“Forget what you know about first-person shooters.” I nearly rolled my eyes when I heard this line at the Disintegration hands-on preview event at Take-Two Interactive’s New York headquarters a few weeks ago. It seems like every game nowadays is marketed as having some feature that “completely revolutionizes” the way we approach certain genres and the medium as a whole. Despite my pessimism going into Disintegration‘s demo, I was pleasantly surprised when my 90 minutes with the title were over. This first-person shooter/real-time strategy hybrid may not transform the way we play video games, but it could be novel enough to gain a viable audience among Halo and Destiny fans.
The demo I was treated to featured a Capture the Flag mode that pit two groups of five against one another. Called Retrieval, one team was responsible for defending a series of cores scattered around the map while the other had to seize the cores in order to detonate them. This concept is frankly nothing new to anyone who’s played a first-person shooter game before. What made Retrieval interesting was how the title’s class structure came into play.
Before diving into a match or respawning, players are given the option to choose from one of several different classes. Tech Noir, Warhedz, King’s Guard, Lost Ronin, Sideshow, and Neon Dreams all feel remarkably different, and not one relies on the standard semi-automatic loadouts that first-person fans may expect. One has players shoot and detonate sticky grenades from afar, while another features a crossbow that slows down anything it hits. Disintegration doesn’t come across as a game that allows players to simply run around and kill things. The title requires that users carefully consider the mix of classes already on the battlefield, and choose according to what they believe is best for their team.
Indeed, teamwork is everything in Disintegration. The victories that I celebrated during my time with the demo came after coordinating with my teammates. I lost during instances where I didn’t communicate with my team or tried to embark on a lone wolf route. Successfully protecting friends who were transporting a core or defending posts from the enemy instilled an unspoken sense of camaraderie.
This team element comes into play with one’s own units, as each player is responsible for two to five different robots on the ground. Each of these automatons can be ordered a command and vary in terms of ability. Some confer healing benefits while others can fire a barrage of artillery onto the enemy. The actions vary depending on what class one selects, and it’s fun to experiment with the teams one is given. Admittedly, it’s easy to lose focus on managing ground units thanks to the game’s first-person shooter elements. This being said, the most successful players during my session were able to multitask, fending off against the enemy while ordering their ground units to pick up a core.
It’s in this sense that Disintegration forgoes convention, as one won’t get very far simply shooting enemies with their Gravcycle. Many of these hovering machines are deliberately slow, so one has to think before engaging an enemy in a firefight.
Disintegration‘s biggest flaw is that it’s too unfamiliar. I can see first-person shooter fans easily lose interest after experiencing how slow-moving the Gravcycles are and how no class includes a traditional first-person shooter loadout. Conversely, real-time strategy fans may feel that the game doesn’t place enough emphasis on managing one’s ground units. Disintegration could become the next Evolve if developer V1 Interactive and Private Division fail to communicate its novelty properly. As it stands, the best way to show off the game’s promise is to get it in the hands of the public.
There’s no denying that Disintegration is a lot of fun. A first-person shooter/real-time strategy hybrid may not make much sense on paper, but V1 Interactive has somehow managed to lay the groundwork for something that could attract an audience tired of today’s mindless sci-fi run and gunners. It’s clear that the team has some work to do to make sure the title appeals to the everyday consumer, but the current product certainly has potential to revitalize a genre that tends to play things safe much too often.