Disintegration is the deordering title of V1 Interactive, software house that sees in the figure of President and Creative Director Marcus Lehto, the former Creative Art Director of the Halo franchise. Eight years after leaving Bungie, his intention is to bring to light a new science fiction universe, with a unique and innovative gameplay, able to stand out from the crowd.
Disintegration has some interesting ideas behind it. The setting is one of these: we are in the not too distant future, about 150 years from today, after the Earth ecosystem has spent highly unstable moments. Climate change, epidemics ... everything was going to lead to a collapse of human society. Instead of escaping to other planets or letting everything die in a nuclear apocalypse, in the world of Disintegration, a way has been discovered to preserve the human brain inside a reinforced box. This could therefore be connected to an armor, to give a human being a new life with a body capable of resisting the changing world.
As you can imagine, such a change is epochal on an ethical level. Hence a faction was born that tries to force integration into all humans, Rayonne. In addition to forced integration, let's add brainwashing and a fascist approach and we have all the ingredients for a world war ready to devastate poor Earth even more.
We therefore have all the ingredients for first-class themes. Ask yourself questions about the true nature of your identity, questions about transhumanism, a new way of seeing racism, the imposition of changes for conformation, for pure Darwinism, against your will. Yet all this does not happen.
History sees as protagonist Roman Shoal, a former Gravicicli driver, sponsor of the integration at the time and now an outlaw lined up against Rayonne. After a daring initial escape from a maximum security prison, other fugitives join him, ready to fight alongside him. For what? Because? For when? We do not know exactly, as the dialogues are really dry, not very descriptive: you have to make leaps of not indifferent logic and rebuild the voids to give meaning to everything in the early hours. And even in the finale, you will never have the clearest ideas.
All the hot topics are mentioned almost by mistake, the dynamics between the characters remain static from the beginning to the end of the adventure, with the dialogues that play just the role of filling the moments of movement in the game levels. There would actually be moments of intermission between one mission and another, where the player has the opportunity to wander at a low speed to reach his allies and hear one or two lines of comment dialogue. They often leave the time they find, or serve to give that biography description rather than a characterization of some kind. And it's a real shame: I am convinced that the setting has a lot to say, but Disintegration only shows the cellophane film, the one around new products that you take and throw away.
FPS + RTS = RTFPSS?
The whole thing wouldn't even be a big problem if we had a game with a solid foundation underneath. Instead no, we are faced with an experience, it is unique, but forgettable at the same time. The premise is as follows: the protagonist enters the battlefield aboard a Graviciclo armed to the teeth and this allows him to move with enormous agility. Not only that, the elevated and privileged position gives a considerably higher view of the whole than that of those who remain on the ground and therefore is well suited to the role of stage director. We will always be accompanied by our companions who fight on the ground.
We can however tell them where to go, which enemy to focus their attention on, and whether to use their special ability to give us a tactical advantage. So in the player's mind this sort of beautiful scenario is created: I am intent on flitting around the enemies, bringing death from the sky while my robots perform a strenuous resistance on the ground between cover to cover.
In practice, however, Disintegration is tasteless, lacks a bite. The reasons are manifold. First of all, the feeling of the Graviciclo is strange. In the eight hours it took to complete the campaign, I never got used to his movement method, so much so that he became mine. Being a stabilized platform, the weapons do not have a recoil feeling, resulting a little flat. This can also be fine with me, it makes sense technically, and the conscious game of this makes the choice to move the feedback to the environments, which break convincingly and have a good number of particles. The real problem is that the Gravicycle does not exist: like the shooters of the past, the players are only weapons that float in the air, not attached to anything. Except that being on board a vehicle capable of moving in three dimensions, capable of slipping anywhere and which can collide with any friend, enemy and element of the scenario, the total absence of mass and inertia is truly alienating and conveys a feeling too artificial.
SO FAR YET SO CLOSE
The second critical point for me is that of the engagement distance. It may sound like nonsense, but much of the beauty conveyed by a shooter game lies in creating a symbiotic relationship between the player, the enemy and the weapon. In a game like Doom Eternal, the glory kill, the use of the shotgun and the aggressive style lead to a brutal and close encounter, which makes you admire the enemies up close. Their silhouettes are exaggerated, extravagant and easily identifiable in the chaos induced by rapid displacements and reduced FOV or otherwise full of objects.
In games like Sniper Elite, the relationship is generated by a sniper rifle, which allows you to approach distant objects and focus your attention on a limited number of elements at a time. In vehicular games, other means are fought and the proportions are maintained. Going to take the same Halo, the vehicle levels show a very different approach than those on foot and the distances are always kept. Disintegration is not like this: it always seems to be at the wrong distance. Too far away to be able to admire the enemies up close, to recognize them as a danger, and at the same time not even so much as to have a true vision of the whole. But I can understand that this is more of a personal impression, so you may not find it a real fault.
The other element that does not take the game off the ground is how much the strategic part is flat. Your companions are animated by extremely poor artificial intelligence, they always move in groups and attack with a retired rate of fire. Only after having indicated a priority target do they empty the magazines on the enemy, with little regard for cover or tactical movements. If on the one hand this moves the command of the action to the player, having to frame virtually every enemy that you want to eliminate quickly becomes tiring quickly. And if I already have to frame it, I might as well take it out, right? Special abilities also offer little, in the sense that if there is a big enemy with many life points or an unclean horde, it activates and ends. When and how to use it becomes quite obvious.
Sponges, sponges everywhere
Difficulty levels increase enemies' damage and hit points, as well as their rate of fire and overall reactivity. At recommended difficulty the game can also prove to be tough, forcing the player to act cautiously, allowing himself many pauses to wait for the cooldown of special skills and to use the Gravicycle more as a turret than as a fighter or assault helicopter. The final levels are particularly swollen with fat enemies and the situation becomes more unnerving than anything else.
In the midst of this there is also a progression system, which increases the life, cooldowns and other characteristics of your Gravicycle and your companions. I have not noticed any substantial differences between the start and the end of the game. Considering that the story missions force you to use a specific loadout of your vehicle and a fixed team, everything makes relatively little sense and could only be managed with an automatic system (present as an option), instead of leaving a player in the hands phantom choice.
In my opinion, a good job has been done. On my test configuration, having one Xeon 1650, 16GB of DDR3 RAM and one RTX 2060, it is possible to manage full HD at 100 + fps with maximum details and the visual rendering is good, although perhaps a little too soft. Too bad that the settings are generic, because on the character side the developers have instead done a good job and made them interesting, and that on the musical side there is nothing other than the main theme.
I realize that I have not been particularly flattering with the game, but what has left me is a basic system that has potential, but it is not expressed at best in any of its parts. Playing Disintegration will not bring anything valuable to your life as a player. Ugly? Never. But being forgettable is perhaps the biggest crime for a video game.
I reserve my judgment for the multiplayer part, which I will test in a way after the server launch, hopefully full.