Disintegration is an ambitious PC game that merges first-person shooting, vehicular combat, and squad-based, real-time tactics into one clean, esports-friendly bundle. It has all the makings of a great game: It boasts a sci-fi setting with an interesting campaign, a pseudo-futuristic aesthetic, and solid shooting action married to strategic unit-management. Unfortunately, Disintegration doesn’t stick the landing. The V1 Interactive-developed game excels at none of its elements, and the genre mishmash only really serves to muddy the experience. Plus, AI problems and weak shot damage compound these issues, further tarnishing the game. Disintegration is by no means a bad game, but it’s a boring one. There just isn’t enough here to keep you coming back for another gameplay session.
Disintegration takes place in a pseudo-futuristic Earth where the rapidly declining and erratic climate has ravaged mankind. As a result, humanity adopted a new technology, Integration, that transplants human consciousness into machine avatars to better endure the harsh world. Unfortunately, some factions have taken it upon themselves to force Integration on the unwilling, leading to massive conflict.
Your robot band is led by Romer, the Integration poster child turned rebel. The rest of the ragtag crew is filled with one-dimensional personalities, such as the hulking, tough-guy robot and the goofy blue robot rocking a silly hat. They are not particularly riveting characters, but they aren’t unlikable, either; they move the plot along well enough. The robots all have fantastic designs, and their clothing gives them an air of humanity that somewhat improves their relatively flat personalities.
Romer pilots a Gravcycle, a hovering, one-person weapons platform. It’s there that you’ll spend all of your playtime. The Gravcycle has six degrees of movement, plus primary and secondary weapons. From it, you also command a squad of allied ground units. You function as the scout, leader, and support, as the rest of the team follows you across the battlefield. Your team mates are AI controlled, but you can send them direct orders to move or target enemies. These units also have powerful special abilities, including grenade lobs, mortar area-of-effect (AOE) attacks, and movement-crippling stasis fields.
After a brief tutorial that explains the movement and combat basics, you are dropped into the game proper. Disintegration’s campaign takes you through various environments, from derelict countrysides to fortified urban areas. Each location is littered with ruined machinery, makeshift shelters, and massive aircraft hulls. Your loadout is automatically selected for you at the start of a mission, after which you shoot your way through levels, collect items, rescue robots, or defend points.
Disintegration spices things up by scrambling enemy types as you progress through a level, so what may start as roving bands of patrolling robots may change to beefy bruisers. Of course, you face off against other Gravcycle pilots, too, provided that the enemies don’t get stuck in scenery. AI pathfinding is not the game’s strongest asset, so you’ll encounter enemy Gravcycles that are sitting ducks.
Death From Above
The Gravcycle is the game’s most unique feature, but is also its most divisive. Firstly, the Gravcycle is annoyingly slow. A dash ability serves as an effective evasive maneuver, but this action is on a cooldown and is not useful for general movement. Plus, far too many of Disintegration’s environments are sprawling maps with few points of interest.
In addition, floating across zones in what feels like a gun-loaded balloon quickly grows dull. The game feel is far less intimate than the action found in the average shooter; it’s detached, lethargic gunplay. Some of the robot enemies look fantastic and have great animations, but that doesn’t really matter when you’re raining bullets onto them from 15 meters in the air. You just hover around, pour lead onto robot ants from above, and command your own ants between skirmishes. Ammo is infinite, though busting caps is limited by a weapon’s magazine size—and you must reload whenever the weapon runs empty. This would be a fine trade off, except that virtually every weapon in the game burns through ammo lightning fast. Compounding this, even the most basic enemy grunts are bullet sponges that can take an entire magazine on normal difficulty. As a result, you should expect to spend a glaringly noticeable amount of time reloading your weapon throughout an encounter.
You can visit a hub base between missions to accept special sub-missions. These sub-missions are generally bonus objectives or challenges you can fulfill during a main mission, such as completing a chapter within a specified time frame or using a special ability under certain circumstances. From the hub, you can also modify and improve your squad with computer chips you find in the field. There isn’t much strategy to this: You socket a chip to receive a flat stat percentage boost, provided that said unit is at a high enough level to use it. The process is painfully simplistic, which is why the menu has an option to automatically equip the performance-enhancing chips. There are no other team customizations, which is a shame as the framework is clearly present, if bare-bones.
War of Machines
Disintegration flirts with tactics, but the game is relatively simple once you come to grips with the gameplay. Positioning yourself and allies, and controlling enemy groups are both key to victory. Your Gravcycle is equipped with a scanner that highlights points of interest, as well as enemies in the area. Once you engage the enemy, you want to make heavy use of your squad’s specials to chop through robot hordes, all while picking off any stragglers yourself. For example, a team mate can use a stasis field to slow all enemies within range, while another can be directed to hammer that group with mortar fire. Using these abilities in tandem is satisfying, and gives Disintigration a modicum of strategy. It never approaches XCOM’s deep strategy or even Gears Tactics’s more mainstream tactical play, however. The real-time action, clunky execution and AI oddities result in unpredictable and often frustrating situations.
Worse still, those special abilities that make these team mates so valuable are also slow to execute. Units need to get into position before they can perform actions, by which time the enemies you hoped to nail have scrambled away from the targeted zone. Defeated team mates must be revived by flying over to their robotic corpse and collecting a token, which causes them to respawn after a few seconds. On the other hand, failing to collect this token within 30 seconds results in a game over, so having a single teammate die on you can cost you the mission.
As if that weren’t enough, there is no mini-map or radar to see what’s in the area; you must physically pan the camera and survey the environment with the scanner to see enemies and points of interest. This would be fine were it not for the fact that you also need to manage troops on the ground while dogfighting in the air. Of course, your Gravcycle’s own angular wings and chunky guns take up a third of the screen, so you are flying around wearing robotic horse blinds the entire time you play. Management gets messy, and ultimately reduces Disintegration to mindless shooting at whatever threat hops into your line of sight, crippling the strategic elements the game originally presents.
Machines at Play
Disintegration’s multiplayer modes offer the same gameplay as the solo campaign, only with more engaging opponents thanks to human competitors. Combat is still a squad-base affair, with each player commanding their own crew while fighting to satisfy the winning conditions (point capture and hold, transport, or team deathmatch). These modes are fun, but they do little to highlight or make use of Disintegration’s tactical elements.
Unlike in campaign play, which auto-equips your team mates and gear according to mission, you choose from a list of preset classes in multiplayer mode, each with their own unique loadouts for squadmates and the Gravcycle. Some are more support oriented, while others are damage oriented, with differing abilities to complement that play style. A mix of support and offensive abilities is ideal, but you can switch classes to experiment with other abilities, if you so wish.
You can purchase badges, emotes, and banners with the currency you earn from multiplayer action. Still, with so few maps and game modes, and limited customization options, there isn’t much to work towards after a few hours of play time.
To run Disintegration, your PC needs at least an Intel i5-2400 or AMD Ryzen 5 1400 CPU, with a Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 or an AMD Radeon HD 7850 GPU. It also needs 8GB of RAM and 15GB of available storage space.
Disintegration performed very well on my gaming desktop, a rig that contains a Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 graphics card and an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 processor. In fact, the game runs at 60 frames per second with all its settings at either High or Max. Disintegration includes both keyboard/mouse and full controller support. The keyboard and mouse controls feel far more intuitive than a console controller, but a gamepad is entirely serviceable should you choose to use that instead. The game also incorporates Steam Achievements.
Clever and Lifeless
Disintegration contains cool gameplay ideas that sound great on paper, but fail to deliver in execution. The aesthetic designs are great, the story is quite decent, and the gameplay is fun when special attacks connect and the AI doesn’t dumb out. Yet, Disintegration is just too dull and repetitive for its own good, and there are far too many small problems that pile up over the coarse that sour the overall experience. Some of these issues could be addressed with patches, but others stem from core gameplay systems that simply don’t feel right. Instead, check out Gears Tactics for a tactics fix or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to satiate your shooter urge.
For more Steam game reviews and previews, check out PCMag’s Steam Curator page.