‘Disintegration’ review: an interesting but flawed mix of ideas

A game that blends together many things and excels at none of them

Set in a world where putting your brain into a robotic body has not only become realistic, but somewhat fashionable, Disintegration is an incredibly strange mix of concepts and genres. It’s set in a futuristic world where people can have their brains removed and put into robotic bodies. This, unsurprisingly, has had a somewhat mixed response.

While some have opted to go through this process of their own will, others have been forced to “upgrade” by the bad guys, the Rayonne. This means that while some are happy to have discarded their fleshy skin sacks in favour of the sturdier metallic ones, others are still trying to hang onto what they felt made them human.

This isn’t a new concept in any media. A lot of cyberpunk asks the questions along the line of “if we aren’t made up of flesh are we human?”. But honestly, it’s a little played out at this point. What makes us human is a much deeper philosophical question, and not one that changes if we need glasses to see, or if we’ve got mechanical devices in us to relieve pain, or prosthetic limbs.

Thankfully the story does move beyond that, and despite the somewhat overtrodden concept at its core, the human elements of the storytelling do have some good moments thanks to the fairly strong voice acting throughout.

Disintegration
Credit: V1 Interactive

That being said, Disintegration is not perfect. There’s excellent representation here in terms of diversity, but these are, for the most part, a little bit too stereotypical. The voice actors sound as though they come from a mix of backgrounds, and that’s good to know, but the characters themselves feel almost like exaggerated tropes squashed into a brain in a can inside a robotic body.

There’s also the fact that one of the key characters is a blind old Black man called Waggoner, who is able to see somehow and is leading the resistance against the villainous Rayonne. While it’s nice to see this particular character type not being sidelined as such, it’s very hard to ignore this as another trope made flesh. Literally flesh in this character’s case, as they are one of the few remaining humans.

As a straight white man, I’m not the right person to talk about whether it’s better to have some representation even if it’s flawed. After all, you can’t throw a stone in any direction without it bouncing off of a thousand bearded white dudes, so even without a beard, I’ve got more representation than I could ever possibly ask for. Instead, this sits uncomfortably with me, and I trust that POC reviewers will address these issues in a more elegant manner than I could ever manage.

Gameplay is an important part of any game too, so let’s move onto that.

Disintegration
Credit: V1 Interactive

This is where you see the blending of elements meeting up. Strictly speaking, I’d describe Disintegration as a hands-on strategy game, or a hands-off shooter. It’s a mix of first-person shooting and some strategic troop management. It’s odd, good, I think, but odd.

You hover around on a Gravcycle shooting people with an array of weapons and gadgets that you unlock as you play through the campaign. The Gravcycle itself is fairly easy to control, which is a nice surprise for anyone not keen on aerial combat. The issue comes in with how the weapons feel.

I can’t say for sure, but it seems like anti-Grav technology messes with the recoil and feel of your guns, because it never feels as though you’re firing anything other than a pea shooter. On top of that, the damage your weapons do never really feel enough, though I suspect that’s to encourage you towards using the strategic elements of the gameplay. But that’s where things go a little further awry.

The strategic options you have essentially amount to choosing where your units will move or what they will attack. Unfortunately, they don’t always listen, and sometimes move in ways that don’t make sense.

Take, for example, the times when you’re trying to move your little squad into a healing field. You’d think clicking in the centre of said field would mean all of your units would wait there until fully healed… you’d be wrong. Instead, they move there temporarily, before often walking into a set of mines laid down by the enemies and dying. This isn’t a one-off whinge either, I’m not sure what the robots or mines are made of, but the two seem to be drawn to each other in a way that warrants some serious revisions to the tech in use.

Disintegration
Credit: V1 Interactive

Each of your squad also has a special ability for you to use. These vary from things like slowing down a group of enemies to delivering a punishing flurry of missiles. They’re cool, but no matter how you target them, are not guaranteed to go where you want them to. There were several moments where I’d ask a unit to use an ability on a group of enemies, only to have them fling it into a tree branch instead, and several others where they’d magically throw a grenade through several walls.

There’s also a multiplayer mode, which is probably where the game is at its best. While the 5v5 battles are fun, the pacing can often give you whiplash as a sudden bout between all 10combatants ends with a whimper and respawned units trawl their way back to the battle site once more. It’s good fun, but only if you’ve got the right group and will live or die based on how many other people stick around playing it.

Disintegration is available today (June 16) on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Our Verdict

Overall, Disintegration had some fun moments, but a mix of tropey characters, overdone themes meant that the story can feel a little bland. While I would say I did enjoy the gameplay, for the most part, it’s also hard to recommend due to a couple of bugs, and a general feeling of dissatisfaction outside of a couple of highlights. Disintegration is a perfect example of good ideas with mixed execution, though I do have hope for V1’s next game whatever that may be.

Pros

  • Good voice acting
  • Some fun moments

Cons

  • Too many tropes
  • Bugs and poor AI
  • Dull gameplay for the most part
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