Disintegration is the kind of video game genre-mashing that we don’t get enough of nowadays. It’s one part competitive FPS, one part RTS, and all parts bizarre. Imagine the eye-in-the-sky view of StarCraft, except you can pop headshots in a machine gun-mounted sky tank while ordering around units. The mix is intriguing, but after a few days playing the multiplayer technical beta, I’m not convinced these two worlds were meant to commingle.
In Disintegration’s 5v5 multiplayer, each player is a pilot that flies their own “grav cycle”, a pod racer-type vehicle with limited flight capabilities. Alongside each player are 2-4 ground NPCs with support abilities. Right click is the dedicated command key that tells your units where to move and who to fight. Choosing one of the seven factions is similar to picking a role in a hero shooter—each one carries unique weapons and unit types that cater to various playstyles.
At first, I thought the ground units were superfluous to the main FPS action, but I was soon proven wrong. Ground units can deal way more damage than players when focused on a single target. When your full crew is alive, right click is a swift death sentence. Combat started to make more sense once I learned this lesson and started keeping my units alive with the medic class, Tech Noir. The emphasis on NPCs creates a unique cadence to firefights. Winning battles is about taking the time to pick off enemy units before going in for the kill on a player.
The slower pace is a welcome change to the twitchy shooters I’m used to, but pilot-on-pilot shootouts feel a bit awkward as a result. The ultra-slow movement speed leaves little room for skillful maneuvering and the grav cycles are too large to sneak around the maps. There is a directional dodge boost, but its long cooldown only lets you zoom away from a few shots before you’re toast. Defensive abilities like stun grenades and slowing fields are relegated to ground units. Though, these often weren’t reliable in a pinch because my units were too far away or busy shooting at something else.
Battlefields can get a little busy with so many ground units running about
For as much as I like the concept, splitting power between pilots and units feels like I’m only ever having half as much fun as I should. There’s not enough strategy to justify how much units bog down pilots and muddy the screen. Ten players and 20+ ground units all clashing at once looks like an unreadable slurry of lasers and explosions.
Maybe it’s my general bias toward shooters talking, but I yearn for a pilots-only version of Disintegration with faster movement and deeper abilities. I want to outmaneuver other pilots across tangled urban maps with verticality and shortcuts, not meander 20 feet above a narrow street so my flightless buddies can keep up. I’m basically asking for the grav cycle version of Titanfall 2’s fluid mech combat—that magical middle ground where weighty hunks of metal the size of buildings are still agile enough to run-and-gun.
That’s not what the game is, and it’s clearly not what V1 Interactive hopes for it to be. After all, Disintegration was a pure RTS before it adopted shooting mechanics. I don’t think the blend works well in multiplayer, but I have higher hopes for its singleplayer campaign. Grav cycle combat could shine wrapped in a story and deliberately designed encounters. I can’t wait to see how it turns out, because multiplayer probably won’t hold my interest.