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This might be an unpopular opinion, but do any of you remember those Strike Force missions from Call of Duty: Black Ops II, in which, instead of a single person, you commanded an army consisting of soldiers, drones and mechs? You also simultaneously took control of individual units in first-person! Yeah, those were the days. And it was quite fast-paced too since you needed to jump back and forth between overwatch mode and first-person to infiltrate smaller areas while gaining an aerial view of the landscape. Now, you must be wondering why I suddenly took you on a nostalgia trip back to 2012. It’s because V1 Interactive‘s debut game, Disintegration, is pretty similar to it – a mix of both FPS and RTS genres – though unlike the armies in Black Ops II, you command a crew of a much smaller number.

They really need to increase the font size in this game

Story & Narrative

In the distant future when humanity realizes how held back they are with an aging body, the only way to prosperity becomes Integration – a process of implanting human brains into robotic suits called Armatures. However, every tale has its villain and so Integration doesn’t go unseen by the evil eyes of the Rayonne, a pro-humanist force that seeks to unify and elevate humanity via forced Integration… and eliminate those with flesh entirely. You play as a former Gravcycle pilot and celebrity, Romer Shoal (with a personality reminiscent of Destiny’s Cayde-6), who’s held captive inside Rayonne’s floating prison, the Iron Cloud.

Rayonne leader Black Shuck tries to persuade him to join him (which our hero obviously denies) but luckily the Cloud is attacked by a ragtag group of Integrated outlaws and Romer’s broken free. In order to escape, he tags along with the outlaws but unfortunately, some falling debris careens their getaway jet into a forest (that looks like Trostland from Destiny 2). Tired and out of options, the team hikes to a nearby structure only to find that it’s been taken over by a Morgan Freeman lookalike called Wagonner who agrees to provide shelter on the condition that they help him fight against the Rayonne. And thus, we join the Resistance.

Gravcycle go brrrr!

But honestly, I can’t help but trace the probable influences that might have enabled the devs to come up with the underlying themes and characters of Disintegration (which in the context of the game means killing Integrated enemies). Humans relieving themselves of their flesh for robotic shells? Saw that in Destiny, and maybe The Surge. A small resistance against a big military corporation with expendable droid units? That’s like the Resistance vs. IMC from Titanfall 2 (even though this backdrop is quite generic).

Furthermore, I can’t help but notice how similar Wagonner’s character is to that of Morgan Freeman from OblivionBut sadly, all the characters we interact within the game, with the exception of Coqui perhaps, come off as cardboard cutouts; you won’t even bother to stand near them to hear their dialogue when you press the interact button. Anyways, Doyle serves as the big man with big guns, Seguin is the cold, calculating tactician, Rezek is the humble mechanic and Coqui is the comic relief. This is the initial crew you command in the early missions. Other NPCs like Ox-Eye and Tala come later but they are no less bland than the ones you’ve interacted with.

I like the way the Integrated maintain their human persona via jewelry and other accessories

Gameplay and Mechanics

The narrative might not be the strongest point of Disintegration, but the gameplay sure is. In the first mission, Wagonner gives Romer a Gravcycle – a low-altitude hovering vehicle retrofitted with weapons and healing nanites – which allows Romer to soar above and issue commands to his crew while taking on enemies from the air first-person style. Rechargeable afterburners allow the Gravcycle to boost in any direction, making for highly dynamic shootout scenarios where you’ll be flying across the battlefield and ordering your crew to move, attack targets on a priority basis, or use special abilities. Abilities like the Slow Field which impedes the enemies walking into it or the Concussion Grenades that stagger the enemies really make for some great possible combinations. For example, when you see a group of Rayonne forces deployed from a dropship, you can instantly command your crew to throw the Slow Field followed by an onslaught from the Mortar or Concussion Grenades. These combinations can vary from mission to mission as the abilities are unique to particular crew members (only Doyle can use Mortar, only Seguin can use the Slow Field) and the NPCs you take into the crew are restricted as per the narrative.

We can’t choose which members to take or which weapons to be fitted on the Gravcycle

Though you begin the game with just two members in your crew, you start bringing more into the fold as the story progresses, and as Romer gets better Gravcycles and better weapons. Sadly only one weapon, also restricted by the narrative and nature of the mission, is equipped at a time. That means you’ve to stick to the same gun throughout that particular mission. But have no fear as irrespective of the weapon you wield, the environment is highly destructible similar to Just Cause or Battlefield. No cover is safe either for you or for the enemies. In fact, the landscape has conveniently-placed explosive barrels and generators which if exploded at the right time can stagger the enemies in proximity (I just wish I could unlock Steam achievements by doing that). This followed by Concussion Grenades can send shock-waves among the group giving you a window to attack the targets on a priority basis.

Almost all environmental covers can be destroyed

But attacking targets on priority makes your crew vulnerable as they will charge head-on to get closer to the target. And once their health depletes, their armature explodes and their ‘brain can’ ejects out… giving you a window of a few seconds to collect them so that they can be redeployed into the fight with fresh armatures (coincidentally, they drop from above like the Titans in Titanfall). In that essence, the game doesn’t get over unless and until Romer’s Gravcycle explodes because flying over the fallen brain cans to collect them while under constant fire is nothing short of suicide. Furthermore, there’s a time delay between the collection and redeployment of your comrades, within which you must survive. So, it’s better to try your best to prevent all this from happening in the first place.

Building textures and design remind me of New Mombasa from Halo 2 anniversary

Disintegration allows you to heal yourself and your units in real-time by launching an AoE-style nanite cluster that can instantly turn the tide of the battle when you’re on the verge of death. Alas, just like the lack of choice in the arsenal, you can’t choose what kind of healing ability you want as there’s another one – a homing nanite cluster that can only heal one crew member at a time forcing you to heal all of them one by one. As for healing yourself, you can order your crew to activate certain nanite stations which create a healing field similar to the AoE cluster, and you can do that while under fire as well. I really liked this mechanic of rising back from certain death in the nick of time. To find these stations, you can use your Gravcycle’s scanner which also reveals the location of crates that contain salvages and upgrade chips for your crew.

Since environments are open, the low graphical infidelity becomes apparent

Visuals, Performance, and Sound 

The graphics seemed a bit blurry similar to that of Titanfall, but it could be due to the fact that we look at the landscape from a height. Sadly, the blur worsens the already miniature font size used in menus. Not only that, the environment looks much less detailed because of the washed-out color palette. Enemies all seem to appear the same, in fact, you won’t even bother looking at them up close when you’re supposed to destroy whatever machine crosses your path. Most of the Rayonne, termed as Red Eyes, reminded me of the forklift drones from Transformers: The Game, while the Rhino units reminded me of the Autobot Ironhide. Even the Armature designs themselves were reminiscent of the robots from Real Steel.

Ah, good ole Trostland!

Performance-wise, Disintegration performs well – no frame drops or thermal issues. However, the cinematic cutscenes were capped at 30 fps with a wide aspect ratio and this usually broke the sense of immersion. Unlike other games, the aspect ratio became an issue as the subtitles, instead of covering the whole bottom of the screen, were confined to the bottom center, the sentences stacking one atop the other.

As for the sound design, I didn’t find anything in the single-player campaign that could garner my interest. It’s very forgettable to the point that you won’t even notice there’s a background score playing. However, some sound effects I loved, like the alarm cry when Doyle launched his Mortars or the mechanical screech when flying Rayonne units attacked me, and even the sound of healing when I stood inside a nanite cluster. Save for this, the rest is pretty non-existent. But the biggest gripe I had was with how out-of-sync the human characters’ voices were to the facial animations, especially in Tala’s case; her words came out before her mouth opened. And a frame cap of 30 fps made it look like the game was lagging.

Need to heal up


For a studio’s debut game, Disintegration is a decent attempt considering the studio comprises of both newcomers and industry veterans. However, it isn’t without its flaws and often the mission objectives come out as a chore forcing you to do similar things in all the levels. This plus the fact that we don’t have the option to choose our weapons, our crews, or even their appearance (I was expecting we could at least spray paint our Gravcycle or our crew), makes the gameplay quite restrictive. Vocals desyncing with animations, uninteresting characters, and Romer’s terrible movement speed when we are free to explore our garage (the boost button didn’t make him sprint) breaks the immersion making me want to just skip through the human drama and get back to the missions. In short, wait for a sale.


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