This week V1 Interactive opened its doors to a select number of players and invited us to try out Disintegration on live servers, and after enjoying the game when we played it briefly during Gamescom last year, we were more than happy to take another, longer look at what it has to offer.
The premise, we like. We're in the far-flung future and humanity has transferred its brains into robot bodies, and in these robo-shells, we're battling a post-humanistic threat called the Rayonne. In the backstory, there's a global pandemic called 'The Frost', which has enough of an impact on society that nations collapse under the weight of the ensuing chaos and, eventually, humanity is facing extinction. The solution: do away with our frail fleshy bodies and load our brains into machines. After having their minds put into new bodies, some enjoy the change of scenery and these become the Rayonne.
Now we're at a point in time where the Rayonne is looking to pursue 'integration' and their post-human agenda. They do this via giant spaceships that dominate the skyline, and one of these ships, we're told, is called The Iron Cloud. The game's director (and Halo co-creator) Marcus Lehto told us this when explaining how the solo portion of the game will see players take on the role of Romer Shoal, an outlaw gravcycle pilot looking to fight back against the Rayonne and save his own humanity in a campaign that we're told will be around ten hours long, depending on how you play it, of course.
The aforementioned gravcycle is at the heart of the experience. You sit on your ride and hover above the battlefield, and from your lofty perch, you control of a small squad of three who scurry around underneath. Each of these units (typically two soldiers and a mech) has their own attacks, mapped to the d-pad, and you can set specific targets for them to target during battle. Thus Disintegration straddles both first-person action and tactical combat as you direct yourself and your units during intense battles.
We didn't get to see any of the solo campaign, as the real focus of the closed beta test that we played yesterday was the online side of things. On that front, we were greeted with long waits for matches and a choppy loading sequence that hinted at some of the other technical issues to come. We tried to livestream the game on GR Live, but our streamer couldn't get into a single match. That wasn't the case for everyone, and we're pleased to report that once we were in a match, things seemed to hold together a bit better and we were able to play several matches through to conclusion. Not all of them, though, as the Xbox One X that we tested the game on overheated twice and shut down while we were playing, something we've never experienced before (although we concede that this could purely be coincidental).
Once we finally got into a game, we were greeted with seven playable crews (that being one gravcycle pilot and their troops on the ground). Each crew has different attacks, for both the player-character and their minions, and knowing what abilities you've got access to is super important, so our early experimentation didn't help us much as we fumbled with the controls and worked out what our units were capable of while our more settled opponents took advantage of our ineffective play. Beyond a variety of different attacks, the different cycles and crews boast different armour and speed ratings, and of course, they're all distinctive from a visual perspective, with themes borrowed from modern-day pop culture.
We wanted to try them all during the time we had available to play, but the slow loading times and console crashes meant that we didn't get to all of them. There seemed to be a good blend though, and we did try and pay attention to what our friends (and enemies) were doing. The Sideshow, for example, is a gang of robo-clowns with remote sticky grenades, while the King's Guard is a more tanky option with armour that makes your avatar look like a medieval knight. Neon Dreams were on the squishy side of things, but look cool thanks to their Tron-like design. Similarly squishy was the samurai-styled Lost Ronin, which we liked using at long-range. Warhedz are Mad Maxesque marauder types; thick-skinned and not very subtle, and we didn't like their weapon much either. Perhaps the pick of the bunch was an allrounder called The Business; the real tradeoff there being the brash gold jewellery and try-hard approach to looking cool.
One big differentiator is the movement of the gravcycles, which changes depending on which crew you choose. It takes a little while to get used to moving your cycle up and down during combat, as well as remembering to take advantage of the special attacks offered by your supporting units, but once you've got the knack of things, you're surprisingly mobile. This is helped by a limited-use boost that's good for getting you out of trouble, although if you're taking heavy fire sometimes a short dash isn't going to cut the mustard, especially if your opponents are relentless and chase you down. It's at this point that a coordinated team is worth its weight in gold, as they can close ranks and protect a stricken ally.
Coordination is important, and teams that don't work together will fold pretty quickly. That seemed to be the case with this beta test, and much of the time any semblance of strategy went out the window as everyone embraced the chaos. There were Zone Control and Retrieval modes on offer, and each had its own map for the occasion (neither of which was particularly remarkable). Zone Control is a territory-based mode, while Retrieval is CTF-like affair all about attacking and defending destructible cores. It's hard to judge their quality given the circumstances surrounding the beta, but objective-based game-types seem to suit the more tactical gameplay that the game has to offer.
Despite some fairly serious technical hiccups, our generally positive impression of Disintegration remains. If you can't wait for launch - whenever that might be - you can see it for yourself during this weekend's open beta (more on that here). We think there's a promising game here with a unique hook and some potentially interesting multiplayer, and we're looking forward to playing more when it's finished as the setting has us well and truly intrigued.
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