PAX West 2019: Disintegration is More Than the FPS You Might Expect
When the selling point of your new IP is that it comes from one of the co-creators of Halo, you automatically paint a particular image in the minds of players.
That's how the world was first introduced to Disintegration, a brand-new sci-fi shooter from V1 Interactive, being published next year under 2K's "indie" label, Private Division.
You'd be forgiven for expecting something of a reskin of tried and true first-person shooters with that proud pedigree dominating its marketing materials, but Disintegration goes much deeper than that. In fact, its design is, as far as I am aware, unrivaled in all of games.
By uniquely combining elements of the FPS and MOBA genres, Disintegration is poised to be a trailblazer in competitive gaming.
Hands-On With Disintegration
After a brief introduction from one of V1's developers, the PAX audience and I were split into two warring teams. The 5v5 game mode felt a bit like Capture the Flag, but to say it was precisely that is underselling it. Really, the mode is an amalgamation of CTF and RTS.
In the mode, each player loads out in their choice of hovering vehicles called gravcycles. Some are slow but sturdy, others are agile but vulnerable. Some are clad in '80s colors, others look like Mad Max ambassadors.
With these various functions and factions, you're meant to feel like this is a hero shooter of sorts. Mastering each cycle and customizing their look will be a big part of Disintegration when it launches.
Hitting the battlefield with four other teammates, we were each also responsible for a ground team of AI combatants.
Depending on the gravcycle you choose, you have between two and four soldiers awaiting your orders. This is where things morph from a familiar sci-fi shooter to something much greater. With 10 human players fighting for control of two bombs — one team defends while another tries to plant — each gravcycle is also responsible for the boots on the ground.
This makes for a refreshing ballet, not just because the gravcycles float around the battlefield like Olympians, but because every player has a lot to consider. You can take on other players' gravcycles directly, but it's clear that the best players simultaneously bark orders to their soldiers with the intuitive click of a button.
These AI grunts behave according to the context, too. Highlight an enemy and they open fire. Move them to the bomb, and they try to plant it. Order them to use some of their special abilities, and they do so. Leaning on its MOBA influence, maps even have noticeable lanes where players can send their troops to play offense or defense.
With a round full of rookies, the match was absolutely chaotic, with battles often colliding in one central location while we all wrapped our heads around the flow of the action. In time, though, Disintegration looks like it will grow from a hectic mess to a calculated esport where laying back and playing strategically is often just as valuable as running ahead twitch-shooting hoverbikes.
Smart controls and an already obvious risk/reward element form the foundation of a shooter that will no doubt find footing with at least a pocket of passionate fans. How big Disintegration gets from there is a guessing game, but it's a risk 2K is taking its chances on.
The game certainly doesn't look like an indie, or really anything less than a big-budget shooter, but its unorthodox setup will probably turn some curious players away once they find there's more to this than another Halo.
But then, we don't need another Halo. Disintegration is going for something new, and this amalgam of MOBA principles and ubiquitous shooter mechanics is itself a fascinating risk/reward proposition of multiplayer game design.
Disintegration will launch with a full single-player campaign alongside this and other multiplayer modes in 2020. I'm curious to see if the gambit pays off, and I'd wager Disintegration will win over enough fans to birth a new subgenre.
For more PAX West 2019 coverage, including more hands-on impressions, be sure to head over to our PAX West 2019 hub.