changed. If you’ve found a combination you like, you’ll likely only get to use it a couple of times.
While this is slightly annoying, my biggest issue with the campaign is the constant wave defence sections at the end of every mission. On the recommended difficulty, these sections were extremely frustrating due to crazy spikes in difficulty. Most times, you’re placed in a square arena and tasked to defend it as enemies attack from every side. While I appreciate that enemies who flank create uncomfortable situations, it just doesn’t work for Disintegration. For one, you’re hovering in mid air which means there’s nowhere to cover. And because the grav-cycle is slow moving it is usually impossible to avoid taking damage.
It’s important to note that this problem only exists during the final wave defence sections, simply due to the sheer number of enemies the game throws at you. Plus, since you’re locked into a loadout, there’s a high chance you won’t have the right tools for the job. This happened on a few missions where I had no healing ability. I dreaded the end of a level as these sections were repetitive and frustratingly difficult. Sure, you’re expected to sit back and command units from afar, but when enemies spawn behind you, what are you supposed to do?
It’s such a shame as the enemy design is superb. There’s a great mix of weak and stronger enemies, each with interesting mechanics. I personally enjoyed the Thunderbird bosses who were like mini Mass Effect Reapers. And the beefy Rhino unit who could be stunned with a grenade to stop them charging. After a while though, everything starts to get repetitive as enemies, like the Thunderbird, are used too frequently. When the fourth Thunderbird spawned in a mission, I rolled my eyes rather than stepping up to the challenge.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
At first, I thought the FPS mechanics were pointless as V1 gives you the worst weapon in the game, the dual assault rifles. They are laughably weak and barely scratch your enemies. And because you haven’t had a chance to upgrade your health, you die after a few hits. Early on the only option is to sit back and chip away at an enemies health bar, like you’re playing a support class in a MOBA. I honestly thought, if you’re not actively engaging in combat then what is the point in having a weapon in the first place? Within these initial moments I wished the FPS side of Disintegration had been scrapped and the focus was on the original RTS gameplay.
But once you’ve upgraded Romer, and V1 gives you a new weapon, everything starts to gel and the game truly shines. At times I had to stop and remind myself that Disintegration was developed by a team of 30 people as it feels phenomenal to play. The FPS mechanics are chunky, mechanical and have outstanding sound design, elevating every encounter to stratospheric heights. I also appreciated how hovering in mid-air added something new to the genre as now I had to dodge vertically too.
“But every single time, my plan never came to fruition.”
Of course, when you’re in mid-air your main role is to scan the battlefield and order units to attack. I always found this perspective thought-provoking as I carefully planned out the best way to assault a Rayonne base. But every single time, my plan never came to fruition. As you’re constantly hovering, you’re spotted from a mile off, immediately alerting the enemy you’re about to attack. Any strategy is also simplified due to the lack of options for your units. You can’t order them to cover, suppress fire or split into smaller groups.
Sure, there are moments of greatness with Disintegration’s FPS/RTS hybrid, but it always felt as if one side was Dr. Jekyll and the other Mr. Hyde and they were trying to kill each other. If we look at the RTS side, it is already at a disadvantage due to the limited number of buttons on a gamepad. Combine this with half of the buttons already used to reload your weapon, swap weapon or zoom, and V1 are left with even less retail to play with. On top of this, you’re never too powerful to make sure you’re reliant on your RTS units. In both instances, one side has suffered to facilitate the other. And in the end, it feels like you’re playing a watered down version of both genres, rather than a revolutionary new one.
PVN (Player versus No One)
I wish I could give you an honest review of Disintegrations PVP modes. But unfortunately I’ve spent four days trying to find a match. One night I even spent 30 minutes searching and had no luck. I will say this though, each of the 9 playable crews looked extremely creative in design, especially the Knights Guard and Last Ronin (Knight and Samurais). It’s clear that V1 put a lot of work into these characters and I imagine had a lot of fun creating them.
As I was scrolling through the PVP menus watching my timer break the 10 minute search mark, I noticed a lot of unlockable customisation options using credits. Credits are earned in-game, but they’re also available through microtransaction. Personally, I think this was the wrong decision for a brand new IP from a relatively small studio. The competitive multiplayer market is already crowded, so why potentially limit it’s success by trying to monetise multiplayer? I would have done the exact opposite and make PVP rewarding for everyone. If we all feel rewarded after every match there’s a high chance more people would stick around, or even try out Disintegration in the first place.
Unfortunately, I can’t comment anymore than that, but I am disappointed I paid £40 for the game, yet I’m unable to play half of it. (More on this in my Disintegration video review)
Disintegration Review – Final Thoughts
Playing through Disintegration for this review, there were times I had a lot of fun. After the initial hours, and once V1 gave me a wider arsenal of weapons to play with, the gameplay started to click. It’s clear that the developers at V1 are extremely talented, simply due to the way it feels to play Disintegration and it’s overall polished presentation. (I experienced no bugs throughout my entire playthrough).
But when reaching the end of a level, and facing off against waves upon waves of enemies, this feeling quickly vanished. Due to the core mechanics of the game, be it hovering in mid-air on a slow moving grav-cycle, or due to the constant hand holding with your units, it felt as if the odds were always stacked against me.
And while I was initially lured in by the unique and interesting premise, in the end I was left frustrated as no further depth is added. The questions asked during the game’s introduction were never answered, and I finished the campaign none the wiser to when I began.
There was so much potential for Disintegration, like Halo before it, to be revolutionary. But due to the size of the studio, limited budget and scope of the game, the end result falls significantly short of the mark. Perhaps if Disintegration gets a sequel, then the game may reach its full potential. But in its current state Disintegration is not worth your money and most definitely not worth your time.
Thank you for reading my Disintegration Review. Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments or on my social media.
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