Full disclosure: I’m not an RTS guy. I’ve tried to be in the past, but controlling more than one character effectively just doesn’t gel with me. This is worth mentioning because, despite my experience with the genre before, Disintegration manages to blend fantastic first-person shooting with intuitive real-time-strategy elements to create a title that’s easily the biggest surprise of 2020 so far.
Disintegration takes place 150 years from now, in a world that has been messed up by climate change. Due to those problems, scientists came up with a way of putting human brains in robot bodies, called Integration. The military Rayonne group, led by Black Shulk, then started forcing people to Integrate and conform. You play as Romer Shoal and lead a group of outlaws trying to take down Rayonne. The idea of Integration and the general set-up of the world is actually really interesting, and is presented really well across the game.
The plot is generally pretty predictable, but it’s led by some great characters and surprising emotional weight. You might be able to easily see some of the twists and turns, but that doesn’t stop them from affecting you. Each member of your crew feels distinct and like they actually change over the course of the story, and you’ll find yourself genuinely attached to the crew. The villain, Black Shulk, is also pretty great in the small handful of scenes he’s in.
Characters also talk during missions which helps flesh out their characters naturally. The dialogue is pretty well written and entertaining, but the only downside is that Romer is mute during these missions. His character feels like it gets the least development because of this, which is a shame because he starts to get interesting as the game comes to a close.
Disintegration is also a pretty good looking and sounding game too. Character models are fairly simplistic but the environments all look great and don’t feel closed off. The sound design makes every weapon feel impactful, whether it’s coming from you or the enemy and it ties in well in letting the player know what’s happening all around them. The music wasn’t particularly memorable though, and generally blended in with the sound of bullets and Gravcycles.
Disintegration Review – A Different Way to Play
Although the presentation and story are pretty good, the real game-changer for Disintegration is how it plays because quite frankly there’s not much out there like it. You pilot a Gravcycle that you can hover around the battlefield with, whilst pressing the R1 button to command your squad of up to four to interact, move, or attack. Besides special moves, every squad direction is done with the one button press and it works almost flawlessly. There are some occasions where the aiming is a little off, but that could just be due to how fast-paced everything is.
Your crew of outlaws are genuinely essential to gameplay, especially during the early hours. Your weapons just don’t do enough damage at first, so you’ll need to order your squad around and try to attack enemies as they do. Through finding special chips in levels, you’ll be able to upgrade yourself and your teammates. Your teammates always manage to feel like an important part of gameplay, even as Romer gets more powerful. Each crew member also has different specials like concussion grenades or mortar strikes and these are incredibly useful, even if there are only a few of them. Because your crew are all Integrated, they can respawn as long as you collect their brain-can within a time limit. This time limit is a little too generous and doesn’t change with higher difficulties, but it makes the game a lot less frustrating and allows for more aggressive gameplay.
Earlier I claimed that Disintegration is a fantastic blend of both RTS and FPS and that’s because you play an active role in battle. The Gravcycle is always equipped with weapons, and Romer’s participation in battle is essential to winning. You can’t just sit around and command your squad. You need to be taking part too, and this is precisely what makes Disintegration so great. Your crew is a natural extension of your attacking capability, and never feels like they get in the way. They feel so natural in fact, that the few times you go without them are genuinely weird. Disintegration is at its best when you’re taking on big groups of enemies with your crew of four by your side.
There are 13 main missions, which will take you about 9-12 hours depending on skill and difficulty. Going back and trying to beat the first mission on the hardest difficulty was definitely doable, but a very satisfying challenge. The campaign missions are all pretty fun, despite sometimes feeling a little overlong. Each level feels unique too, as they swap your Gravcycle loadout and have unique gimmicks throughout, such as towers that jam your weapons or debilitating shockwaves that periodically go off in the level. I wish you could customize your Gravcycle loadout and thought this would unlock after beating the story, but the campaign keeps you with whatever loadout the mission wants you to have.
My issues with Disintegration are fairly minor, and don’t really get in the way of the overall quality of the game. There weren’t many technical issues, but cutscenes would often lag or be out of sync and would sometimes be completely blacked out. This is a shame because the story is actually genuinely enjoyable, so having to restart to view a cutscene is a pain. There are also some annoying difficulty spikes and specific enemies that can be really annoying. Some enemies lay mines that will completely decimate your team members, and these feel a little overpowered compared to everything else, and they appear a lot more during the game’s much harder last few missions.
The biggest issue I have is the checkpointing. Checkpoints aren’t spaced out well at all, and if you die you’ll often have to repeat the last ten minutes or so of gameplay. This combined with the difficulty spikes during the middle of the game can make getting through to the end feel a little aggravating. It’s also annoying that quitting the game midway through a mission will make it so you need to restart the mission completely. These annoyances combine to detract from the experience a little bit.
Sadly, I also didn’t get too much out of the multiplayer aspect to the game. The multiplayer section of the game takes ten players, gives them crews of their own and pits them against each other in simple objective based modes. There’s zone capture, kill confirmed and objective delivery type modes, which is a good mix but a bit disappointing if you just want grav-cycle deathmatches.
It’s pretty admirable to take the game’s main concept and stick with it in multiplayer, but it’s arguably a bit too much to focus on at once. In single-player, all you have to worry about is your team and getting to the end of the level but here you’re having to fight other players whilst balancing your crew’s abilities, your health and the objective. It’s a bit hectic, and probably would have worked better with 6 person matches and not 10.
One thing I did like was the crews you can play as. All of them have unique styles, attributes and loadouts, which is a step up from the campaign locking you into certain weapons per mission. Unfortunately, you can’t change the loadout associated with each crew so if you really like the look of one but hate the weapons, it’s sort of tough luck. For those that really click with Disintegration’s gameplay, the multiplayer is sure to be a cool concept but I honestly can’t see too many people sticking with it right now. The lack of game modes and extremely focused matches just didn’t click with me like the single-player campaign did.
None of that is enough to make Disintegration anything other than a great first game, in what I hope becomes a series. When Disintegration’s satisfying first-person shooter gameplay clicks with the intuitive real-time-strategy elements, it’s really good. For RTS fans, there’s enough strategy to get you through, and for newcomers to the genre, the FPS focus makes a great introduction.
Disintegration review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.