Disintegration Beta Impressions: Five Things at a Time
Disintegration is the first game from V1 Interactive, a studio boasting top talent from some of the minds behind the Halo franchise. These are developers with long histories of writing and rewriting the rules of first-person-shooters, and their latest effort aims to do precisely that.
This new title is a lot of things, many of them good. We haven't seen a ton of what the game has to offer, as the beta only has two maps and two modes, but we do know it has a full suite of character classes and tons of mechanics to learn.
The question I have after playing the beta, though, is this: even with all the depth it offers, does Disintegration do enough to stand the test of time, or will it be a flash in the pan?
Disintegration Gameplay: A Lot to Take In
Whenever you play an FPS, your mind has to take a ton of information into account. Quickly. Your gun and its abilities. The layout of the map. Players' abilities to move about that map at a given speed. A special attack or two you can use provided the game has them. Other players' powers. The list goes on and on.
Disintegration takes those considerations and multiplies them tenfold.
The game puts you in command of a "crew," which consists of you controlling a "gravcycle" — a one-man hovering combat vehicle — and two to four AI-controlled ground-based units. You have to not only think about what your particular gravcycle is capable of, but also the abilities, health, speed, and status of your crew.
And no two crews are alike, though they do fall into the classic class-based categories of DPS, Healer, and Tank with one or two generalists in the mix. That said, you have to decide what kind of role you want to play, and how your crew can help maximize your ability to play it.
It's complicated. That doesn't mean it's bad; it just means it's dense. The shooting mechanics are solid, for example, and once you get used to some of their intricacies, you can and will be melting your opponents before they know what hit them.
The incorporation of a dash mechanic is also welcome, as no gravcycle moves fast enough on its own. The cooldown is significant, and I expect it to be tuned throughout the various beta phases Disintegration goes through.
Each gravcycle attempts to be unique in some way. One of the healing types, for example, specializes in ground support, and the other focuses on keeping other gravcycles in the fight. Neither is well-equipped for a head-up engagement against the smaller, faster variants, but neither are they as squishy when it comes to tanking hits.
Those smaller bikes are a nuisance, as they should be, and in the hands of a competent player can and will shred even the hardiest foe.
I wouldn't call them unbalanced, per se, and we didn't have enough time in the game to know if anything's broken or not, but I can say with some certainty that even a single healer can completely change the game.
Moment to Moment
My biggest issue with Disintegration is not how its parts function together, but in how they act individually. The game seems to have significant depth when you take everything into account, but when looked at alone, things falter a bit.
As much as I want to like the RTS-like elements the ground units bring to the game, combining the sporadic pace with a need to constantly control where and how your AI acts grows cumbersome quickly.
The AI itself is fairly effective if appropriately placed, and their abilities are surprisingly strong, so much so that they'll likely do at least some of your killing. They don't move with much intelligence and are more liable to get killed if you don't pay attention to them, however. The fact they can't use their more powerful attacks is also something of an annoyance, as I would have liked to set them to a particular action type and called it a day.
Sadly, doing that might exacerbate another problem. While mechanically sound, the shooting in Disintegration lacks punch and satisfaction. The only feedback you receive for hitting a target is a quiet sound and a hit marker. Without the more subtle touches present in games like Titanfall, older Call of Duty titles, and especially games like Halo, it quickly becomes un-fun to shoot at your targets.
Your gravcycle's abilities don't tend to make up for these shortcomings, either. Depending on which one you pick, you have one to three abilities, each on a cooldown once used. They're neither particularly powerful or effective, nor do they cover a wide area. For a game that tries to be both fast-paced and methodical in a single breath, you're often better off just planting them somewhere with some cover and doing the hard work yourself.
If you take each mechanic together, the game is serviceable enough, and I think there's more to like in it than, say, Modern Warfare. I can't say the same about its maps.
We only saw two, but their design philosophy is as tired and limiting as they are drab to look at. There's nothing inherently wrong with the three-lane style, but you have to take your game's mechanics into account when you build a map. With the maps how they are now — just hallways with higher ceilings — there's nothing unique or crazy to do with the advanced movement of the gravcycle.
If I were to guess, this important limitation keeps your ground units in line, especially from a programming standpoint. And that's a problem because a full half of Disintegration's map design now sits hamstrung by the gameplay and vice versa.
I'm flying around in a futuristic hoverbike armed to the teeth, and all I can muster is a short flight upwards and downwards and around the outsides of buildings? Where are the crazy tunnels and side paths, the boosters that give me some real speed? Where is the verticality?
In a game with flying speeders, it's the saddest thing, and I don't know what the developers can do to address it if the maps are this far along in development. I have some hope that there'll be at least one more interesting map we can play in, but it's a faint hope. Most FPS betas lead with what developers think are their best maps, and if that's the case here, I don't know what to say.
Disintegration Beta Verdict
As Disintegration moves closer to release, I expect there to be additional beta periods either as technical tests or demos by another name. I know I've said a lot against the game here, but there is real fun to be had if you can get past the flaws.
I don't think this will be the game to obliterate the competition, of course. However, it's something to keep your eyes on, and it's worth 10 or 20 hours of good fun if it doesn't evolve much from the betas. Time will tell.
Disintegration is set to release sometime this year for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more on the game as it develops.
[Note: A digital key of the Disintegration beta was provided by V1 Interactive for the purpose of this article.]